Women’s Sexual Health | The Mirena and Copper Coil IUDs Long Term Birth Control
Did you know that I also have F. S. R. H. in the title of my name? Well, that stands for having a diploma from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health, meaning that I specialise in sexual health and family planning.
In this series I will take you through the different contraception or birth control options that are available to you. Ranging from the short time options, to the long term, the hormonal and the non-hormonal options.
Today I’ll be talking about two long term acting contraceptives which can be used whether or not you’ve had children, are reversible and require one treatment only. The first of which is the intrauterine system (IUS), which in Australia is available as the Mirena. The second is the intrauterine device (IUD), known more commonly as the Copper Coil.
Both these treatments are reversible and can be over 99% effective for birth control, but please note they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.
The main difference between these two is the Mirena (IUS) contains the hormones, whilst the Copper Coil (IUD) uses copper.
WHAT ARE HORMONES?
Hormones are used to regulate physiology and behaviour, and the one used by the Mirena is a synthetic hormone for a chemical that is released locally in the womb for birth control.
The IUS is a small flexible plastic T. shaped device that fits inside the womb of a lady. It has a cylinder at the bottom which releases a steady amount of hormone every day over a period of up to five years. In Australia, it is available as the Mirena, but in other countries you can find other brands such as Skyla, Jaydess, Liletta, Kyleena as well as the Mirena.
It works by changing the mucus in the cervix making it harder for sperm to move through.
It thins the womb lining, making your periods lighter and reducing the likelihood of the womb accepting a fertilised egg.
It also inhibits sperm from reaching or fertilising your egg.
For women going through their menopause, the Mirena is progestin-releasing which can support Hormone Replacement Therapy.
COPPER COIL (IUD)
An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse.
The IUD works by stopping the sperm and egg from surviving in the womb or fallopian tubes. It may also prevent a fertilised egg from implanting in the womb.
In Australia it’s available as Multiload or Copper T. With Multiload working for up to 5 years and Copper T working up to 10 years.
The main difference between the two is that the Mirena uses a synthetic hormone which can lead to lighter and less painful periods. However, some women do experience adverse side-effects such as headaches, acne and breast tenderness, this can reduce over the first few months depending on your body. The Copper Coil works without hormones so there are less side-effects, however it does often lead to heavier and painful periods especially for the first few months.
The treatment time takes between 10-20 minutes, it can be uncomfortable. So it is very important to take pain relief such as paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory 30 minutes to an hour beforehand.
As with all invasive treatments, there are risks involved.
- One in 1,000 insertions can perforate the womb, which can cause pain in the lower abdomen or at worst a trip to the hospital for surgery.
- One in 200 times the device may fall out, most likely to happen soon after it’s fitted.
- There is a small risk of getting an infection
It’s really important that you see an appropriately trained medical practitioner.
At the higher end you can see a Gynaecologist who is a doctor that focuses on women’s reproductive health.
You can also see a Specialist General Practitioner, you can identify one usually by looking for titles in their name (for example, DFSRH means they’d have a diploma from the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health), alternatively you can ask for accreditation.
Specialist Nurses with additional training and accreditation can also perform the treatment.
Please ensure that you seek an accredited medical practitioner, as this is not a routine procedure.
“Few Australian General Practitioners are trained to insert IUDs”, so please make sure you choose carefully.
 RACGP Course 90415 – Intrauterine Device Training in General Practice.
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