Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

A copper IUD is a small piece of copper and plastic that is inserted into the uterus. Copper IUDs are also the most efficient form of emergency contraception.
Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)
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Street names IUD, Copper T
Medical names Mulitload Cu 375, TT380, TT380 Short
Effectiveness 99.2% ?
It lasts 5–10 years, unless you have it removed earlier
Fertility Fertility returns after it is removed
Who can use it? People with a vagina and uterus of any age from menarche to menopause
Hormones Does not contain hormones
Visibility Very discreet
STIs No protection ?
Side effects Allow your body 6 months to find routine with menstrual bleeding patterns
Cost $75 for the device and it lasts up to 10 years. Additional costs for the procedure
Where to get it Visit a reproductive and sexual health clinic or your local doctor. You may need to visit a pharmacy to pick up a prescription

Copper IUDs can be used as emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex. They can then be kept as a long term contraceptive method.

How does it work?

The special shape of the Copper IUD gently touches the uterus wall and the uterus responds by creating a different form of mucus. The different mucus prevents eggs (ova) from being released and prevents sperm from reaching the fallopian tubes. This prevents pregnancy.

The Copper IUD does not contain any hormones. Depending on the brand it can work as a contraceptive for 5 years (Mulitload Cu 375) or 10 years (TT380).

You will still need to consider the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) every time you have sex.

What’s it like to use?

The Copper IUD is inserted by a reproductive and sexual health clinician through the cervix and into the uterus. The procedure may involve a local or light anaesthetic. The clinician does not make any cuts or use stitches so there is no scarring.

It is very discreet. You will not be able to feel it is there.

Your body will continue to ovulate and you will experience menstrual bleeding. Sometimes the uterus will build a lining thicker than it would have without the Copper IUD. Some people experience menstrual bleeding that is heavier than their usual menstrual bleeds.

A thin piece of nylon thread may be left at the end of the Copper IUD, which can be felt at the top of the vagina. If you don’t want to be able to feel the thread, ask your doctor to tuck it alongside the cervix.

What if I forget about it?

The IUD can be left in the uterus longer than 5-10 years. After this time it will stop working as a contraceptive, so you will need to consider another contraceptive method.

If you’d like to replace your Copper IUD, it can be taken out and replaced with a new one all in the same procedure.

Who can use it?

People with a vagina and uterus of any age, from menarche to menopause.

If you experience polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the Combined Hormonal Contraceptive Pill is generally considered to be the best contraceptive option. However, the Copper IUD is also a suitable option for women with PCOS. It is best to discuss your exact situation with a doctor.

The Copper IUD is suitable people who have experienced breast cancer, and for people with a family history of breast cancer.

Side effects

You may experience some discomfort, similar to period pain, for 1-2 weeks. The pain is not usually from the IUD itself, it is because the organs take time to recover from the procedure. Plan to have 2-3 days of rest after the IUD has been inserted. Use a hot water bottle to reduce abdomen pain.

Allow your body 6 months to establish a routine in uterine bleeding. Some people experience uterine bleeding that is heavier than their usual menstrual bleeds.

If you have a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), an IUD will increase the risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). The IUD can allow the infection to travel more quickly from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. PID symptoms can include fevers, lower abdominal pain, and vaginal discharge. PID needs to be treated as soon as possible. If left untreated PID can affect long term fertility. A health assessment prior to an IUD insertion should always include a STI test. If you are experiencing PID or a STI, this will need to be addressed before the IUD can be inserted.

In rare cases an IUD can perforate (make a small hole inside) the uterus. This happens in about 2 in 1,000 insertions. In these cases the IUD is removed and an alternative contraceptive method can be used. Occasionally an IUD can be expelled, which is when it exits via the uterus into the vagina. This happens about 5 times per 100 insertions. In these cases the IUD can be replaced, or an alternative contraceptive method can be used.

If at any point you feel that this contraceptive method is making you feel uncomfortable or unwell, get advice from a doctor or medical professional. If it is an emergency, call an ambulance on 000.

How and where to get it

A reproductive and sexual health clinician can do a health assessment, provide the IUD, and do an insertion. It may require more than 1 appointment. Some reproductive and sexual health clinics do not have IUDs in stock, so you may need to get a prescription and pick it up from the pharmacy.

A Copper IUD will cost approximately $75. There may also be consultation fees. You can ask for a quote when you book an appointment.

What if you change your mind

Any time you want to have it removed visit a reproductive and sexual health clinic to have it removed. It does not need to be the same clinician who did the insertion. While in the removal appointment ask about other contraceptive options because fertility will return shortly after the IUD is removed.