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Copper IUD

Quick Facts

Most effective

Hormone-free

Effective up to 10 years

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

Does not protect from STDs

Can be used as emergency contraception

A copper IUD

More about the Copper IUD

  • IUD stands for intrauterine device.
  • The copper IUD is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic wrapped in thin copper wire.
  • This is the only hormone-free IUD you can get in the US.
  • The copper protects you from pregnancy.
  • It works for up to 10 years, but your provider can take it out at any time.
  • The copper IUD does not protect you from HIV or other STDs.

If you don’t want to worry about taking birth control, the copper IUD can be a great choice for you. Once it’s in, there’s nothing more for you to do and it lasts for up to 10 years.

How the Copper IUD Works

The copper in the IUD kills sperm cells before they can get to an egg. If there’s no sperm, you can’t get pregnant. Talk to your provider if you think you might want a copper IUD. They will ask about your medical history and give you a physical exam and ask questions to make sure an IUD is right for you. After you decide to have the copper IUD, they will insert the IUD during an office visit. That’s it!

You may feel some cramps or dizziness when you first get an IUD. They should go away with rest or pain medicine.

You should check once a month for small strings that hangs down in your vagina. The strings are there so the IUD can be taken out later. Don’t pull on the strings or you could move the IUD out of place. If you don’t want to check for the strings yourself, your provider can do it for you one month after you get the IUD and once a year after that.

You will need to use a backup method of birth control, such as a condom, for the first week after a copper IUD is put in.

A uterus with an IUD inside
Donut chart showing 99%. The title says "Over 99% effective"

Effectiveness

The copper IUD is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that less than 1 out of 100 women who use the copper IUD will get pregnant in a year. It is one of the most effective methods of birth control. Unlike most other methods, you don’t have to do anything once the IUD is in.

Benefits

  • You don’t have to remember to take it every day.
  • Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment.
  • Your birth control is taken care of for up to 10 years.
  • If you want to get pregnant, you can have the IUD taken out at any time.
  • It can be safe for women with high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • It can be used while breastfeeding.
  • It can be used by women who can’t take estrogen.

Your provider can talk with you more about these benefits and whether the copper IUD is the best choice for you.

Nine hands each holding a thumbs up
A young woman holds up her hands as if weighing options and looks thoughtful

Side Effects

The most common side effect is heavier, longer periods and spotting between periods. Most of the time this gets better within a year. Some women have backaches and cramps. These will likely to go away in a few months.

Most side effects go away on their own, so give it some time. If you have side effects that don’t improve after 3 months, talk with your Family PACT provider about switching to something that works better for you. Just make sure to start a new method right away so that you stay protected.

IUDs don’t protect you from HIV or other STDs. Condoms and internal condoms give great STD protection, so to stay safe you can use condoms as well as your IUD.

Serious side effects that happen very rarely are:

  • The IUD can slip out of the uterus without you knowing it.
  • You can get a pelvic infection.
  • The IUD can tear the muscle of the uterus.

Family PACT Coverage

If you are eligible, Family PACT covers the cost of the copper IUD. A provider can help you decide if a copper IUD is the best choice for you. You can search for a Family PACT provider near you by clicking on the “Provider Search” button in the right hand corner of this page.

California Department of Health Care Services Family PACT logo