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How do copper IUDs work?

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IUD stands for Intrauterine Device — a birth control method that sits inside your uterus. A non-hormonal IUD is a small piece of flexible plastic shaped like a T that has copper wrapped around it. That’s why it’s also called the copper IUD.

Non-hormonal IUDs use copper to prevent pregnancy. Sperm doesn’t like copper — it changes the way sperm cells move so they can’t swim to an egg. If sperm can’t make it to an egg, pregnancy can’t happen.

One of the awesome things about IUDs is that they last for years, but they’re not permanent. If you decide that you want to get pregnant, or if you just don’t want to have your IUD anymore, your nurse or doctor can take it out. After your get your IUD removed, your fertility goes back to normal.

What are the kinds of non-hormonal IUDs?

There’s only one brand of copper IUD in the U.S. It’s called the Paragard IUD. It lasts for up to 12 years.

You don’t have to keep your IUD for 12 years though — you can get your IUD taken out whenever you want. If your IUD is going to expire but you want to keep using an IUD, your nurse or doctor can replace it.

What are the benefits of non-hormonal IUDs?

The copper IUD is really good at preventing pregnancy, and it’s totally hormone free. So it’s a good option for people who prefer non-hormonal birth control, or can’t use methods with hormones because of medical reasons.

The copper IUD is unique because it can be used as emergency contraception — a way to prevent pregnancy AFTER unprotected sex. Paragard IUDs are the most effective form of emergency contraception. If you get one inserted within 120 hours (5 days) after having unprotected sex, it’s more than 99.9% effective against pregnancy. And you can leave your copper IUD in to keep preventing pregnancy for as long as you want, up to 12 years.

There are lots of other benefits to IUDs too. They’re super convenient — once your copper IUD is in place, you don’t have to think about birth control for up to 12 years. IUDs are also one of the most effective methods of birth control you can get. They’re more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. But if you decide you want to get pregnant, you can get your IUD removed whenever you want and your fertility will go back to normal right away.

What are the disadvantages of non-hormonal IUDs?

Some people have side effects after getting their IUD. They usually go away in about 3–6 months, once your body gets used to the visitor in your uterus. So if you can stick it out for a few months, there’s a good chance the side effects will ease up.

Copper IUD side effects can include:

  • Pain when the IUD is placed, and cramping or back aches for a few days after

  • spotting between periods

  • irregular periods

  • heavier or longer periods

  • cramping during your periods

Over-the-counter pain medicine can usually help with cramping. If the bleeding or cramping doesn’t get better or really bothers you, tell your nurse or doctor what's going on.

IUDs are one of the most effective and convenient ways to prevent pregnancy, but they don't protect you from sexually transmitted infections. So use condoms with your IUD every time you have sex to lower the chance of getting or spreading STDs.


  • 99% effective

  • Costs up to $1,300, but can be $0

  • Put in by a doctor or nurse

  • Lasts up to 12 years

This IUD doesn’t protect you from STDs. Use a condom with your IUD to help stop pregnancy and STDs.
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