IUS vs IUD – which coil is right for you?

Hormonal coil, non-hormonal coil - what even is the difference?!

We know that contraception can be a confusing one, and when it comes to the coil – it’s certainly no exception. From IUD to IUS, no wonder we’re all left rubbing our heads when it comes to decision time. The main difference between the two is their makeup and how they react with the body. In this article we will outline the key differences between each contraceptive to help you decide which contraception coil is right for you.

What is an IUD/IUS?

The coil is a small T-shaped device made of either plastic or copper, that is inserted into the uterus to act as contraception. There are two types of coil to choose from, the IntraUterine Device (IUD), which releases copper and IntraUterine System (IUS) which releases a hormone called progestogen, but both work to prevent pregnancy.

Both types of coils must be inserted by a trained healthcare provider and can last anywhere between three to five years, depending on which type or brand and can be easily removed at any time.

How do the coils work?

The IUD is a copper coil (non-hormonal) that prevents pregnancy by blocking the sperm from reaching the eggs. It does this by releasing tiny amounts of copper into the body, which are toxic for both sperm and eggs.

Due to the amount of copper, the sperm dies and the egg cannot move freely. The copper works to alter the cervical mucus, meaning it changes the make-up of fluid in the womb and fallopian tubes, preventing the sperm from fertilising the egg.

It can also delay the egg from reaching the womb and prevent the egg from implanting in the womb. Check out our copper IUD reviews on The Lowdown website.

The IUS is a hormonal coil that prevents pregnancy through releasing the hormone progestogen into the womb, that works to thicken the cervical mucus and prevent the sperm and egg from ever meeting.

The IUS can also delay the egg reaching the womb and prevent the egg from implanting in the womb. The IUS can also stop ovulation for some people, while for others ovulation will continue as usual.

How hormones in the IUS work

Different to the contraceptive pill or other forms of contraception, the hormones in the IUS are “local”, which means they only work within the area of your uterus.

This means the hormones are less likely to cause negative symptoms, i.e mood change, that may occur with other hormonal contraceptive methods – this could be why it’s one of our community’s most popular forms of birth control!

IUS and IUD insertion

It’s always good to arrange an appointment with your doctor before getting the IUD or IUS fitted so you can discuss which one would be best suited to you.

Both the IUD and IUS need to be inserted by a trained healthcare provider. Before fitting, they will do a number of tests, including:

  • Checking the size and position of your womb
  • Checking for an possible STIs and treating with antibiotics

The actual insertion takes 15-20 minutes. The vagina will be held open with a small speculum, the same way as it is during a smear test, and the coil is inserted through the cervix into the womb.

Six weeks after insertion you will need to go back to where the coil was fitted to make sure it hasn’t moved as well as to ensure there are no problems.

IUS and IUD removal

It’s good to know that the coil can be removed at any time – but this must be done by a doctor or nurse. The procedure is simple and quicker than when inserted and is removed by your doctor or nurse gently pulling on the threads, making the T shape fold up and easily pulled out of the womb.

If you have the coil removed but you don’t want to get pregnant, it’s important that you have another form of contraception available straight away. Normal fertility should return immediately once the coil has been removed.

IUD side effects

  • Womb cramps
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Back pain
  • Tender breasts
  • Spots or acne

IUS side effects

  • Womb cramps
  • Tender breasts
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Spots or acne
  • Headaches

How can the coil affect your period?

The way the coil affects your period is different for everyone, and can depend on the type of coil fitted.

IUD periods

  • The IUD may cause heavier periods that may last slightly longer in the first few months, but not always.

IUS periods

  • The IUS can cause irregular periods, light irregular spotting or sometimes stop periods altogether. This is not harmful at all but can take some time getting used to.

Benefits of the the coil

  • You don’t have to worry about taking your contraception each night
  • It is effective as soon as it’s been fitted
  • Normal fertility returns once it has been removed
  • The coil is safe to use while breastfeeding
  • The coil is not affected by other medicines in the same way that other forms of contraception like the pill might be

The Lowdown user reviews

“Except for heavier periods, I am so happy to have found a non-hormonal and worry-free contraceptive that allows me to have a natural cycle.” – IUD

“Still fairly new to this method, but I swapped from the copper coil and it’s been a massive relief in that my periods are no longer extremely heavy and I don’t have raging mood swings (or ones that are as bad, at least)” – IUS

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.