The copper IUD.  What you need to know.

I don’t have a preferred contraception. They’re all seriously nasty and come with a monster list of side effects, complications and troubles. The copper IUD is one many women turn to because it doesn’t contain ‘synthetic’ hormones. We visited the mirena a few weeks back – you may like to take a read of that here.
The copper IUD is a small intrauterine device that prevents pregnancy (see below image).

copper iud3

It’s believed to work as the copper coil, which is wrapped around the IUD itself, releases ions into the surrounding fluids. This impairs the mobility of sperm like some kind of super hero magnetic force. It is believed that this is an effective form of contraception. Sounds harmless – but lets dig deeper.

The IUD also changes the thickness of the uterine lining, affecting implantation. There are several theories around this – none of which have been 100% proven. In my professional opinion, anything object imbedded into the uterine lining has ramifications, much like endometriosis or a fibroid present. These types of disruptions can of course affect long-term fertility.

Heavier and more painful periods are very common whilst a copper IUD is in the uterus. The presence of a foreign object wedged in the vaginal wall is, in my opinion, confusing for the body. A heavier period is simply the body trying to get rid of the obstruction each and every month. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, anything disrupting the normal menstrual flow will cause pain – be it a fibroid, endometrial tissue or cysts – hence why many women experience painful periods with an IUD.

The real issue with these devices is the vulnerability they expose the body to by way of infection. There is a really high chance of infection developing in the first 20 or so days after insertion. Infection can lead to long-term damage to health and especially fertility. Pelvic inflammatory disease (be it from the IUD, from a sexually transmitted illness, from scaring, damage) whatever the cause is a serious issue and must be addressed and treated accordingly. Scaring from PID can lead to damage of the uterus, has been linked to ectopic pregnancies (which are an increased risk with those who have an IUD) and miscarriage. In many instances where there is damage, patients are left with little option other than IVF. And, whilst it goes without saying, I’m still going to make mention that IUD’s do not offer protection from STI’s which have the same ramifications as I’ve just mentioned with regard to PID.

From a TCM stand point – any form of contraception interrupts the natural body rhythm. Over a long period of time, this can play havoc with a woman’s fertility.

So do I like the copper IUD? Not really. I guess if I had to suggest one form of contraception that is least damaging; when you weigh the copper IUD up against the rest, it still totally comes with a host of issues. My major concerns are with any object wedged into the uterus and how each unique body reacts to it. Every woman will react differently, which makes it virtually impossible to predict if you are a lucky winner or not. For some women, there are no apparent issues with the copper IUD and for others it can have a long standing, disastrous impact on the future of her fertility.

I guess the real question is are you prepared to take the risk. My mission is and always has been to help people listen to their bodies and interpret what is being presented. Through this my hope is to educate women that there are natural contraception methods and you truly do have options. When all is said and done, just how much are you dying not to be pregnant? And how much are you willing to put your body through long term?

For more information and guidance on natural contraception you can read some of my previous posts: the pill – is it for you, healthtalks ovulation segment, if not the pill then what, and many more can be found by searching ‘the pill’ in the sidebar.


  • April 15, 2013 By Anna 9:31 am

    One of the other benefits is that copper IUD last between 5 and 10 years! That (and the fact that there were no hormones) are definitely what swayed me into getting one about 6 months ago. It also only cost me $35 through the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne.

    I’ve definitely experienced my periods getting (even more) heavy and painful. I don’t go anywhere without painkillers now in case the cramps hit me unexpectedly. They are EXTREME!

    But the worst thing about the copper IUD for me was the insertion process. I was to take this drug called misoprostol a few hours beforehand to ‘ripen’ my cervix. Before I even went in for the procedure I was in terrible pain because of this drug – violently throwing up and had diarrhoea. Immediately after the procedure I was in such extreme pain that I was rushed to emergency and spent the rest of the day there on copious amonts of pain killers. I even experienced painful sex with my partner up to a month later. A bit of a mood killer to say the least.

    I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone either, but now I’ve got one I’m kind of determined to make it work at least for a while.

  • April 15, 2013 By Laura 11:21 pm

    Thanks for your honesty Nat.

    As a 20-something woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant, GPs often feel it’s their place to tell me that I should be using hormonal contraception – when I tell them that I didn’t like being on the pill, they recommend implants and IUDs, and express disbelief when I say I don’t want to use anything but condoms.

    I may not want children now, but I probably will in the future, and I am not willing to risk my fertility for convenience’s sake (though the comment below tells me that there is nothing convenient about IUDs!)

    It’s very refreshing to see a doctor give advice that focuses upon long-term, holistic wellness.

  • April 19, 2013 By Elisha Seiver 11:13 pm

    Hi Nat, I’ve been trying to make a decision about permanent contraception now I’m in my late 30s with two children. I’ve read some of your posts and watched Health Talks so I’d love your opinion. I’m looking at the procedure where titanium clips are put on the Fallopian tubes. I am struggling to find info from what I consider real health experts (ie like you and Jess Ainscough). Thanks very much, Elisha

  • May 6, 2014 By Maya 6:26 am

    This has been very helpful, thanks. I’m trying to decide whether to remove my IUD.

    I’ve had my IUD for 6 years, it has a 10 year life span. I’ve had no problems, no extra pain, regular 5 day periods in my cycles over the years. It has been better than the contraceptive pill was for me. Yet the last 3 months my cycle has become irregular, painful & I’m feeling bloated with water retention more than usual.

    We have been moving around home a lot & I wonder if it is down to our base being uncertain. I’m now in a steady relationship & planning our future towards a family. But we are not ready just yet. I really dislike condoms. Does anyone have tips about the diaphragm? Or do I stick with the coil another year?

    Is the last few months my body wanting rid of the IUD? Is there a link between endometriosis & the coil? It seems to be quite common in women of my age… 30 onwards. Any advice/ideas welcome, with thanks.

  • March 24, 2015 By Amber 11:34 am

    Interesting article and responses. Both my friend and I have the 5yr copper IUD’s, just over three years now. My insertion experience was incredibly painful, similar to your’s Anna, and both my friend and I suffer extremely painful periods since the insertion. I am in a serious relationship, wanting children in the future and I am a huge fan of clean eating and treating your body as a temple which is why I opted for the hormone free option of the copper IUD, however my partner is not a fan of condoms nor of the pull-out methods which monitor your cycle. Bit of a tricky situation really, although Nat makes a very valid point, is it worth the risk to me. . . .

  • September 20, 2016 By Helen 8:00 am

    I’m 27 years old, with no previous pregnancies. I had the copper IUD put in for emergency contraception, but had it removed less than 48 hours later (put in Wednesday night, removed that Friday afternoon), as I was scared of what it could do to my body — after the fact. I didn’t experience any complications with insertion and didn’t have any existing infections (i.e. STDs). I’ve read so many mixed reviews on this and am not so worried I may have ruined my future fertility. It was a rash decision to get this put in and now I wish I didn’t. But have I harmed my chances at getting pregnant in the future? My doctors have said I am fine but I still worry. Wish there was something I could do to alleviate my fears.

    Thank you!

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