Copper IUD as emergency contraception
The IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after having unprotected sex. The IUD is more effective than the emergency pill at preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex.
- What is it?
The IUD (intrauterine device) is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device made from plastic and copper. It is inserted into the uterus by a trained health professional. It may prevent an egg from implanting in the womb or being fertilised.
The IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after having unprotected sex. It does not interact with any other medication and you can choose to have the IUD left in as an ongoing method of contraception. The IUD is more effective than the emergency pill at preventing pregnancy after unprotected sex.
- Who can use it?
The IUD can be used in most cases, including in those who have never been pregnant or are HIV positive. You should not use an IUD if you have:
- An untreated STI or pelvic infection.
- Certain abnormalities of the womb or neck of the womb.
- Unexplained bleeding from your vagina (for example, in between periods or after sex).
If you have had and ectopic pregnancy where the fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, meaning that it will not develop into a baby), have had a recent abortion or you have an artificial heart valve, you must consult your GP or clinician before having an IUD fitted.
The IUD should not be fitted if there is a chance that you might already be pregnant (for example, if you have previously had unprotected sex in the same menstrual cycle).
- What are the advantages?
- Most can use the IUD, including those who have never been pregnant.
- It can be used if you’re breastfeeding.
- Your normal fertility returns as soon as the IUD is taken out.
- It is not affected by other medicines.
- It is more effective than the emergency pill.
- What are the disadvantages?
- An IUD doesn’t protect against STIs.
- In less than 1 in 1000 cases the IUD can make a hole in the womb or the neck of the womb and will need to be removed with an operation.
- The IUD can be expelled from the womb (rejection) or can move. This is uncommon but is more likely to happen soon after it has been fitted.
- The procedure can be uncomfortable.
- Where can I get it?
You can get the IUD for free through the NHS from our clinics or most GP surgeries.
You can use the service finder to find a service near you.