Contraception can be confusing, with a world of options out there and endless opinions from friends, your doctor and even TikTok potentially influencing your decision on how to prevent pregnancy and manage health concerns such as heavy periods or acne.
But as awareness surrounding the potential adverse side effects of hormonal contraception continues to spark conversation, it seems the demand and interest in alternative methods, such as the coil are on the rise. The copper coil aka an intrauterine device (IUD) is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s placed into the womb (uterus) and releases copper to alter the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and survive. When inserted correctly, IUDs are more than 99% effective and can prevent pregnancy for between 5 and 10 years.
But as with every form of contraception, the copper coil comes with a hefty list of potential side effects that should be considered before taking the leap and booking your insertion appointment, from longer and heavier periods to the risk of your body rejecting the IUD altogether. We spoke to 7 women who have tried the copper coil to get the lowdown on the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between that comes with choosing this form of contraception…
I’m 24 and I had the copper coil fitted just over a year ago. After having a lot of trouble with hormone-based contraception, and knowing the implications of hormones in general on my body, I decided that the copper coil would probably be the best option for me.
After speaking to my local GP, we arranged for me to get it inserted about a week after my first appointment.
This was the first time a medical professional had ever been down there so I just breathed and tried to keep up the conversation.Emily
When I arrived at my first appointment they asked all the basic questions “are you pregnant?” etc, and then, the time had come. She asked me to lay on the bed with my trousers and knickers down. This was the first time a medical professional had ever been down there so I just breathed and tried to keep up the conversation. She inserted the vaginal clamp which was a strange feeling. They also asked if they could take a couple swabs while they were in there. I said of course, why not kill two birds with one stone. She inserted the coil and it kind of felt like something going up and nipping me right inside.
This is where things got a little more uncomfortable. When she went to cut the string, she realised that my womb had rejected it. She said this is more common with women who have never had children as your womb isn’t used to holding something, making it more likely to reject. This meant the coil was now in my cervix. She quickly pulled it out (which also felt a bit weird) and I saw it all covered in blood- it was not enjoyable. At this point I was getting extremely flustered and having to take slow breaths to calm down, all whilst the vaginal clamp was still holding me open.
She quickly asked her assistant for a second coil to try and put another in and this time when she pushed it up again and I felt the pinch of it opening inside. She quickly cut the string and that was it. I felt a bit achy in my womb for the next day or so while my body was adjusting, and went to feel for the string in my cervix to check the length.
After about a week I went to have sex for the first time which was really nerve-racking, even though I knew if it was in place it shouldn’t be an issue.
However, when we came to it, sex was painful and I got really bad abdominal pains. I thought this might just be part of the settling-in period, but after a few weeks, the abdominal pains were very frequent and at random times in the day, not just during or after sex.Emily
Within this time, my period had come and it was excruciating, as well as very heavy which is a normal symptom, especially in the first few months of having the coil implanted.
At one point my boyfriend complained saying he could feel something inside me, and it was at this point I decided to go back to the doctors. Not only was it feeling off but it was preventing me from having sex, which was the whole point of it.
I was sent for an internal ultrasound. They put a dildo-like thing inside me and looked to see what was happening. She said that the coil was in fact in my cervix and had been rejected by my womb and they needed to get it out as soon as possible.
Essentially, the coil had been chilling in my cervix for probably about two months since it was put in. I also realised it had not been working as contraception and I had not been using protection in the first few weeks of having it while I was working it out with the whole sex thing. Fortunately, I didn’t get pregnant.
I do track my fertility and we make sure we are extra cautious around this time.Emily
Anyway, my appointment finally came around and they took it out. I was so relieved, and when they offered to book to get another put in and I said no. Ever since I have given up on contraception completely and have not used anything since. I’ve not had any pregnancy scares and have sex frequently. More than 5 times a week! My partner and I are super careful and ensure. He finishes when he’s “out” of me, which I know isn’t advised but it means I’m not on hormones and have a natural cycle.
I do track my fertility and we make sure we are extra cautious around this time.
The reason I had a coil fitted was for contraception purposes- I chose it because it was a long term solution. I was on the pill at one point but forgot to take it sometimes so I know medication does not work for me. I’ve also had the injection but the side effects were too much for me.
