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    Contraception
    1234 · 20 min read

    The Coil: What it is, how it works and symptoms after insertion

    The coil, whilst being very useful, can also be quite an intimidating form of contraception. In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of this contraceptive method, exploring what it is and how it works to provide safe and reliable birth control. We'll walk you through the process of how the coil is fitted, ensuring you have a clear understanding of what to expect during the procedure. Additionally, we'll discuss the various symptoms you may experience after the insertion, offering valuable insights to help you navigate any potential concerns or questions.

    Lady smiling due to how effective the coil has been for her as a contraceptive method

    What is the coil?

    The coil, also known as the intrauterine device (IUD), is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device made from plastic and copper. It's placed into the uterus by a trained healthcare professional and provides long-term, reversible birth control. The coil is over 99% effective, making it one of the most effective forms of birth control available. It can stay in place for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type, but can be removed at any time if you decide you want to get pregnant or switch to a different method of birth control.

    How does the coil work?

    The coil works by creating an environment in your uterus that's inhospitable to sperm, thereby preventing pregnancy. The way that the coil achieves this will depend on the type of device that is being used. The two most common types of coil are copper and hormonal IUDs. These devices work in different ways, however, they both are highly effective at preventing pregnancy.

    What are the different types of the coil?

    There are two different types of coil devices, copper and hormonal. 

    • Copper Coil: The copper wire coiled around the device produces an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm, impairing their ability to swim and survive. By creating a hostile environment for sperm, the copper coil prevents sperm from reaching and fertilising an egg.

    • Hormonal Coil: Hormonal IUDs release a synthetic hormone called levonorgestrel into the uterus. Levonorgestrel thickens the cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to navigate into the uterus and reach an egg. It also thins the lining of the uterus, reducing the chances of a fertilised egg implanting and starting a pregnancy.

    How long does the IUD/copper coil last?

    The copper coil, also known as the copper IUD, can provide effective contraception for up to 10 years after insertion. It is important to note however that it can be removed at any time if you wish to try for a baby, or if you wish to switch to a different method of birth control. Despite its long duration, it's important to have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider to ensure the IUD is still correctly in place and functioning as intended. After 10 years, the copper IUD should be removed or replaced to maintain effective contraception.

    How long does the IUS/hormonal coil last?

    The longevity of a hormonal coil, or intrauterine device (IUD), varies depending on the specific brand, but generally, they can last between 3 to 7 years. Here is a breakdown of the most commonly used hormonal coils as well as how long they last.

    Hormonal Coil

    Duration

    Mirena5 years
    Skyla3 years
    Liletta6 years
    Kyleena5 years

    It is important to note that just because these are some of the more commonly used hormonal IUDs you may be given another coil with a different name. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you how long this device can be used. 

    How is the coil fitted?

    The process of having the coil fitted is relatively straightforward but should be performed by a trained healthcare professional. During insertion, a speculum is inserted into the vagina to keep it open, and the vagina and cervix are cleaned with an antiseptic solution. Your healthcare provider will then use a special inserter to position the IUD inside your uterus through the cervix. The entire procedure typically takes about 5 to 15 minutes. You may experience some discomfort or cramping during and after the procedure, and some light bleeding or spotting is also normal.

    Is getting the coil painful?

    The experience of having an IUD inserted can vary greatly from person to person. While the procedure is generally not considered extremely painful, it can cause discomfort and some pain for many individuals. During insertion, you may feel some cramping or pinching, similar to intense menstrual cramps, as the IUD is placed into the uterus. The discomfort is often most pronounced when the healthcare provider measures the uterus and inserts the IUD.

    What are the common symptoms of getting the coil inserted?

    Following the insertion of the coil it is common to experience some minor temporary side effects. These can vary from person to person, however, there are some that are more common after you have had it inserted:

    • Cramping and backaches

    • Spotting or irregular bleeding

    • Changes in the menstrual cycle

    • Discomfort during sex

    • Temporary side effects

    What side effects can the coil have?

    It is important to note that the coil is generally well tolerated. This does not mean however that some people will not experience side effects. The most common side effects you may experience whilst you have the coil inserted include:

    • Discomfort and Cramping

    • Expulsion, where the uterus pushes the IUD out of the uterus into the vagina

    • A very low risk of infections

    What are the risks of getting the coil?

