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Copper IUD (intrauterine device)

The information on this page describes the conventional copper IUD. Another form of IUD, called Mirena, is also available in Canada. It is inserted into the uterus like other IUDs, but it also contains a hormone to increase its effect.

IUDs are small devices that fit inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUDs available in Canada are made of copper and plastic and shaped like a T. There are several theories of how they work, but we believe that they prevent sperm from fertilizing an egg. To a lesser degree, they may also prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus. If there are no complications, an IUD can be left in place from five to 10 years. They are 99 per cent effective against pregnancy but they do not protect you and your partner against sexually transmitted infections. Women with the following conditions should not use a copper IUD:

  • currently pregnant
  • allergic to copper
  • large fibroids or uterine cancer
  • weakened immune systems
  • heavy periods or severe cramps (this does not apply to Mirena)
  • undiagnosed bleeding from the vagina or undiagnosed pelvic pain
  • have had recent or chronic pelvic infections
  • current vaginal, cervical or pelvic infection
  • women who are at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections


Frequently asked questions

The IUD is an excellent method of contraception. The hormonal IUD is over 99% effective and the copper IUD is over 98% effective. IUDs are small 'T' shaped pieces of plastic that are inserted into your uterus through the vagina.

What types of IUDs are available?

There are two main types of IUDs- hormonal and non-hormonal. Hormonal IUDs are effective for 3-5 years depending on the IUD. Mirena and Kyleena are both effective for 5 years whereas Jaydess is effective for 3 years. The copper IUDs are effective for 5-10 years depending on the IUD.

Are there any side effects of using an IUD, if so, what are they?

Side effects can vary depending on the person using it. Hormonal (side effects are most common in the first 3-6 months post insertion): irregular bleeding, lower abdominal pain/cramping, rarely-minor weight gain, headaches, breast tenderness, acne, back pain and change in mood. Copper: heavier/longer and more cramps during periods.

What are the advantages to using an IUD?

IUDS are safe, effective and long term. They are discreet – no one needs to know it is there. They are great for people who feel that they cannot remember to use other methods- for example, taking a pill every day. They are also a great method for people who are unable to use hormonal contraceptives with estrogen in them- such as people with high blood pressure or complicated migraines. IUDs are also safe for women who are breast feeding.   

Is the insertion of an IUD painful?

The insertion really varies from person to person. We recommend that patients take a medication (Advil or ibuprofen) to help with cramping 1 hour prior to their appointment. Most patients describe the insertion process as being crampy – often like the crampiest day of your period.

What does an IUD cost?

At the Bay Centre as of July 2018 the prices range from $76.40 – $362.99. Please note that most drug plans (including OHIP+) do cover the cost of some of the hormonal IUDs

Can I still use tampons with an IUD?

Tampons are safe to use with an IUD. There is however an increased risk of expulsion (IUD falling out) when using a menstrual cup (e.g Diva Cup). Doctors may advised that you either avoid using them or remove them carefully (i.e breaking the seal).

How will an IUD impact my sex life?

It shouldn't! Your partner shouldn't even be able to feel the IUD. They may be able to feel the short strings that are attached to the IUD that will sit in your vagina but it shouldn't hurt or irritate them. You also should not be able to feel the IUD during sex.

Do IUDs increase your risk of depression?

Some people do find that the hormonal IUD can cause changes to their mood. This is most common in the first 3-6 months. We recommend discussing this with your practitioner if you are concerned.

What happens if I get pregnant while using an IUD?

IUDs are very effective at preventing pregnancy however nothing is 100% effective.

Anytime you have an IUD there is a slightly increased risk of having an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus- usually in the tubes) - so if you miss a period or think you may be pregnant it is important that you come and see us or your primary care practitioner.


How an IUD is inserted

An IUD must be inserted in a doctor's office or clinic. It is often inserted during your period because it may be easier to insert, and ensures that you are not pregnant. It can be inserted shortly after giving birth or having an abortion. An IUD may also be used as emergency contraception by inserting it within five to seven days after unprotected intercourse.

The insertion takes about five minutes. It is inserted into the uterus. Thin strings attached to the base of the T hang down through the cervical opening. These strings are trimmed so they are just long enough for you to check that the IUD is in place and so that a health care provider can use them to remove the IUD at a later date. Most women have some cramps when the IUD is being inserted.

You may want to use another method of birth control as back-up for a month in case the IUD moves or comes out. After six weeks, return to your doctor or clinic to check your IUD, then continue to have your regular yearly check-ups. You should check for the IUD strings each month after your period is over.

Call your doctor or clinic if you:

  • cannot feel the strings
  • feel the tip of the IUD protruding when you do your monthly check
  • miss a period or think you may be pregnant
  • have unusual cramping, pain or bleeding
  • have a vaginal discharge that seems different or has a different odour
  • your IUD comes out

The IUD can be easily removed if you wish to get pregnant.


  • very effective
  • copper IUDs are inexpensive
  • can be rapidly reversed if you wish to get pregnant
  • neither partner can feel an IUD during sex
  • the woman controls this method of birth control
  • can remain in place for many years
  • does not cause any hormonal changes in your body
  • can be used during breastfeeding


  • your periods may be longer or heavier with a copper IUD
  • you may have increased cramping with a copper IUD
  • does not protect against sexually transmitted infections
  • if this method fails and pregnancy occurs, it is more likely to be an ectopic pregnancy
  • increased risk of pelvic infection associated with insertion
  • rarely, an IUD may puncture the wall of the uterus



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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital