The main points
- The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device made of plastic and/or metal that is inserted into the uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy.
- Both types are among the most effective methods of contraception and can stay in place for 5 – 10 years, depending on the type.
- There are several differences between the non-hormonal copper and hormonal IUDs.
What is the intrauterine device (IUD)?
The intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device made of plastic and/or metal that is inserted into the uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy.
The two main types of IUDs available in Australia
You can choose either a:
The hormonal IUDs are small ‘T- shaped’ plastic devices that are inserted into the uterus (womb). The hormonal IUDs contain progestogen. This is a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone made naturally by the ovaries. The hormonal IUDs have a coating (membrane) that controls the slow release of progestogen into the uterus. There are two different hormonal IUDs available in Australia. They are sold as Mirena and Kyleena.
Non-hormonal copper IUD
The non-hormonal copper IUD is a small plastic device with copper wire coiled (wrapped) around the frame. It is inserted into the uterus (womb) where it constantly releases a small amount of copper. There are several different non-hormonal IUDs available in Australia.
How effective is the IUD?
Both IUD types are among the most effective methods of contraception and more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
An IUD can stay in place for 5 – 10 years, depending on the type.
How does the IUD work?
IUDs affect the way sperm move and survive in the uterus (womb), stopping sperm from meeting and fertilising an egg. IUDs can also change the lining of the uterus, making it difficult for a fertilised egg to stick to the lining to start a pregnancy.
The hormonal IUDs also work by thickening the fluid around the cervix (opening to the uterus/womb). This helps to prevent sperm from entering. Sometimes the hormonal IUDs can also stop the ovaries from releasing an egg.
Local anaesthetic: a medicine used to numb a part of your body for a short while. You remain conscious.
Sedation: a medicine used to cause a relaxed, sleep-like state so you are unaware of the procedure.
How do I use the IUD?
The IUD is inserted inside the uterus (womb) by a trained doctor or nurse. You can choose to have a local anaesthetic or sedation while it is inserted. The IUD insertion takes around 15 minutes but you will be in the clinic for an hour or more. See below for a video about IUDs and how to help prepare for and manage pain from an IUD insertion.
The IUD has a fine nylon string attached to it which comes out through the cervix (opening to the uterus/womb). The string cannot be seen and it does not hang out of the vagina. If you feel high up inside your vagina, you can check that the string is there and know the IUD is still in place. It is good to do this every month. If the string feels like it is shorter or longer than normal or you cannot feel the string at all, the IUD may have shifted and you should see a doctor or nurse.
Pain and IUD insertion – what to expect
Family Planning Victoria's Medical Director Dr Kathy McNamee offers information to help prepare for and manage pain from an IUD insertion.
What is good about the IUD
- It is an extremely effective method of contraception.
- Once inserted (put in) you will only need to check the string each month.
- It can last for 5 – 10 years (depending on the type).
- You can use it while breastfeeding.
- No medications stop it from working.
- It can be taken out at any time by a trained doctor or nurse.
- Once removed your fertility quickly returns to what is normal for you.
- It is another contraceptive option if you have difficulty taking the hormone oestrogen. The Pill and vaginal ring (NuvaRing) contain oestrogen and progestogen.
Possible side effects or disadvantages of the IUD
- Both types need to be put in by a trained doctor or nurse.
- You may have extra upfront costs and difficulty accessing a clinic to insert the IUD.
- When it is first inserted some users have period type cramping that usually settles after a few days.
- Your vaginal bleeding pattern (period) will change. Spotting or frequent bleeding is common in the first 3 – 6 months.
- Sometimes the IUD can fall out. This is more common in the first 3 months of it being inserted.
- The hormonal IUD can cause side effects for a small number of users, including headaches, changes to your skin, sore/tender breasts and mood changes.
- In about 1 in 500 users, the doctor or nurse makes a small hole in the wall of the uterus (womb) while inserting the IUD. The IUD can move through the hole and sit in the wrong place. You would then need keyhole surgery to have it removed.
- Around 1 in 300 users get an infection when the IUD is first inserted. This is usually successfully treated with antibiotics.
- It is very unlikely to get pregnant when using the IUD. If you do get pregnant with an IUD, there is a higher chance of ectopic pregnancy. This means that the pregnancy may settle in the fallopian tubes (pathway of the egg to uterus).
- Neither type gives protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
Differences between the non-hormonal copper IUD and hormonal IUD
There are several differences between the non-hormonal copper and hormonal IUDs.
Differences in vaginal bleeding pattern (periods) include:
- After a hormonal IUD has been put in, spotting is common in the first 3 – 6 months. By 6 months around 95% of users will have a light regular period or no bleeding at all (this is not harmful to the body).
- After a copper IUD has been put in, spotting or frequent bleeding is common in the first 3 months. This nearly always settles with time and your regular bleeding pattern will return. For most users, periods are about 50% heavier.
Differences in cost include:
- The hormonal IUD is covered by a healthcare card in Australia. It costs around $6 if you are a health care card holder and around $37 if you do not have a healthcare card. If you do not have a Medicare card it will be more expensive.
- The copper IUD is not covered by a healthcare card and may cost around $120. The cost is the same for those who do not have a Medicare card.
Differences in side effects include:
- For a small number of users, the hormonal IUD may cause sore/tender breasts, headaches, changes to your skin and mood changes.
- The copper IUD has no hormonal side effects.
Differences in medical conditions include:
- The hormonal IUD should not be used if you have breast cancer or have been treated for breast cancer or have severe liver disease.
- With rare exceptions, the copper IUD will not have any known effect on existing medical conditions.
IUD insertion at Family Planning Victoria (FPV)
FPV provides insertion and removal of the both the hormonal and non-hormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs).
Making an appointment:
- Booking an IUD insertion appointment generally requires a separate appointment beforehand (pre-IUD consultation) with an FPV doctor or nurse. This may be in person or on the phone. During this appointment you will be asked some medical and sexual health questions to ensure the IUD is a suitable method of contraception for you. What you discuss will be kept confidential.
- If suitable, the doctor or nurse will then schedule an IUD insertion appointment.
- Wait times between the initial appointment and IUD insertion vary and may be up to 6 – 8 weeks. A cancellation list is maintained by FPV.
- FPV provide advanced training for doctors and nurses. At your appointment (including IUD insertion) you may be seen by a qualified health professional completing advanced training with us. An FPV staff doctor or nurse will always be present to provide supervision.
- Please call our reception staff if you need help to understand what this means for you.
IUD insertion appointments:
- If you are interested in having an IUD inserted at FPV you can book a pre-IUD consultation by telephone: 03 9257 0100 or online (select General Sexual and Reproductive appointment). Your IUD insertion appointment will made following the pre-IUD consultation appointment.
- If you already have a booking for an IUD insertion at FPV, please refer to Patient Information Intrauterine Device (IUD) Insertion.
- If you have had an IUD inserted at Family Planning Victoria, please refer to Patient Information Intrauterine Device (IUD) Insertion: Aftercare for important information and instructions. If you have any concerns that are not addressed, please contact us on telephone: 03 9257 0100.
Appointment notes during COVID-19 pandemic:
- If you have an appointment scheduled for an IUD insertion, please read the IUD Insertion Consent Form before your appointment.
You might be interested in watching:
Where to get more information and support
- Family Planning Victoria
- A doctor or nurse
- Your local community health service
- An obstetrician or gynaecologist
- 1800 My Options phone line 1800 696 784 or website
- Better Health Channel
- Equinox – for transgender services
- Jean Hailes
- Marie Stopes Australia
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- The Women’s (The Royal Women’s Hospital)
- Other Victorian IUD providers