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IUS (intrauterine system)

IUS (intrauterine system)

An IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse.

The IUS is a hormonal method of contraception and releases progesterone into the womb.  This thickens the mucus of your cervix, making it difficult for sperm to meet an egg.  It also thins the womb lining so that a fertilised egg cannot embed itself in the womb.

The IUS is a long acting reversible method of contraception (LARC). It can work for five years or three years, depending on the type used. 

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Key facts

  • The IUS is over 99% effective
  • It can help with heavy or painful periods
  • It doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections, so  you will need to use condoms as well
  • The IUS can be fitted at any time, as long as you’re definitely not pregnant. 
  • It can be taken out at an time by a specially trained nurse or doctor
     

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Who can use the IUS?

Most women can use an IUS, including women who have never been pregnant and those who are HIV positive. Your GP or clinician will ask about your medical history to check if an IUS is the most suitable form of contraception for you.

Your family and medical history will determine whether or not you can use an IUS. For example, this method of contraception may not be suitable for you if you have:

  • breast cancer, or have had it in the past five years 
  • cervical cancer  
  • liver disease 
  • unexplained vaginal bleeding between periods or after sex 
  • arterial disease or history of serious heart disease or stroke 
  • an untreated STI or pelvic infection 
  • problems with your womb or cervix 

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After having a baby

An IUS can usually be fitted four to six weeks after giving birth (vaginal or caesarean). In some cases, an IUS can be fitted within 48 hours of giving birth. It is safe to use an IUS when you're breastfeeding, and it won't affect your milk supply.

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After a miscarriage or abortion

An IUS can be fitted by an experienced doctor or nurse straight after an abortion or miscarriage, as long as you were pregnant for less than 24 weeks. If you were pregnant for more than 24 weeks, you may have to wait a few weeks before an IUS can be fitted. 

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Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

  • It does not interrupt sex
  • An IUS may be useful if you have heavy or painful periods because your periods usually become much lighter and shorter, and sometimes less painful – they may stop completely after the first year of use. 
  • It's not affected by other medicines. 
  • It may be a good option if you can't take the hormone oestrogen, which is used in the combined contraceptive pill.  
  • Your fertility will return to normal when the IUS is removed

Disadvantages 

  • It may cause irregular bleeding at first 
  • It can cause temporary side effects such as skin problems, headaches or breast tenderness  
  • If you do become pregnant while you are using the IUS there is a small risk of ectopic pregnancy

Free and confidential advice and support

Contact a sexual health adviser


The Passionate about Sexual Health (PaSH) Partnership) is a collaboration between BHA for Equality, George House Trust and the LGBT Foundation. The PaSH Partnership will deliver a comprehensive programme of interventions to meet the changing needs of people newly diagnosed with HIV, living longer term with HIV or at greatest risk of acquiring HIV.

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