An IUD is an intrauterine device. It is a T-shaped device that is placed in the uterus for long-term birth control and family planning. There are basically two types of IUDs - levonorgestrel IUD and copper IUD. In a copper IUD, the T-shaped plastic device is wrapped in copper wire. The device also contains a plastic string, which protrudes into the vagina from the cervix.
A copper IUD is inserted into the uterus by a doctor, and one should always take the help of a doctor to remove it. A woman is usually advised to check the string of the IUD after her menstrual cycle to find out whether the device is in the right position. A copper IUD can be placed in the uterus for up to 10 years, and is very effective in preventing conception and pregnancy.
How Does a Copper IUD Work?
Intrauterine devices prevent fertilization by damaging sperms, and interfering with fertilization and implantation. However, the actual working mechanism of IUDs is not well understood. In general, it is believed that the presence of a device in the uterus stimulates an inflammatory response, which is harmful for both sperms and eggs. In addition to these, a copper IUD contains copper, which has spermicidal properties. Copper can stimulate the production of fluid by the uterus and the fallopian tube to destroy sperms. If fertilization occurs, it prevents the implantation of the fertilized egg to the uterine lining, in order to prevent pregnancy.
Copper IUD Dangers
At the time of inserting an IUD, a woman can experience abdominal cramps that can last for a few days. Backache is also quite common following the insertion of a copper IUD. Changes in menstrual cycle are perhaps the most common side effects. Increased bleeding, abdominal cramping during menstruation, and spotting between periods are some of the common side effects of copper IUDs. Weight gain can be another possible side effect. However, studies conducted to find out whether copper IUDs cause weight gain, are not very conclusive.
Perforation of the uterine wall is a rare, but serious side effect of copper IUDs, which calls for immediate medical attention. Perforation of the uterine wall can cause severe pain in the lower abdominal area. A copper IUD can be expelled by the body at times, especially if the woman using it has never been pregnant before, or if the device is inserted immediately after childbirth. Women having pelvic inflammatory disease are usually not considered as suitable candidates for the insertion of IUDs, as IUDs can aggravate such diseases.
Apart from these, anemia, migraines, swelling of the hands and feet, skin irritation and rash, pain during intercourse, nausea, vaginal discharge, and vaginitis (inflammation of the vagina) are some less common side effects of this intrauterine device. Hair loss is another side effect of this device. Mood swings can be experienced by women using IUDs that contain hormones. Depression, mood swings, and irritability are the side effects that are more commonly associated with IUDs that contain progestin.
Women experiencing any of these side effects should inform their physicians as soon as possible. However, a few side effects like changes in the menstrual cycle usually resolve when the body adjusts to the presence of the IUD in the uterus. Nevertheless, any kind of side effect should be properly evaluated. If the side effects are quite severe, or perforation of the uterine wall occurs, the IUD may need to be removed.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.