I was a bit anxious beforehand but only because the nurse came out and told me my appointment was delayed because the girl before me had passed out…Kristina
Not only was having the coil fitted pain-free but I literally did not feel anything- I didn’t realise it had even been done until they told me! I lay there bracing myself, anticipating the worst and nothing happened. I was a bit anxious beforehand but only because the nurse came out and told me my appointment was delayed because the girl before me had passed out…
The nurse and doctor told me everything that I should expect and were very detailed in telling me what was happening throughout. I was most surprised that the pain they told me would come never did, and that everything they told me I would feel, I didn’t.
After having the coil fitted I did have some moderate cramping for a couple of days but nothing worse than a period. I had a very long period after, but when I had it fitted I was still bleeding after having my daughter so it could have just been that (I bled for a total of 12 weeks after having her).
The biggest surprise though has been that I got my first normal period just a couple of days ago and it is very light. I’m used to having very heavy periods so it’s been a nice surprise as I wasn’t expecting it so soon.Kristina
I was expecting my experience to be a lot worse than what it was and I would very happily have it done again.
I got the coil fitted 3 years ago now in 2019. I had taken the contraceptive pill for a few years before and developed breast cysts. Thankfully they were non-cancerous, and whilst I know the risk is admittedly small, I was aware that hormonal methods can cause breast abnormalities and cancer in some cases.
I decided I did not feel comfortable putting hormones in my body anymore so I knew the copper coil was for me.Sarah-Kelly
I was concerned about that, but the final straw was when I had no period for 4 months. I was paranoid and took a pregnancy test every month. I was only young and was in no position to have a baby. Thankfully, they were negative. At this point, I decided I needed another form of contraception. I decided I did not feel comfortable putting hormones in my body anymore so I knew the copper coil was for me.
I phoned the sexual health clinic to arrange the appointment and in my immediate area there were no slots for 4 months. I could not wait that long so I decided to travel 40 minutes away and booked an appointment for three weeks later.
The day came and to my horror, I woke up with my period. I had not had a period in 4 months and was frantically googling if I could still get the coil fitted. It said yes, so off I went.
I went into the room with two women, a sexual health nurse and an assistant who showed me a coil and explained the process to me. They shut the curtain and I undressed from the waist down. I wasn’t embarrassed but was just mildly terrified at what was going to happen.
She asked if I wanted anaesthetic, a small injection in the cervix and I immediately said no as I hate needles. However, being young I had never had a smear test, so the minute the speculum went in I changed my mind and asked for anaesthetic. It wasn’t that the speculum was sore, just an uncomfortable, strange sensation. So they injected the cervix and it was completely pain free, I hardly even felt it. They then measured my womb with the tool, and inserted my coil. I felt nothing, I couldn’t believe it was finished. After they finished they snipped the strings and that was that.
They told me to get up slowly and call them if I felt faint, they gave me a sanitary towel and then privacy to get dressed. The experience was absolutely fine, absolutely worth it for contraception you can set and forget. Also a three minute procedure for 10 years of contraception – it was a no brainer.
I can’t speak on if I bled after it or not as I was on my period. What I will say though is the first bowel movement after it was so scary as I was terrified it was going to fall out. Of course it didn’t.Sarah-Kelly
It is a fantastic method of contraception. The only thing is, your periods are heavier for the first year. Mine naturally were 5 days, on my two contraceptive combined pills, they were 3 or 4 days. The first year of the coil it did go up to 9 days, but it genuinely calms down after one year and it’s now down back to 6 days. The periods are painful and heavy but if you stick with it for one year, I promise it goes back to normal.
I plan on keeping the coil in for the whole 10 years or alternatively until I decide to have children, whichever comes first. I would recommend it to anyone.
I had the copper IUD coil fitted as emergency contraception a couple of years ago. The procedure itself was okay, I dosed up on pain medication and whilst it was uncomfortable, it was definitely manageable. I personally am really unhappy with hormonal contraception- it makes me have massive mood swings and I feel very de-energised and anxious, which is why I was keen to go for the copper method.
