A copper IUD can be a very effective method of birth control. This T-shaped plastic device of course needs to be inserted by a qualified healthcare practitioner, such as an OBGYN. It is a reversible type of contraception, and can remain in place for many years, in some cases exceeding ten years. One can also use an IUD with hormones, which comes with its own set of risks, but the focus of this post will be on the copper IUD.
How does the copper IUD work? The complete mechanism isn’t understood, but just having the device in the uterus will greatly decrease the chances of conception. But the main purpose behind using the copper is that it is spermicidal. The optimal time to insert the IUD is after menstruation, when the cervix is the softest.
There are a few common side effects with a copper IUD. Having a copper IUD can lead to menstrual problems, as it can lead to increased menstrual bleeding and/or cramps. Sometimes perforation of the uterus can happen upon insertion of the IUD, although this is rare. Expulsion of the IUD is also possible, as this is when the IUD is pushed out of the uterus into the vagina. There is also an increased risk of pelvic infections when having a copper IUD inserted.
The side effects I listed above are some of the common ones you’d find if visiting some of the common medically oriented websites, such as WebMD. However, what most of these sites fail to mention is that a copper IUD will affect the copper metabolism in the body. The same is true of oral contraceptives as well, but once again, the focus here is on the copper IUD. So having a copper IUD can potentially lead to a copper toxicity problem over the years. And the thyroid gland is very sensitive to copper. Some of the side effects of too much copper include depression, anxiety, and according to Dr. Larry Wilson…excessive sexual interest in some women.
This doesn’t mean that every woman who has a copper IUD will experience a copper toxicity issue. But if you choose to get a copper IUD then you will want to make sure of the following:
1. Get your copper levels tested at least annually. I use a hair mineral analysis test to look at the copper levels, but many times it’s not straight forward. In other words, it may appear that someone has low copper levels, but sometimes the problem is that the body is unable to utilize the copper properly. So one can’t just look at the copper levels alone, as they need to look at the other levels. For example, someone with high copper levels almost always will have low zinc levels, and there usually will be other indicators, such as high levels of mercury.
2. Make sure your adrenals are working properly. The adrenals play a very important role in copper metabolism. And of course many people have weak adrenal glands, which can be problematic for anyone, including those with a copper IUD.
3. Supplement with zinc. Zinc helps to balance copper. And just as is the case with any mineral, one wants to be careful not to overdose with zinc. In fact, even though many people I consult with are low in zinc, it’s probably a good idea to look at these levels as well before taking a separate zinc supplement.
4. Minimize your consumption of copper-based foods. Avocados, beans, certain nuts and seeds, as well as chocolate have a decent amount of copper in them. This doesn’t mean you need to completely avoid these foods, but you probably will want to minimize your consumption of them.
5. Balance the other minerals. Remember that the minerals are interactive, and while a deficiency a zinc can lead to a copper toxicity problem, imbalances in some of the other minerals can also cause or contribute to a copper imbalance.
So if you have a copper IUD then hopefully you now have a better understanding of the common risks involved, as well as how an excess in copper can affect copper metabolism. There are of course risks with hormone IUDs and birth control pills as well, and understandably many people don’t want to use condoms and/or diaphragms, and some don’t want to consider natural methods of pregnancy prevention. But if you choose to get a copper IUD, or already have one inserted, then hopefully the following information will help you to reduce the impact this device has on the copper metabolism, which in turn can affect your thyroid health.
Hello Dr. Eric.
I have Hasimito’s hypothyroidism, and am currently on the nuuvaring contraception. I would like to switch to an IUD for convenience sake.
I have a hankering to get off the hormones, and opting for the copper IUD, but think that it might affect my thyroid for the worse. Might it be wiser to opt for a hormonal IUD?