Contraception or birth control is a good way to control the population. Family planning benefits apply when couples decide to use birth control. Intrauterine devices or IUDs are a safe and easy option for controlling conception. An IUD is a t-shaped device that is inserted in the uterus for birth control. Unlike pills, you don’t have to be cautious about taking it daily, and once inserted, it can be used for a straight period of 3-5 years. 

Many women are unable to take hormone-based birth control options as they may experience unpleasant side-effects or may have some other issues that prevent their usage. In this case, a hormone-free birth control method is quite useful. Synthetic hormones can cause short and long-term side effects. These hormones can prevent the body from naturally producing hormones and also stops the period as well as ovulation.

A hormone-free IUD is the copper IUD. ParaGard is a copper IUD that uses copper as a spermicide.

How do Copper IUD Works?

Copper IUDs are a t-shaped device, and some can be frameless. Earlier copper IUDs had a copper stem, but these days copper is also on the arms of the t-shaped device. The primary mechanism of a copper IUD is to prevent the fertilization of eggs. Copper is a spermicide inside the uterus, and its presence increases the white blood cells, copper ions, and prostaglandins within tubal and uterine fluids. The copper in ParaGard prevents the sperm from reaching the egg for fertilization and can prevent implantation as well. This doesn’t interfere with the natural menstrual cycle, and women can continue to ovulate.

Effectiveness of Copper IUD

Copper IUDs are higher than 99% effective. This means that only five women per 1000 can get pregnant. This is a very good percentage. Compared to copper IUDs, shots are 94% effective, and condoms are 85%, and vaginal rings, pills, and patches are 91% effective.

IUDs work this well is because there is very little room for error. In pills, women can forget taking them. While using condoms, couples have to be prepared. But with an IUD, nothing like this needed. Once you insert the IUD, it will work without any action needed from the woman. 

This is a good option for an emergency contraceptive if a wants protection from pregnancy in the future. If the IUD is inserted within five days from unprotected sex, then the women have a lesser than 0.1 per cent chance of becoming pregnant. However, IUDs cannot prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Benefits of Using Copper IUD

Copper IUDs can be extremely beneficial to women, and that’s why they are quite popular. Their advantages are as follows:

  • Effectiveness – The copper IUD is around 99% effective. Fewer than 1 out of 100 women get pregnant when they use this. This is just as good as permanent sterilization, but the advantage is that fertility isn’t affected. Women can remove this and can get pregnant again. The effects of ParaGard are so quick that if its inserted 120 hours post intercourse, it can prevent pregnancy.
  • Hormone-free – Studies show women suffering from pulmonary embolisms and blood clots from the synthetic hormones used in pills. As such, a copper IUD is in demand as its free from hormones.
  • Limited side-effects – Overtime, one puts extra progesterone or estrogen in the body; things can get out of hand. Women could get snappy, or there could be a breakout of zits. They are small changes, but they are there.
  • Long-lasting – Mirena – a hormone-based IUD lasts for five years, whereas an implant is good for three years. But a copper IUD like ParaGard can stay in the body for 10-12 years, doing its job. This good for women who want to wait a while to have a family. But in case a woman wants a child, it can be removed, and fertility is back in no time.
  • Cheap – These IUDs are cost-effective and may also be covered by insurance. ParaGard is cheaper than Mirena and lasts longer than Mirena, as well. Planned Parenthood tries to make this contraception available easily.

Side Effects of ParaGard Copper IUD

IUDs are very effective at birth control and are quite safe. There are mild side effects faced by some women, but they are rare. The following side-effects are caused by a copper IUD or ParaGard.

  • Fainting – Some women can feel dizzy right after the IUD is inserted, and some can even faint. To feel better, they must lie down till they feel they can get back up on their feet.
  • Cramps – Women may also feel cramps for the few days after the doctor inserts the IUD. Mild cramps are expected, but if it gets worse, then you must contact the doctor.
  • Heavy or irregular periods – After the device is inserted, the periods change. Hormonal IUDs can make periods lighter and shorter and sometimes stop the period altogether. ParaGard can make the periods quite heavy for the first few months. The cycle returns to normal after six months post-insertion. There might be some spotting in between the periods.
  • Pregnancy – With an IUD, the chances of getting pregnant are very low. However, if the woman gets pregnant, it is extremely risky. There are high chances of infection, miscarriage, and early labor and delivery. If the woman wants to keep the baby, then the IUD has to be removed, which is also a risk in itself.
  • Ovarian cyst – There can be cysts that develop in ovaries the first year after the device is inserted. These sacs are filled with fluids and can impact one out of ten women. These cysts can go within three months, on their own. These ovarian cysts are considered harmless and don’t have any symptoms. But some cysts can cause swelling, bloating, and/or pain in the belly. If the cyst ruptures, then the woman can experience severe pain and must talk to a doctor.
  • Infection – An IUD can raise the chances of infection in the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. This is called a PID or pelvic inflammatory disease. The infection-causing bacteria goes into the body when the IUD is inserted. The infection can occur within the first 20 days post-insertion, and multiple sex partner increases the risk. Symptoms such as painful intercourse, stomach pains, chills, fever, smelly vaginal discharge, and heavy bleeding mean there could be an infection.
  • Perforation – Sometimes, very rarely, the IUD can puncture the uterus walls. It needs removal if there is a perforation.
  • Ectopic pregnancy – When a fertilized egg gets implanted outside the uterus, the pregnancy isn’t viable. Plus, this could be potentially dangerous for the woman. Pregnancy, while having an IUD inside, increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. Annually only 1 of 1000 women have an ectopic pregnancy. The chances of this are slightly higher if a woman has fallopian tube surgery, pelvic infection, or an earlier ectopic pregnancy. If a woman experiences vaginal bleeding or belly pain, she needs to let the doctor know as this is a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Expulsion – Around 3 per cent of women experience expulsion of the IUD. This is when the IUD falls out of the uterus. This risk is higher in women who have had earlier pregnancies. Some women experience pain when this happens, and some don’t feel anything. If this happens at all, then you mustn’t try to put it back; instead, contact your doctor first.

