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A Closer Look At Non-Hormonal IUDs

July 15 2020 | Written by Madi Hanaka (She/Her)

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing a small group of individuals to learn more about their personal experiences with IUDs. Through that vlog, they shared anecdotes and tips for menstruators in the event that they too would find themselves having an IUD inserted. Amidst the positive feedback from our followers and peers, I couldn’t help but notice a recurring curiosity among friends and internet strangers around non-hormonal contraceptive options. 

Eager to confirm my suspicion that this was a common thread among menstruators, we ran a poll on our Instagram asking our followers if they wished they would have had more information on IUD options prior to insertion. With 65% of respondents revealing that yes, they wished they had, we knew that this topic warranted another conversation. In an effort to provide some additional insight, the Marlow team has decided to revisit the topic and take a closer look at non-hormonal IUDs. With the help of two copper IUD owners and a variety of questions from our followers, we are exploring how these devices work and what it’s like to be hormone-free. 

The Basics

As explained in our previous blog about IUDs, an IUD is an “intrauterine device” - a small plastic T-shaped mechanism that is implanted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Unlike hormonal IUDs, non-hormonal IUDs/copper IUDs do not release progestin into the uterus to prevent sperm from navigating to the egg. Instead, they are wrapped with copper - a material that alters the environment of the uterus and makes it inhospitable for sperm.

For more detailed information, check out the FAQ section at the bottom of this blog!

The Interviews

To help us gain a better understanding of what it’s like to go the non-hormonal route, we interviewed Sophie and Kassandra, two women with varying experiences using a copper IUD as their method of contraception.


The FAQs

How effective are non-hormonal IUDs? 

With above a 99.9% efficacy rate in pregnancy prevention, copper IUDs are just as effective as hormonal ones. Fun fact: copper IUDs can also be used as emergency contraception! If you have a copper IUD inserted within 5 days after having unprotected sex, it reduces your risk of pregnancy by more than 99.9%.

How long do non-hormonal IUDs last?

Non-hormonal IUDs last much longer than hormonal ones. Copper IUDs can last up to 10 years compared to hormonal IUDs typically lasting only for 5.

How much do non-hormonal IUDs cost? 

Copper IUDs are cheaper than hormonal IUDs - averaging around $60 compared to hormonal IUDs which cost up to $400. If you are considering getting an IUD, be sure to check with your insurance provider as your plan may cover an IUD.

How does the insertion process compare to a hormonal IUD?

The insertion processes for both hormonal and non-hormonal IUDs are the same. Refer to our previous blog on IUDs for a step-by-step walkthrough of what to expect during insertion.

Do non-hormonal IUDs make your period worse?

Unfortunately this question doesn’t have a simple answer. All IUDs - both copper and hormonal - have various potential side effects: cramping, spotting between periods, and period irregularity. Most often copper IUDs are not known to make your period lighter because, unlike hormonal IUDs, copper IUDs don’t release hormones into the uterus. Without the release of these hormones, the IUD doesn’t interfere with ovulation. If you experience heavy periods and are looking for an IUD that lightens your flow, a copper IUD may not be the best option for you. As always, talk to your doctor or gynaecologist to discuss which route would best suit your body. 

How long does it take for your menstrual cycle to return to normal after insertion? Will the side effects go away eventually?

Side effects and changes to your menstrual cycle typically last for 3-6 months after having a copper IUD inserted.  Keep in mind, however, that everyone’s body will react differently. For some, the side effects will be minor and short-lived, for others, they may stick around for much longer. Always communicate with your doctor if you are experiencing long-lasting discomfort or feeling that something is wrong. You know your body best!