    The coil is generally considered to be safe and effective for most individuals, but there are some risks to consider. These risks are not common, but they are important to keep in mind when making your decision about contraception. The main risks to consider include the potential expulsion of the IUD, the potential for the device to create a hole in the cervix or the uterus, the potential changes to menstruation, the potential for ovarian cysts, as well as potential complications with pregnancy if you become pregnant whilst using the IUD. 

    How does the coil affect periods?

    The impact of the coil on your periods will depend on the type of IUD that you are using. The Copper IUD generally does not interfere with your menstrual cycle, however, it may make your periods heavier and longer, particularly in the first few months after insertion. 

    Hormonal IUDs can cause changes in your menstrual bleeding. For a lot of individuals that use a hormonal IUD, periods will become lighter and less painful over time. In the first few months after insertion, you may notice that your periods have become lighter, or that they have stopped altogether. It’s important to note that if your period stops you are not pregnant or have not entered menopause.

    How effectively does the coil prevent pregnancy?

    The coil is one of the most effective forms of birth control available. It has a greater than 99% effectiveness rate, meaning that fewer than 1 out of 100 people who use an IUD will get pregnant in a year. Both types of IUDs, copper and hormonal, are similarly effective. 

    Can the coil be removed?

    Yes, the coil can be removed. However, it is important to point out that it should only be removed by a healthcare professional to avoid complications. The removal process of the coil is simple and straightforward and is usually completed in a couple of moments. You will be examined and then the IUD will be removed similarly to how it is inserted, with the help of a speculum and the strings attached to the device.

    Where can you get the coil removed?

    The coil can be removed at a variety of different healthcare facilities, however, it should always be removed by a healthcare professional. You may be able to get your IUD removed by your doctor, at a sexual health clinic, at a community health centre or at a walk-in centre. 

    What alternative forms of contraception to the coil exist?

    If you feel that the coil is not the form of contraception that you would like to use there are a wide variety of alternative contraception methods that you may be more interested in. The most common alternatives include:

    What is the contraceptive injection?

    The contraceptive injection, also known by the brand name Depo-Provera, is a type of hormonal contraceptive for women. The injection contains a synthetic version of the hormone progesterone and is to be used every three months. It helps to prevent ovulation, thicken cervical mucus and thin the uterine lining to prevent a fertilised egg from attaching to it. 

    What is the contraceptive implant?

    The contraceptive implant is a type of long-acting reversible contraceptive for women. It's a small, thin, and flexible rod about the size of a matchstick that a healthcare provider inserts under the skin of your upper arm. The contraceptive implant is very effective at preventing pregnancy. Its effectiveness is over 99% regardless. Once it's inserted, you don't have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy. The implant works for up to 3 years, but it can be removed at any time by a healthcare provider 

    What is the contraceptive patch?

    The contraceptive patch is a type of combined hormonal contraceptive for women. It's a small, thin patch that sticks to your skin like a bandage. The patch works by releasing synthetic versions of the hormones oestrogen and progestin into your bloodstream. These hormones prevent pregnancy by preventing ovulation, thickening cervical mucus and thinning the uterine lining.

    To use the patch, you stick one new one onto your skin on the belly, upper outer arm, buttock, or back each week for three weeks. You then go patch-free for 7 days and you will get your period. After your patch-free week, you apply a new patch and start the cycle again.

    What is the progestogen-only pill?

    The progestogen-only pill (such as Cerazette) is often called the mini-pill. It is a type of oral contraceptive for women. Unlike combination birth control pills, which contain two female hormones (oestrogen and progestin), the mini-pill only contains progestin. This makes it a suitable option for women who cannot take oestrogen for medical reasons or who experience side effects with combination pills.

    What is the combined pill?

    The combined pill, also often just called "the pill," is a type of oral contraceptive for women. It contains two types of synthetic female hormones: oestrogen and progestin. These hormones work together to prevent pregnancy in several ways:

    • Preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg

    • Thickening the mucus in the cervix to block sperm

    • Thinning the uterine lining to prevent a fertilised egg from attaching itself

    What forms of contraception are available at UK Meds?

    At UK Meds, we provide a wide variety of different contraceptive methods that you can select if you feel like the coil is not right for you. We provide popular contraception methods including condomscontraceptive pills (including progestogen-only pills and combination pills), contraceptive patches and contraceptive rings. All of the contraceptive pills that we provide here at UK Meds are also available on subscription, so take the hassle out of managing this on a regular basis. 

    Sources

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    Blog author

    Scott Weaver

    Scott is an experienced and professional content writer who works exclusively for UK Meds.

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