Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD)

3-minute read

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a highly effective and reliable method of contraception that lasts for 5 years or more.

What is the intrauterine device (IUD)?

IUDs are small devices that are placed inside your uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy.

Types of IUD

There are 2 types of IUD:

  • the hormonal IUD — made of plastic and which releases a hormone
  • the copper IUD — made of copper and plastic, which does not release a hormone

The only hormone-releasing IUD available in Australia is Mirena, which slowly releases a progestogen hormone called levonorgestrel.

illustration of an intra-uterine contraceptive device (IUD)
An IUD inside the uterus

There are 2 copper IUDs available in Australia. Multiload lasts for up to 5 years and the Copper T (or TT380R) lasts for up to 10 years.

How does the IUD work?

The hormonal IUD releases progestogen which:

  • thickens the mucus at the entrance to your uterus so sperm can't get through
  • thins the lining of the uterus, making it hard for a fertilised egg to take hold

This is similiar to the way in which the mini pill and the contraceptive implant work.

The copper IUD works by:

  • making it harder for sperm to reach and fertilise an egg
  • changing the lining of the uterus so that if an egg was fertilised, it still wouldn't be able to attach and develop

Copper is toxic to sperm, so the copper IUD can also be used as an emergency contraceptive within 5 days of unprotected sex.

How well does the IUD work?

The IUD works very well if inserted and used properly, and is one of the most effective reversible methods of contraception available.

If 100 women use an IUD for a year, fewer than 1 will become pregnant.

An IUD won't protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) so you will need to use condoms for added protection.

Advantages and disadvantages of the IUD

Both types of IUD offer several benefits, which include being:

  • extremely good at preventing pregnancy
  • easy to use and maintain
  • long-lasting and cost-effective
  • immediately reversible if you decide you want to get pregnant

The hormonal IUD also makes periods lighter and less painful. Sometimes they stop altogether.

The main disadvantages of IUDs include:

  • a small risk of problems after insertion, such as pelvic infection
  • they can move out of place
  • Mirena can cause side effects such as irregular bleeding and sore breasts
  • copper IUDs can initially make periods heavier and more painful

IUD removal

Although IUDs provide protection for many years, they can be removed earlier. It is a quick procedure, in which a doctor gently pulls on the string, and the IUD's arms fold up so it slips out. Some women find it uncomfortable while others don't feel very much.

More information

Family Planning NSW has detailed fact sheets on both the copper IUD and hormonal IUD.

Last reviewed: February 2019

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Contraception - intrauterine devices (IUD) - Better Health Channel

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small contraceptive device that is put into the uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Contraception | Jean Hailes

There are many different methods of contraception to avoid pregnancy including the natural family planning method, the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), the mini-pill, an Implanon rod, an intrauterine device (IUD) such as MIrena, a condom, and more permanent

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

IUD removal | Family Planning NSW

The information in this factsheet refers to the removal of either the hormone-releasing IUD or the copper IUD.

Read more on Family Planning NSW website

Copper IUD | Family Planning NSW

Find out about the Copper IUD; how it works, who can use one and how you can get one.

Read more on Family Planning NSW website

Hormone-releasing IUD (Mirena) | Family Planning NSW

Find out about the hormone-releasing IUD, including how it works, its effectiveness, who can use it and how you can get it.

Read more on Family Planning NSW website

Emergency contraception

The morning after pill or an intra-uterine device (IUD) can be used if a woman has unprotected sex or if contraception fails

Read more on WA Health website

Contraception | Women's Health Queensland Wide

Frequently asked questions about contraception options.

Read more on Women's Health Queensland website


Contraception is the use of hormones, devices or surgery to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant. It allows couples to choose if and when they want to have a baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Contraception Options and Methods | Marie Stopes Australia

Modern contraception options and methods offer safe and effective ways of preventing pregnancy, helping couples plan their family. Marie Stopes contraception services specialise in the most effective methods at preventing unplanned pregnancy. Contact us today to discuss your options.

Read more on Marie Stopes Australia website

Heavy bleeding | Jean Hailes

Here you will find information about heavy bleeding, what causes it, how heavy bleeding is diagnosed and what treatments are available.

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo