The IUD and the IUS (often known as the coil) are gaining more awareness and popularity as forms of contraception or methods to ease menstrual cycle or menopausal symptoms. But what are they? This blog will explore each and share some of Floco’s own personal experiences.
What is the IUD?
The IUD, copper IUD or ‘copper coil’ is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that is inserted into the uterus by a medical professional. Both IUD’s work by changing the way sperm cells move so they can’t get to the egg. A Copper IUD works by releasing copper into the womb. This copper changes the cervical mucus making it harder for sperm to reach an egg and survive. Neither the copper or hormonal IU prevent against STI’s.
Quick Facts about the IUD or Copper Coil:
- An IUD starts working straight away when inserted can last between 5 and 10 years depending on the type.
- The IUD when inserted correctly is more than 99% effective as contraception.
- Your periods can be heavier or mor painful in the first 3-6 months after fitting.
What is the IUS?
The IUS can also be known as the hormonal IUD. The IUS is a small T-shaped plastic device that sits in your uterus. Instead of releasing copper, the IUS releases progesterone. The hormonal IUD can work in multiple ways. It can thicken the cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to move through the cervix. It can also thin the lining of the uterus making it harder for an egg to implant itself onto the uterus wall or stops eggs from leaving your ovaries.
Quick Facts about the IUS or hormonal IUD:
- When inserted correctly it is more than 99% effective.
- There are 4 types of hormonal IUD including the Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta and Skyla.
- Like the copper coil, the certain hormonal IUD’s can work as emergency contraception if fitted 5 days after unprotected sex.
Getting the IUD fitted
Both the IUD and IUS are fitted by medical professionals. You can get the IUD and IUS fitted at any point in your cycle as long as you are not pregnant. The appointment will generally take around 20 and 30 minutes and the fitting will take no longer than 5 minutes.
The vagina is held open like during a cervical screening and the IUD or IUS is inserted through the cervix into the womb. Painkillers are usually advised prior to you appointment (you will discuss this with a health professional prior to you appointment or sent some information directly). Some people are given local anesthetic via a gel that is put onto the cervix. It can feel uncomfortable getting the IUD and IUS fitted, however every case is different. Some fittings are less painful or challenging than others, this can be due to the size or position of your cervix as well as the time of your cycle that you have your appointment. For example, getting the IUD or IUS fitted during your period can actually be slightly easier as the cervix is slightly opened and more soft compared to other points of your cycle.
After your fitting you may experience cramping and other side effects, including spotting or cramping. These side effects can last 3 to 6 months after your fitting. You will be given a leaflet with lots of information about this, as well as the specifics about the type of IUD or IUS you get fitted at your appointment.
After the fitting
The IUD and IUS have 2 thin threads that hang into the top of your vagina. These are designed to help you make sure the IUD or IUS is still in place. The health professional fitting the device will teach you how to feel for these threads to check it is still in place. You should check this a few times in the first month and then at regular intervals (usually monthly). You are also able to book an appointment to get these checked by a professional if you are worried you cannot feel the threads.
Find out more information here.
A Floco experience of the IUD
Mhairi here! Co-founder of Floco.
So now we have shared some information about the IUD I thought I would share my own personal experience of getting the coil fitted. I want to stress that everyone will have a unique experience, we are all so different and will react differently to different contraceptive methods. We also have different needs, wants and boundaries that are personal to us.
I opted for the Mirena hormonal coil.
I was looking for a birth control method that better suited my lifestyle. In the past I have tried a range of different contraceptives including non-hormonal methods and the combined pill. I knew quite a lot about the IUD and IUS already so felt comfortable and confident that I wanted to try it and felt it would suit my needs and lifestyle.
So I booked my appointment with my local GP and it took around a month until they had space, Iwas slightly nervous but excited. I was on my period during the appointment. The GP and nurse who were at my fitting were so lovely, they answered all my questions, talked me through the process and made sure I was comfortable.
The fitting itself, is obviously slightly uncomfortable but I ended up just chatting away to the nurse about Floco and all things periods (classic me).
I was warned I would feel a little cramping when the IUD was inserted. It took me a little by surprise as the sensation is quite odd. It feels like a period cramp, that lasts 1 second. So kind of like something is punching you from the inside of your uterus. After the appointment, I was feeling fine. I actually went into a school to deliver some Floco workshops. I knew the cramping would probably start later in the day and it did get a bit sore in the evening. But, I was on my period and so was expecting cramps anyway.
The next day was probably the worst. When I woke up and was completely fine, delivered a class in the morning, but on my way to the office to continue the rest of my day, the cramps really heated up. I ended up spending the day in bed, watching Schitts creek and eating pizza. I felt very grateful, that I had the option to do that. So my advice would be if this is something that you could not do, maybe schedule a day off or really weigh up if this is a risk you would be willing to take because there was no way I could have been a functioning human that day.
Overall, I have loved the experience so far. Although I was a little nervous in my first few months, as I did notice my mood was a little bit off. For me, I just felt PMS-y all the time, however that has completely gone. I am able to check the strings easily, and so far I have had no major side effects. I did get quite a lot of bleeding and spotting and that has lasted quite a few months on and off. However, it doesn’t really bother me. I have lots of reusable pads so I luckily don’t have to buy lots of products.
With any contraceptive and anything generally, it is about recognising that we are all so different. Our priorities, boundaries, contexts and wants are all so unique. So there should be no pressure for us all to do the same thing. Something that works for me, will not work for someone else and so on. I was willing to put up with bleeding and spotting and I have not had any major side effects. I would always advice you ask lots of questions. You make sure you find somewhere and someone you feel comfortable. And finally, you do your homework and weigh up the pros and cons and how they fit into YOUR life.
Have you tried the IUD? Let us know your experience in comments!