Should You Get The Copper Or Hormonal Coil?

Should You Get The Copper Or Hormonal Coil?

More women than ever are turning to the coil as an alternative to the pill – in fact, the numbers have doubled in the last decade. If you’re considering having one fitted yourself, then you’ll have to choose between the hormonal and the copper coil – we went to three gynaecologists to understand how each one might impact your health…

Both Work In Different Ways

The IUD – also known as the coil – comes in two different types, and both are long-acting forms of contraception. In a nutshell, one type contains hormones and the other doesn’t. The copper coil – the hormone-free version – contains copper, which thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to swim. Copper also creates a hostile environment in your uterus, preventing the implantation of a fertilised egg. The hormonal coil, on the other hand, contains a synthetic version of progesterone, one of the main sex hormones. Like the copper coil, the hormonal version also thickens cervical mucus, making it trickier for the sperm to reach the egg. The hormonal coil can also stop ovulation from happening altogether. According to Dr Shree Datta, gynaecologist for intimate wellbeing brand INTIMINA, the hormonal coil is more popular among British women than its copper counterpart. “Around 11% of women who have the coil have the hormonal version while 8% have the copper coil. Both forms of coil are more popular among women in the 35-44 age group.”

Like The Pill, There Are Different Types

There are two brands of hormonal coil available in the UK – the Mirena coil and the Jaydess coil. “Both of these coils vary in their size and the amount of progesterone they contain,” says Shree. “Your GP will discuss with you which coil is best for you – for example, if you haven’t had children, going for a smaller coil may be a better option for you.” Shree also explains there are seven or eight different types of copper coil, which vary in size, amount of copper and duration of use. “The types stocked by your local clinic may vary, so it’s worth asking your GP what type they stock, and which one will best suit your needs.”

You Can Expect Years Of Protection

Both IUDs are 99% effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy and last for years. The Mirena coil, for example, lasts for five years, and the Jaydess coil for three years. The copper coil, meanwhile, can last for up to a decade. “Both forms of the coil have a failure rate of less than 1%, but differ slightly within that threshold,” says consultant gynaecologist Dr Tania Adib. “The copper coil’s failure rate is around 0.8%, while the hormonal coil is around 0.2%, making the hormonal coil marginally more effective.” The copper IUD protects you from pregnancy straight away, while the hormonal coil needs to be inserted in the first seven days of your cycle to offer full protection. If you have it fitted at another time, you will need to use additional contraception for seven days.

It’s Important To Chat To Your GP

While you may have a preference over which coil you want, ultimately it’s safest to chat your options through with your GP, says Shree. “Your medical history weighs into the equation and you may be better suited to one coil over the other. For example, if you have painful or heavy periods, you may wish to consider the hormonal coil, as this is more likely to lead to lighter periods which are less painful. Equally, if you want a hormone-free option, you may feel more comfortable with the copper coil. At the same time, the hormonal coil can cause skin changes, breast tenderness, headaches and a change in appetite. If you have a history of recent breast cancer, the hormonal coil isn’t suitable. Plus, remember you may not be suitable for the coil altogether – for example, if you have unexplained bleeding between your periods or after sex, or repeated pelvic infections.”

If you have painful or heavy periods, you may wish to consider the hormonal coil, as this is more likely to lead to lighter periods which are less painful.

Both Coils Will Affect Your Period

As Shree explains, as well as long-acting contraceptive benefits, the hormonal coil is associated with less painful periods, lighter periods and for some women, no periods at all. If you currently struggle with heavy or painful periods, this will be a welcome side effect. On the other hand, Tania says that the copper coil can make your periods heavier and last longer. “For this reason, the copper coil is better suited to someone who has lighter, regular periods.”

Having It Removed Early Has Consequences 

When it comes to removing your coil, obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Tara Hughes says it could be worth waiting till its recommended expiry date if you want to avoid certain side effects. “When it comes to the Mirena coil, the effects on your period are likely to be similar to coming off the pill,” Tara says. “When it comes to physical and emotional symptoms, the side effects should be minimal.” However, if you do decide to take your coil out earlier than planned, especially within the first year, this can trigger more side-effects. “There are very low levels of progesterone found in the bloodstream of women with the Mirena coil, but they are highest after the first year of insertion, so removal during this time may be more noticeable,” she tells SL.

Your Period May Take A While To Come Back

After having the coil removed, there may be some bleeding for the first week or so. After that, however, it can take several weeks, or even months, for things to settle down. “With the Mirena coil, you should expect your period to return in one to three months. Factors such as your weight, the amount of exercise you do, stress, age and polycystic ovarian syndrome also weigh into the equation,” says Tara. Tania adds that both types of coil will make your period a little different for the initial few months. “When the copper coil is removed, your periods may become lighter, and conversely, when the hormonal coil is removed, your periods will revert to what they were like before you had the coil inserted.” Just remember that even if your periods haven’t come back after getting the coil removed, you can still get pregnant, so use protection if a baby isn’t on your radar.

Remember, Neither Protect Against STIs

Despite protecting you from pregnancy, neither coils prevent you from getting sexually transmitted infections (STIs). At the same time, there is a risk of infection after getting both types of coil fitted, so look out for changes in vaginal discharge, fever or pain in your lower abdomen. “A small number of women also get thrush with the copper coil,” says Shree, “If this happens regularly, you may want to think about an alternative form of contraception. Although uncommon, in some women, the coil can be expelled or displaced, although this tends to happen fairly soon after being fitted, so make sure your threads are in place regularly.”


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DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.

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