The IUD and IUS can cause confusion for obvious reasons. Not only are they so similar in name, but they are both comparable forms of contraception. The IUD stands for intrauterine device whilst the IUS stands for intrauterine system. For further information regarding thing two forms of long-term contraception, you can read below.
The similarities with both these forms of contraception is the size and shape; the IUD and the IUS are T-shaped devices that are measured and inserted into the vagina by a medical professional to stop unwanted pregnancy. The key difference is HOW they prevent pregnancy:
The IUD may also be referred to as 'the coil' and tends to be the more popular out of the two devices. It is classed as a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) that is inserted into your vagina where it stays until it needs to be replaced, you wish to fall pregnant or you would like to change contraceptive method.
The IUS is occasionally referred to as 'the coil' but this is generally reserved for the IUD. It is classed as a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) that is inserted into your vagina where it stays until it needs to be replaced, you wish to fall pregnant or you would like to change contraceptive method.
The IUD and IUS are similar devices but they do work in slightly different ways.
The main advantages of the IUD and IUS is the effectiveness rate for preventing pregnancy. However, like other forms of contraception, there are additional benefits as well.
To get an IUD or IUS fitted, you must first book a doctor's appointment. Not every doctor's surgery will have this service, or only particularly nurses can fit the device, so ensure you tell the receptionist when booking the appointment.
You will be asked a number of questions before the fitting to confirm this is the right form of contraception for you. This includes being tested and treated for STIs if required. You will also need to decide the timespan.
Do remember that you can have the device removed earlier than expected for whatever reason, even if you opted for a 5-10 year contraceptive protection.
It's natural to feel cramping. This varies in duration depending on the individual. You may wish to book a day or two off work to see how you feel. A little bleeding is also possible.
Alternatively there are many women who feel minimal discomfort and cramping. You are best in tune with your body to know. If at any point the pain is too much, don't be afraid to contact your doctor's surgery for advice.
If you experience pain in the lower abdomen, have a high temperature or notice an odour to your discharge, speak to the local GUM clinic or doctor as soon as you can.
Both the IUD and IUS have threads that hang down similar to a tampon, but these remain inside the vagina. These won't be noticeable and your GP will tell you how to locate them during your fitting.
The probability of your device falling out is very unlikely but it's good to know the protocol if it happens to you. This is also called IUD/IUS expulsion.
IUD/IUS expulsion is not as noticeable as you would think. In fact, for many women there are no symptoms of the device coming out of the uterus whatsoever. This is why it's important to check your device periodically. If the IUD/IUS has moved, you're at risk of falling pregnant. If you know what to look out for, you're in the best scenario to remain protected.
During pelvic examination and smear tests, you can also ask your doctor to check your IUD/IUS. They can move the strings to an easier place when they finish.
Any complications associated with the IUD and IUS are rare, however, they can happen and this tends to be within the first few months of having the device inserted.
These devices are well-tolerated for most and can be used if you're HIV positive. Before having a fitting, you will need to be clear of any STIs. You shouldn't have an IUD/IUS if…
You need to tell your doctor if…
The NHS states that there are "fewer than one in 1,000 cases" where the device will damage the womb. If you have pain in the lower abdomen, this could be the cause.
"Fewer than one in 100" will experience a pelvic infections. Other risks include rejection that was mentioned above and ectopic pregnancy if your IUD/IUS fails and you don't realise you've fallen pregnant.
The IUD and IUS should ALWAYS be fitted by a medical professional. Once inserted, it should ONLY be removed by a medical professional.
The IUD/IUS can be fitted at certain doctor's surgeries, but do check before you make an appointment to avoid wasting your time. There is usually a special nurse or doctor that does the fittings.
GUM clinics (genitourinary clinics) and STI clinics can insert the IUD as well, especially as a form of emergency contraception if needed. Again, ask over the phone or in reception regarding the fitting.