What is
an IUD?

Intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) are used by 22% of women of reproductive age worldwide (1).
It is a contraceptive invented in 1928 by Ernst Grafenberg.
This T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus through the vagina to prevent fertilization. IUDs are inserted during a simple consultation, either by a gynaecologist, midwife or general practitioner. It remains in place as long as contraception is desired: between 5 and 10 years depending on the model.

“It remains in place as long as contraception is desired: between 5 and 10 years depending on the model.”

IUDs are the least expensive temporary contraceptive method for long-term use. In France, the IUD is the most widely used contraceptive method after the pill.

Since the early 1960s, when IUDs were made from inert materials, there have been many improvements in these devices, including the use of copper.

“IUDs are the least expensive temporary contraceptive method for long-term use.”

How does the copper IUD work?

“The copper-bearing IUD is indicated as an alternative method of contraception to chemical contraceptives…”

The copper-bearing IUD is indicated as an alternative method of contraception to chemical contraceptives, including oral hormonal contraceptive methods, for the prevention of their short- or long-term side effects. Copper IUDs are recommended as a first-line contraceptive by the HAS (French Health Authority) including in nulliparous women. As soon as the IUD is inserted into the uterus, it prevents the risk of pregnancy on two levels :
  • The IUD causes an inflammatory reaction (normal and non-infectious) of the uterine mucosa, which prevents the egg from nesting
  • Copper, which is naturally spermicidal, prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg.
The copper-bearing IUD can also be used as emergency contraception after unprotected sex, as long as it is inserted no more than 5 days after intercourse.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no contraindication to IUD insertion in a nulliparous patient. The existence of two sizes: SHA called “short” and STA called “standard” for most copper IUDs is therefore justified. Indeed, a childless woman with a smaller uterus can perfectly well have an IUD inserted, a “short” model can then be prescribed.

(1) INED Institut National des Etudes Démographiques