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What Is the Copper IUD Used For?

Available by prescription only, the copper IUD is used for preventing pregnancy. This highly effective contraceptive can be left in the uterus for up to 10 to 12 years. It is thought to work by interfering with fertilization and preventing implantation of an embryo. This device may also be recommended as emergency contraception after unprotected sex; however this is an unapproved (or "off-label") use.

An Overview of Uses for the Copper IUD

The copper IUD (ParaGard®) is an intrauterine device (IUD) used for long-term pregnancy prevention. It is the only copper IUD approved for use in the United States. It is a small, flexible plastic and copper device that does not contain any hormones.
Although officially approved for up to 10 years of use, many healthcare providers now recommend that it can be used for up to 12 years (based on current research). Also, your healthcare provider can remove it earlier if you desire. After you have the copper IUD removed, you can have another one inserted right away.
The copper IUD is highly effective at preventing pregnancy, as long as it stays in place. In fact, less than 1 percent of women will get pregnant while using the copper IUD. The high effectiveness of this contraceptive is largely due to the fact that there is little room for user error -- no pills to take, no condoms to remember, etc. However, the copper IUD is not a permanent form of contraception. You can get pregnant right away after having it removed.
Importantly, the copper IUD does not protect against HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

How Does It Work?

Unlike many other forms of birth control, the copper IUD does not contain any hormones. It is inserted into the uterus by your healthcare provider, where it can remain for up to 10 years; however, some healthcare providers are comfortable leaving it in place for up to 12 years.
It is not exactly clear how the copper IUD works to prevent pregnancy. It has been suggested that the IUD may interfere with the sperm's ability to reach the egg, block fertilization of the egg, or prevent implantation of an embryo.

More Headlines in What Is the Copper IUD Used For?

‣ Can Children and Teens Use the Copper IUD?
‣ What About Off-Label Uses?
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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