A year into having it fitted my boyfriend started experiencing small tears to his foreskin after having sex, and I was feeling slightly more sore during.Olivia
The initial few months I felt slightly uncomfortable around my cervix and my periods were a lot heavier, but generally it was a good experience. HOWEVER, a year into having it fitted my boyfriend started experiencing small tears to his foreskin after having sex, and I was feeling slightly more sore during. I’d sometimes have random stabs of pain in my cervix during the day too. Over time this gradually worsened, but we began being long distance so we put it down to us not seeing eachother often so the sex being more painful (which shouldn’t have happened).
In the last few months, the pain became significantly worse and was impacting my libido. I also missed my period so I was super concerned. I did a pregnancy test and felt for the coil strings which were still in place so I assumed I was overthinking. My friend was attending a walk-in sexual health clinic and encouraged me to go with her. I went with the intention of finding out the cause of my missed period, not worrying about the coil. When I was there they decided to do a general check and on inspection realised the coil had expelled itself and was lying in my cervix – hence why both my boyfriend and I were experiencing pain.
I’m super lucky that I did not become pregnant, as the position the coil was in would not be having any contraceptive effectOlivia
I’m super lucky that I did not become pregnant, as the position the coil was in would not be having any contraceptive effect, meaning I was having regular unprotected sex with my boyfriend. The risks of this were never explained, nor signs to look out for. Since its removal, we have both gone back to pain free sex, my periods are way lighter and my libido has gone back to normal. I wish there was another non-hormonal contraceptive method for me!
I had a coil fitted at the start of February this year after being on the waiting list for around 5 months. I was previously on the pill but I didn’t like how bad it made my anxiety so I thought the copper coil would be a better option.
When I had my coil fitted, I was in horrendous pain. The cramps are nothing like period cramps, they were worse and almost deeper than normal cramps. I had it fitted at midday with the plan to go back to work after but I couldn’t because of the pain. After pulling myself around Tesco to buy chocolate and pantyliners, I went home. I tried many things to stop the cramps but nothing really worked apart from taking ibuprofen and paracetamol alternately every 4 hours. When my boyfriend got home from work, I proceeded to slump into his arms and cry because of how much pain I was in.
I was on the ibuprofen and paracetamol combination for 2 days until I realised it probably wasn’t the best to take both together for that long. I realised how bad the cramps still were after I stopped taking them. What followed after this was month after month of constant cramps and bleeding after sex. This started to affect my mental health as I was constantly anxious that I would experience pain during sex or start my period unexpectedly. I was really down and anxious. I do have to give a shout out to my boyfriend for being so supportive.
Each month, I was holding out that it would get easier and more manageable but it didn’t. They told me that after 6 months, the pain would go and the coil would properly settle. It didn’t. Granted, I didn’t have it in for the full 6 months but I couldn’t carry on the way I was.Victoria
In July, after considering it for so long, I finally had it out. The removal process was a bit of a nightmare but what finally convinced me to have it taken out was that I was going on holiday in September and I didn’t want a surprise period. I went back on the pill but that had the same effect as before.
Prior to deciding to try the copper coil as my form of contraception, I had the implant for three years and before this was on the combination pill. I didn’t have a positive experience when I was on the pill and suffered from severe headaches, weight gain, and disruptive mood swings.
When I switched to the implant, the first year or so was definitely more positive than the pill. I had no periods, but I still suffered from mood swings and easily felt depressed. About halfway through having the implant I started to get irregular periods, and eventually, this turned into constant light bleeding. It was very impractical and annoying. So when the time was nearing to having it removed I knew 100% that I didn’t want to ever take the pill again and that ideally, I didn’t want another implant.
I find that a sexual health clinic can provide far better advice as they’re specialists in this field- they’ve literally seen everything related to sexual healthFiona
I spent a lot of time doing research, looking into what contraception would be preferential moving forward, whilst also receiving counselling for my mental health. I decided that I didn’t ever want to take hormonal contraception again, as I was sure this was somewhat contributing to my mood, although this did automatically limit my options. I was terrified about having it put in. When it comes to contraception, I’ve always made use of the NHS sexual health clinics rather than doctors. I find that a sexual health clinic can provide far better advice as they’re specialists in this field- they’ve literally seen everything related to sexual health- and in general, I find them more empathetic and understanding than GPs. I made sure to book an appointment with a nurse beforehand to discuss if the copper coil would be the best option.
