The Intrauterine Device (IUD)
What is it?
An intrauterine device (IUD) is perfect if you want a low maintenance contraceptive. It's a fit-and-forget contraceptive, which means you do not have to remember to use it regularly like condoms or the pill.
There are two types of IUDs: the copper coils and hormone IUDs.
Hormone IUDs include the Mirena, which lasts about 5 years, and Jaydess, which lasts about 3 years.
Copper coils include the Flexi T and Eurogine, which last about 5 years, and the Monalisa which lasts about 10 years.
The hormone IUD has a small reservoir containing the hormone levonorgestrel, while the copper IUD has copper wire wound tightly around the device's stem and do not contain hormones.
The IUD provides 99% protection against pregnancy when fitted correctly. The hormone based coils also used for some gynaecological problems like heavy periods.
How is it fitted?
If you've had a vaginal delivery in the past, the copper coil or Mirena are the usual IUDs of choice. The Jaydess is ideal for women who've never given birth vaginally. IUDs are inserted by most gynaecologists in Malta in their clinics.
The doctor will make sure that you're not pregnant at the time of insertion since an IUD could complicate a pregnancy.
You may be given some local anaesthetic but you'll feel little or no pain during the insertion.
After 3-5 years, the IUD can also be removed, and replaced if necessary, at a doctor's clinic. Again, some local anaesthetic might be used.
How does it feel having an IUD?
You will feel nothing at all. If you insert your fingers in your vagina, you should feel the tips of the strings from the device.
Periods become lighter and may sometimes stop completely with the hormonal IUDs, making them a good choice for women with heavy periods. Copper IUDs may make periods heavier.
Are IUDs abortive?
No, they're not. However, if the IUD fails for some reason and you become pregnant, it might cause some complications to the pregnancy.
How much does it cost?
In Malta, the Mirena currently costs around EUR 180, excluding clinic and consultation fees. Jaydess costs around EUR 145. The copper coils are cheaper and cost around EUR 80.
If you suffer from heavy periods you may be eligible to have an IUD inserted on the national health service.
Watch this video about the IUD:
Honorable Mention: The Vaginal Ring
Although not an intrauterine device - because it sits in the vagina not inside the uterus - the Vaginal Ring is a contraceptive that contains two hormones and is inserted into the vagina every month. It is removed after 21 days, and following a 7 day break a new ring is inserted.
The NuvaRing is a vaginal ring that costs around EUR 20-30 a month. If NuvaRing is not available, ask your doctor whether generic vaginal rings with different names are available. All vaginal rings require a doctor's prescription.