This sheet answers common questions about having a contraceptive coil fitted. If you would like further information, or have any particular worries, please do not hesitate to ask your nurse or doctor.
In all cases, a doctor will explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you may have. In most cases it will be possible for a friend or relative to accompany you for all or part of the procedure. Please ask your nurse or doctor.
What is a coil?
A coil is an effective form of birth control (contraception). There are two main types of coils:
A copper coil, also known as an IUD (intrauterine device), is made of plastic and copper. It works for five or 10 years, depending on the type. You can find out more about the copper coil on the sexwise website.
A hormonal coil, also known as an IUS (intrauterine system) or ‘Mirena,’ is made of plastic and releases small amounts of the hormone progestogen. It works for five years. You can find out more about the hormonal coil on the sexwise website.
If you are unsure about which type of coil to have fitted, you can discuss this with the doctor or nurse on the day of your appointment, however, it is helpful to have a think about this before you arrive.
When can a coil be fitted?
It is important that there is no possibility of a very early pregnancy when a coil is fitted.
If you are using a reliable method of contraception for the month before your appointment (the pill, patches, vaginal ring, injection, implant, or condoms), then the coil can be fitted at any time. Withdrawal (when the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation) and natural family planning/contraception apps to monitor your fertility during your menstrual cycle are not considered to be reliable enough methods.
If you are not using a reliable contraception method then you should avoid sex from after your period until your coil fitting appointment, or if your periods are irregular or unpredictable, for at least three weeks before your appointment (this is because a pregnancy test can then be reliably used to confirm that there is no early pregnancy). You may be asked to do a urine sample for a pregnancy test when you arrive at the clinic.
If you are on your period at the time of your appointment, it is not necessary to change your appointment and your coil can still be fitted (unless of course you prefer to do so).
Postnatal coil fittings
If you have recently given birth and plan to start having sex, you should start using a reliable method of contraception by 21 days after your delivery (as it is possible to get pregnant again from this time). You can have a coil inserted any time from four weeks after giving birth.
If you have recently had a miscarriage or abortion, you can have a coil fitted at any time afterwards, if there is no risk of pregnancy (if you have used reliable contraception or not had sex since the miscarriage or abortion).
Coil removal and replacements
If you are having a coil removed or replaced (the old one taken out and a new one put in), we recommend that you avoid having sex or use a condom for seven days before your appointment. This is because rarely, we might take out the old coil but then not be able to fit the new one on the same day. If you have had sex without a condom during the previous seven days, you could then be at risk of pregnancy.
If your current coil has already expired, you should use another reliable contraception method in the month before your appointment.
Sexual health testing
If you have had a change of sexual partner since your last sexual health check-up, we recommend that you do an up-to-date test before your coil fitting. You can order a swab kit online from Sexual Health London.
On the day of the coil fitting
Most people experience some cramping pain during the fitting and afterwards. It is a good idea to have something to eat and drink before your appointment, as well as taking a painkiller, such ibuprofen or paracetamol. We can also discuss the option of using local anaesthetic during your appointment.
We recommend that you don’t plan any important or strenuous activities for immediately after your appointment, however most people feel well enough to go to work the following day. For safety reasons, please do not bring any babies or small children to the appointment with you, however if it is difficult for you to arrange childcare, please do discuss this with us.