On the day, I was so nervous and despite the nurses’ reassurance in our prior meeting, I did not feel good.They asked if I would like to know each thing that they were doing, and I said yes. They told me to lie down on the bed with my hands on my tummy and begin to relax. I would be lying if I said having it put in wasn’t uncomfortable – it was. The best way I can describe it for me personally on an uncomfortable scale was like sharp period cramps. If I were to give it a number – 10 being the worst pain ever – I would give it a 4. It didn’t last long, and the initial intense sharp-like feeling disappeared within a few minutes of insertion. They gave me some squash and lots of biscuits – I think I was looking a bit pale!
The follow-up care from the clinic was great. They told me what side effects I may experience, told me how to check the strings, and let me know what I should keep an eye out for. I went home that day feeling a bit sorry for myself, but snuggled up with a cup of tea and a hot water bottle. I had intermittent cramps and spotting for a couple of days after insertion, all of which are normal.
In terms of side effects, I only have one, but I think it’s the one that puts a lot of people off most, and that’s heavier periods. I was on hormonal contraception for five years prior to having the copper coil, and during that time my periods were either light, non-existent, or spotting (constantly). One of the reasons I went onto hormonal contraception was because I had painful and heavy periods, but when deciding if the coil would be best, I knew that having heavier periods was a risk I would take rather than experiencing the side effects of any more hormonal contraception.
For the first few months, my periods were VERY heavy. After several months I noticed that my periods had begun to settle down, and they weren’t as heavy or crampy. After nearly three years, my period has properly settled down. It isn’t as heavy or painful as it was in the first few months after insertion, in fact I would say my periods are relatively normal now.
Getting the copper coil was the best decision I’ve ever made when it comes to my overall health and contraception. My mood has changed tremendously compared to being on hormonal contraception, I no longer have erratic mood swings, I’m more emotionally stable, and I feel far less anxiety.Fiona
It’s great that I can just forget about it too! It’s been extremely low maintenance and there’s no more setting a timer as a reminder to take the pill. I love that it’s a long-lasting form of contraception, I’ve still got another 7 years left of mine, but of course, I can take it out whenever I wish.
If you’ve struggled with emotional side effects from hormonal contraception, but still want long-lasting and effective contraception, then definitely look into the copper coil.
I decided to get the coil for contraceptive purposes after being on no contraception for about three years. I wanted to try and avoid hormonal contraception because I hadn’t used it in so long, so I thought the copper coil would be a good fit. The coil could also be in for 10 years, which suited me well due to children not being in my immediate plans.
The actual insertion was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be.Darcey
I was pretty nervous before my appointment, but a few of my friends have had coils put in which they said had been painful but bearable, which put my mind at ease. The actual insertion was nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be. It was uncomfortable- having your cervix clamped is not the nicest feeling- but the process was super quick. My doctor said mine went in quite easily though, which then meant it was more likely my body could expel the coil, so it’s likely it hurt less for me due to that too. However, the next 48 hours (ish) were fairly bad, the cramps were super intense, I had to sit in my car for a while after the insertion as I thought I was going to pass out. You bleed a lot after too, I bled for about a week actually, but the cramps went after 48 hours and definitely got milder.
I had the coil in for 7 weeks, until after my second period when I went to check the strings and could feel some hard plastic poking out of my cervix. I knew that I was at higher risk of it expelling due to how easily it went in, and had been told I had a looser cervix (charming ha!), but they were right as it did end up moving and needing to be removed. I’d like to say though that there was no pain when it did expel, and having it removed was completely painless too, so don’t let the potential of this happening put you off.
I only had two periods on the copper coil, but for two days I had very heavy bleeding, going through a super tampon every 1-2 hours.Darcey
The only side effects I had during the time when the coil was in were period cramps (which I’d never had before), but they were pretty mild, and I also had much heavier periods. I only had two periods on the copper coil, but for two days I had very heavy bleeding, going through a super tampon every 1-2 hours. So if you already have heavy periods I would really consider other options as it definitely does make them a lot heavier than your usual flow.
I wish the coil had worked for me, as the heavy periods are something I could have definitely put up with. If you’ve been thinking about trying the copper coil then go for it, the insertion is bearable and the payoff – if it works for your body – is worth it in my opinion.