Intrauterine devices (IUD) – FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about intrauterine devices (IUDs), a type of contraceptive.

What is an IUD?

An IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your uterus (womb) and has a plastic string tied to the end which hangs down through your cervix into your vagina.

Which types of IUDs are available in New Zealand?

There are 2 main types of IUDs available in New Zealand:

  • Hormonal IUD – these contain the hormone levonorgestrel. Examples are Mirena and Jaydess.
  • Copper IUD – these are also called non-hormonal IUDs.

What are the differences between Mirena and Jaydess?

Mirena and Jaydess are hormonal IUDs. They contain the hormone levonorgestrel.

Mirena

  • Mirena contains 52 mg levonorgestrel. It is used for contraception to prevent pregnancy.
  • It is effective for 5 years.
  • At the end of this time, your IUD needs to be changed. Read more about IUDs for contraception.
  • Mirena is also used for the treatment of heavy periods or excessive menstrual bleeding.
  • Over time the use of Mirena greatly reduces menstrual flow (bleeding) for many women. Read more about IUDs for heavy periods.   

Jaydess

  • Jaydess contains 13.5 mg levonorgestrel is used for contraception to prevent pregnancy and is effective for 3 years.
  • At the end of this time, your IUD needs to be changed. Read more about IUDs for contraception.

What is the copper IUD?

The copper IUD is used for contraception to prevent pregnancy.

Long-term contraception: Copper IUDs last for 5–10 years, depending on the type used. Copper IUDs are used when hormonal contraceptives are not recommended, such as in women who have had previous breast cancer or women with some heart conditions. 

Emergency contraception: Copper IUDs are also used for emergency contraception. A copper IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex, or within 5 days of your earliest expected date of ovulation. The copper IUD may then either be removed after your next period or used as ongoing contraception. Read more about emergency contraception.

How is an IUD placed?

The IUD is put in your womb by an experienced nurse or doctor. This is simple and safe.

The procedure itself takes about 5–10 minutes, but your appointment will take about 30 minutes. During this time the nurse or doctor will explain how the insertion is done and will give you instructions about what to expect once your IUD is in place.

Will I feel anything when an IUD is placed?

Placement of the IUD may cause some temporary discomfort. Taking over-the-counter pain relief medication such as ibuprofen before or after placement may help.

After placement, you can’t feel the IUD or tell it is there, except by checking for the removal threads. The threads come out of your cervix and curl up inside the top of your vagina – they don’t hang outside your vagina.

If you are having penis in vagina sex, your partner should not be able to feel the IUD or the threads. You can still use tampons.

How is an IUD removed?

When you are ready to stop using the IUD, or if it is due to be replaced, your healthcare provider will remove it during a pelvic exam. They will grasp the strings with an instrument and gently pull out the IUD. Removal of an IUD usually takes less time than IUD placement.

What are the possible side effects of using an IUD?

Most people notice some changes to their period. This is normal and not harmful. 

With a copper IUD, your periods might be longer, heavier and more painful, especially in the first few months. This usually gets better with time. 

With a hormonal IUD (Mirena or Jaydess), you might have spotting in the first few months and then light or no periods. Some women also may experience other side effects, including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes.

What are the possible risks of using an IUD?

Serious complications from IUDs are rare. However, some people do have problems. These problems usually happen during or soon after insertion.

  • The IUD comes out of your uterus (also called expulsion): In a small number of people, the IUD may come out of your uterus. The risk is higher in teenagers, women with heavy menstrual bleeding and women who have an IUD inserted immediately after childbirth. If the IUD comes out, it is no longer effective. You may be able to have a new IUD placed.
  • Perforation: The IUD can go through the wall of your womb during placement. This is rare and occurs in only about 1 out of every 1,000 placements. It usually does not cause any major health problems, but the IUD needs to be removed.

Can I get pregnant after an IUD is taken out?

Yes, you will be able to get pregnant as soon as the IUD is taken out.

Pregnancy is very rare with an IUD in place. If you do get pregnant with an IUD in, there is no extra risk for your baby, but there is a risk of complication in the pregnancy if it stays in. If you think you might be pregnant, talk with your doctor as soon as possible. It is best to remove the IUD.

Learn more

Long-acting reversible contraception Family Planning, NZ

References

  1. Long-acting contraceptives: implants and IUDs BPAC, NZ, 2019
  2. Long-acting contraceptives Research Review, NZ, 2020
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 24 Sep 2020