Have you ever wondered what the deal is with the copper IUD?
For a variety of reasons, many women have been on a mission to find a non-hormonal birth control option.
And while I am a huge supporter of the Fertility Awareness Method as a non-hormonal and symptom-free option, I understand why the copper IUD is enticing for some!
The copper IUD can provide women with up to 12-years of hormone-free birth control.
This t-shaped device works by emitting copper through the copper coiled wire around the device. This, in turn, produces an inflammatory reaction that is toxic to sperm and eggs which prevents pregnancy.
While the copper IUD is 99% effective, hormone-free, and lasts up to 12-years … this does not necessarily mean it is symptom-free.
One of the most common complaints with IUDs (in general) is heavy bleeding and chronic pelvic pain.
There was a multinational prospective observational study in Europe where 61,448 women were provided with a new copper IUD (by the way, I learned that Europe has different types of copper IUDs… interesting!).
They then chose to study a secondary analysis of women who were all under 30 years old (5,762 users) to gain some data on side effects of the IUD in this age group:
“More than a third of these secondary analysis participants experienced unwanted effects in the first year of their IUD use, including: bleeding 1083 (18.8%), pain 973 (16.9%), expulsion 190 (3.3%), pregnancy 59 (1.0%), and perforation 6 (0.1%).
Twenty-five percent (n = 1470) had visited a HCP on account of unwanted effects.”
Now, research has shown that most of these side effects decrease after a year of use if you can stick it out.
“Side effects from the copper IUD can be troubling for both user and clinician. Some problems improve over time while others do not. This information may be helpful to counsel women who are considering an IUD and to current users who are contemplating removal due to side effects.”
So I suppose it really depends on how your body reacts, right?
Ugh, I know… the most annoying answer ever.
Another common question I get regarding the copper IUD is how emitting small amounts of copper in the body affects mineral balance over time.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole ton of research on this – YET – but I will say that I have heard of some very rare, but interesting physical and mental side effects due to copper toxicity.
I want to stress, again, that copper toxicity is RARE.
But I do think it’s worth being aware of in the case that you experience unwanted side-effects over time and want to dig into it further.
I came across an article written by Rachel Mantock called “We need to talk about IUDs and Copper Toxicity.” In this article she discusses her personal experience with the IUD, a FB support group she found where other women share their experiences, and some insights she has found from her personal research.
I also think it’s important to note how copper relates and interacts with other minerals in the body.
I’ve looked up a few different studies on this, and there are a lot of studies that show that blood levels of copper DO increase when you are on the copper IUD, but we’re not 100% sure how this affects the body…or if it’s even significant.
If you are somebody that is into hair tissue mineral testing … you may know that minerals can get stuck in our tissues.
So while the research has been done on blood levels of copper, it does show the levels of copper that may potentially be stuck in our tissues.
When minerals get stuck in our tissues, we’re not able to use them or move them properly.
In turn, this can create problematic ratios between zinc and iron – two important minerals that copper can affect.
This doesn’t mean that you need to supplement with MORE zinc, or be supplementing with iron. It might just mean you’re not utilizing your copper stores properly, creating unnecessary imbalance.
My friend, Amanda Montalvo, has a course where she chats WAY more about minerals (she literally is the expert) and provides testing and protocols depending on your results. I highly suggest testing and not guessing when it comes to supplementation. You can take a look at her program here!
Finally, I can’t finish this blog without addressing the possible connection between copper and estrogen.
There has also been some research linked to high estrogen levels and increased copper levels in the body.
I find this one FASCINATING because of the women who experience worsening hormonal side effects while on the non-hormonal copper IUD.
Most often these symptoms are estrogen-dominance related (think PMS, migraines, heavy periods, bloating, acne…).
Are they triggered by the increase in copper, therefore, increasing estrogen?
Or are they simply due to other factors impacting hormone imbalance?
More information is needed, but I think it’s important to be mindful of this and to always chart your symptoms.
Which brings me to my FINAL point of this blog…
YES, you can absolutely chart your cycle with Fertility Awareness Method with on the copper IUD.
Because it is hormone-free, this means you should still be experiencing the natural 4-phases of your cycle.
I highly encourage you to chart (you can watch my free FAM training here to get started!) so you can live in cyclic nature with your body.
I also think it’s important to chart any symptoms that may arise, starting BEFORE your IUD and then continuing onward.
Charting with Fertility Awareness Method is not solely about avoiding pregnancy naturally (and hormone-free).
You can also chart your cycle for menstrual health.
Charting your cycle is the best way to keep track of your health (both physical and metal) and who doesn’t want that? 🙂
I hope you found this article on the Copper IUD helpful. If you’re ever looking for additional information or guidance with Fertility Awareness Method and/or hormone balance, you can schedule a free discovery call with me here!