Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are well-known contraceptives, copper IUDs being one of the more popular types. IUDs are inserted into the uterus by a practicing qualified physician, and takes up to five minutes. IUDs are a very effective form of contraception and can be used for five to twelve years without any trouble – it does not change a woman’s hormone levels and therefore will not result in behavioral changes. They can be ignored and do not interfere with one’s menstrual period, and if one wishes to be able to conceive again, it also takes only one trip to a physician to get it removed. However, as with anything in this world, there are small chances of side effects. Here, we will discuss copper IUD side effects.
- Spontaneous expulsion. Sometimes, the IUD may go out of the uterus on its own. It counts if the IUD goes partially into the cervix. This is why one must always check on the string after menstruating. If the string is absent, it is most likely that the IUD is gone. If the string has lengthened all of a sudden, it may be that the IUD has gone into the cervix and should be examined by the physician. If this is not corrected, the IUD will of course lose its effect. If spontaneous expulsion occurs, other side effects may have occurred, so it would be a good idea to go to the physician if one experiences this.
- Uterine perforation. This happens very rarely. When inserted by an experienced medical practitioner, uterine perforation only occurs in one out of a thousand copper IUD users. It is experienced as extreme abdominal pain, and may lead to infection of one’s internal organs. In some cases, if this happens, one may have to undergo surgical removal of the IUD.
- Infection. For the first 21 days, using an IUD increases the risk of inflammation and pelvic inflammatory disease. This, however, is mostly because of pre-existing infections of the sex organs that latch on to the device and make its way into the uterine cavity, which has less methods of fighting off infections. This is a preventable risk if one uses the proper aseptic techniques. After 21 days however, the risk for infection is gone.
- Cramping. The cervix has to be dilated for the IUD to be inserted properly. Some woman may experience cramps from the process of insertion. The pain is similar to what happens if one over-exercises. However, it may take a long time to go away. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs or misoprostol before the procedure will help the pain to not appear at all – one should ask the physician about these options.
- Irregular bleeding and spotting. For about 3-6 months after insertion, one may experience irregular bleeding and spotting of menstruation. However, this should quickly subside.
- Increased blood during menstruation. This is perhaps the most common reason for IUD removal, as menstrual fluid may increase when one has an IUD inserted. It may persist for most women who choose to have it removed by 3-6 months, but may take longer in others.
- Problems with the IUD string. Sometimes, one’s sex partner may feel the strings while having sex, and it may be uncomfortable when the pair are having sex. In this case, the physician may cut the strings, but it should be warned that the strings may no longer be seen when one has to examine them after menstruating.
- Pregnancy. IUDs are not absolute contraceptives, and it is possible that one may still get pregnant. Once one confirms a pregnancy, one should consult with a physician immediately.
In short, copper IUDs are very effective and safe contraceptives. The above side effects are not likely to happen. However, if these copper IUD side effects do occur, the best advice would always be a physician’s, especially the one that inserted it in the first place.