A copper IUD is a small t-shaped contraceptive that is inserted through the cervix into the uterus by a healthcare provider. 'IUD' stands for 'intrauterine device' – something that stays in your uterus. Each IUD has a small string attached to the frame, that hangs out of the uterus, making it easy to remove and to feel if it's still in the correct position. The most common copper IUD is the copper-T.
There is also another type of IUD, the hormonal IUD.
The copper from the IUD kills the sperm, which means they won't be able to reach and fertilize an egg. This effect is easily reversible when the IUD is taken out, so you should have no problem getting pergnant when you are ready. Once the IUD has been inserted, don't have sex or insert anything (like a tampon) into your vagina for the first 24 hours.
Any woman of childbearing age can use IUDs. The American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends it as the best long-term birth control method for young women.
The insertion can be quite uncomfortable but it's also very short. It's best to talk to your healthcare provider to help you understand the process and what to expect. You may want to ask about mild painkillers to manage any pain you might have afterwards.
It’s a myth that copper-T IUDs cause infections. There is a small chance of getting a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). It occurs in about one in every 500 insertions and usually happens in the first three weeks after insertion. If you feel any unusual pain, discharge, bleeding or discomfort, always speak with your healthcare provider.
Cramping is common with women who are on the IUD. Cramping can start within 24 hours of insertion and can last up to 48 hours. Some women can experience cramping for a longer periods as their bodies try to adjust.
The copper-T IUD may increase menstrual blood flow. Some women also have spotting between periods. For others, they may not have their period at all.
IUDs do not prevent you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). IUDs prevent pregnancy, not diseases. So protect yourself and your partner by using a condom!
In case you had unprotected sex and want to make sure you don't get pregnant, consider the copper-T IUD. Even if it's inserted five days after intercourse, it's still 99.9 per cent effective.
IUDs are not cheap. But they are long-term solutions if you are determined to use them until their expiry date. Some insurance companies in Kenya provide coverage for contraceptives. Some government facilities also provide them for free