A Copper IUD is one of five devices that are available in the United States as an intrauterine device. It is a flexible and small, made of a combination of copper and soft plastic. A healthcare provider inserts the device into the uterus as a form of birth control. When placed properly, fewer than 1% of women who use a Copper IUD will become pregnant over the next 12 months.
The primary benefit of a Copper IUD is that it provides an effective method of birth control for women that doesn’t involve hormones. This device won’t interact with any medications either. That means women don’t need to worry about whether or not they took their pills or are up-to-date on their shots to prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
The disadvantage of using a Copper IUD is that it can be a painful form of birth control. Many women who have the IUD inserted will experience more cramping during their periods. Additional bleeding is also possible. Although the additional symptoms typically reduce over time as the body becomes used to the presence of the IUD, it is not a universal fact. Some women experience high levels of long-term cramping and pain with this device.
Here are some more of the Copper IUD pros and cons to think about.
What Are the Pros of a Copper IUD?
1. It is the only approved device that does not use hormones.
The only intrauterine device that is approved for use in the United States as a Copper IUD is called Paragard. It is also the only IUD in the U.S. that is approved for use that does not use hormones. The other IUDs all release small amounts of progestin once inserted, which thickens cervical mucus to prevent a pregnancy.
2. It is a long-lasting solution.
The hormonal IUDs that are available to women as a form of birth control are rated to last between 3-6 years. In comparison, a Copper IUD is rated to work for up to 12 years. Because there are no hormones associated with the copper version of this birth control method, the device does not affect periods as often or as severely as the hormonal versions do.
3. It can be used as an emergency contraception device.
The Copper IUD works by releasing copper ions into the body. These ions trigger a sterile inflammatory response. This response disables sperm, which makes egg fertilization become a very difficult proposition. Because of this response, the device is rated to work as an emergency contraceptive up to 5 days after a birth control failure or unprotected sex.
4. It is an extremely effective form of birth control.
When a Copper IUD is compared to other forms of birth control, it is extremely effective. The Huffington Post reports that IUDs are 45 times more effective than the typical birth control pill at preventing a pregnancy. For couples that use condoms as their primary form of birth control, an IUD is 90 times more effective for pregnancy prevention. That is why it is the most used reversible form of contraception in the world today. About 10% of women in the U.S. rely on an IUD.
5. Women in healthcare roles trust IUDs.
40% of women who work in a healthcare field use an IUD as their primary form of birth control. If a woman decides she wants to become pregnant, the IUD can be easily removed at any time. The effects that the IUD has on the body go away as soon as the device is removed. For women on birth control pills, it may be 6-12 months before normal fertility cycles are restored.
6. The cost of a Copper IUD is minimal.
Because a Copper IUD can be used for up to 12 years, the cost of this birth control method is minimal when compared to other methods. Even without insurance, the average annual cost of this device is about $20 per person. In comparison, the average cost of a month’s worth of birth control pills may be as high as $50.
What Are the Cons of a Copper IUD?
1. It is possible for the device to slip out of place.
The placement of the Copper IUD is generally effective and reliable, but this does not happen 100% of the time. Some women have the device slip out of place, even when it has been properly placed by a healthcare provider. Women who have already had at least one child are the most likely to experience slippage with the Copper IUD.
2. It must be placed by a healthcare provider.
The Copper IUD is not a birth control option that can be personally managed. It can only be placed by a healthcare provider. It can only be removed by a healthcare provider as well. Although many insurance plans cover the cost of a Copper IUD with no charge, women on private insurance or those who do not have health insurance may experience high costs. The procedure may cost up to $250, plus the cost of an office visit, with similar costs required for removal as well.
3. It can cause a serious infection.
A Copper IUD is generally rated as a safe product to use. Fewer than 1% of women, however, will experience a serious infection after the device has been placed. The infection is called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and it will cause persistent stomach pain and pelvic discomfort. Once swelling occurs, it is possible for the IUD to come out, even if it has been properly placed. Because of these concerns, women with a pelvic infection should not receive this product. Women who have infections frequently or have had certain cancers should avoid it as well.
4. It may not prevent a pregnancy from occurring.
Although it is rare, a pregnancy is still possible with a Copper IUD in place. When a pregnancy occurs, it can be a life-threatening event. It may also increase the risks of a miscarriage occurring and may affect the future fertility of some women. In some instances, the IUD may also breach the uterine wall, attach to it, or cause other health problems that require a surgical removal. Like most birth control methods, a Copper IUD is not rated as a way to protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
These Copper IUD pros and cons show that it is a viable birth control option for women who want to avoid hormone-releasing products. It can even be used in certain emergency situations. Like any medical procedure, there are certain health risks that are assumed once the device is implanted. This device may not be 100% effective, but neither are most forms of birth control.
What has your experience been with a Copper IUD?