Drawbacks of ParaGard Copper IUD

  • This doesn’t prevent STDs – IUDs, in general, do not prevent sexually transmitted diseases. To prevent that, you would need to prevent the mixing of bodily fluids that IUDs don’t allow. The best way to prevent STDs is to use a condom.
  • It does have side effects – Copper IUDs aren’t free from side effects. They may be milder for some women. The side effects can include scar tissue buildup, ectopic pregnancy, discomfort during intercourse, cramping, spotting, painful insertion, expulsion, infection, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Zinc deficiency – A zinc deficiency can be caused by a copper IUD. This leads to an off-balance in zinc and copper levels in the body. Zinc deficiency can cause a low sex drive, acne as well as poor immunity. Symptoms of zinc deficiency are coughs and frequent colds. This can be managed by eating zinc-rich foods.
  • Not suitable for all – Women having certain medical conditions like Wilson’s disease can prevent copper metabolism. So, a copper IUD is not suitable, and the woman could develop copper toxicity.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Is it painful to have a copper IUD inserted?

Generally, having an IUD inserted isn’t painful. It isn’t like adding an implant in the ram where a cut is made. But women may experience some discomfort or pain when the copper IUD is put in. The process generally takes 15 minutes to complete or even less sometimes. Women may feel some pressure or pinching when the procedure is being done. Women can resume normal activities after the copper IUD is inserted. But some may take a day or two to rest and keep cramping and pain medicine with them. Women who have children find it less painful than women who haven’t. But this is a general observation.

  • Is a copper IUD the right birth control for you?

IUDs are a good method of birth control for most women, especially because it’s easy to use. If a woman doesn’t want a baby for a good number of years, like 3-10 years, then they can go for an IUD. A copper IUD lasts for 10+ years. However, if she decides to have children, she can have it removed. The ten years is the time till expiry, but women can have it removed before that as well. ParaGard is appealing to women who want a hormone-free method for birth control. Women who get cramps or have heavy periods may need to watch out as there is potential for heavier periods. An IUD can prevent pregnancy effectively, but it doesn’t help in preventing sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS or HIV. After a woman discusses her needs and pre-existing medical conditions with her doctor, she can decide on the best method of birth control.

  • What if you get pregnant with a copper IUD in?

Very few women can get pregnant while they are using a copper IUD. But if a woman does pregnant, then it is a medical risk. It happens to less than 1% of women. A pregnant woman with an IUD inside her is at risk for an ectopic pregnancy. This pregnancy isn’t viable and puts the woman at risk as well. The egg will implant outside the uterus, generally in the fallopian tube. Usually, the pregnancy needs to be terminated unless you remove the IUD as it can trigger early labor, miscarriage, and even infection.

  • What to expect after having a non-hormonal IUD inserted?

After having the copper IUD inserted, women may experience side effects for 3 to 6 months post-insertion. Some side effects include cramps, heavy bleeding, and pain before the period comes. But over the counter medications can help manage the discomfort. These side effects will not last forever. The body will get used to the copper IUD; then, there will be very few side effects that are negative.

  • How much does it cost to get a copper IUD?

Copper IUDs are generally made available by most healthcare providers. The cost of getting one actually depends on health insurance. Some insurance companies do cover the full cost of IUDs and the insertion, while others only have partial coverage. If you are not sure if you are covered or not all your insurance company or talk to your doctor.


Deciding on a form of contraceptive needs to be a well-thought decision. Every method is different and affects women differently, so talking to the doctor is best. IUDs are a good method of pregnancy prevention as it is extremely easy to use.

There is a hormone-based IUD and the copper IUD. However, hormone-based IUDs can have certain side effects, and synthetic hormones aren’t suitable for all. Copper-based IUDs use copper as the spermicide. It can last up to 10 years and has a 99% success rate. ParaGard can also be used as an emergency contraceptive after 120 hours post-sex.

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