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Flexi-T is used for birth control and is known as an intrauterine device (IUD). It can also be used to prevent pregnancy in a “morning after” situation.
Sometimes called the coil, this is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the vagina to prevent pregnancy. Flexi-T does not contain hormones – it contains copper.
What is Flexi-T?
Flexi-T is the brand name for the non-hormonal intrauterine device that is placed inside a woman’s vagina to prevent her from becoming pregnant. It can be inserted and left in place for up to 5 years, so is a suitable form of contraception if a woman does not want to become pregnant for a length of time.
This product is also known as the coil. It contains a harmless amount of copper ions that prevents sperm from fertilising or implanting in the lining of the womb. It can also stop sperm surviving in the fallopian tubes.
The Flexi-T releases copper into the womb which causes the cervical mucus to alter and therefore makes it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg. The amount of copper released is extremely small and is considered safe – it is less that we absorb daily through eating food and drinking tap water.
Flexi-T can be used as an alternative to the “morning after pill” when unprotected sex has taken place and there is the possibility that a woman may have become pregnant but does not wish to have a baby. In this situation, it should be inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sexual intercourse. It can then either be left in place or removed after the woman’s next menstrual period.
In the past, intrauterine devices tended to be made of hard plastic and inflexible. This could cause a woman discomfort, pain and bleeding. It was also possible to sometimes be able to feel the device inside the vagina.
Some IUDs have two threads (used to remove the device by a doctor) whereas Flexi-T only has one. The two threads are often knotted at the end which gives more opportunity for infection as bacteria can gather in the knot.
Flexi-T has been designed to overcome these problems. Its shape means it is flexible and follows the natural shape of a woman’s uterus. It is t-shaped with inward-facing arms that are positioned at an angle for more comfort.
Flexi-T is designed to move with the body, allowing you to do sports and carry on everyday life without discomfort. In addition, neither partner should be able to feel the intrauterine device during sexual intercourse.
There are 3 sizes of Flexi-T available:
- Flexi-T 300 – the smallest size recommended for women who have not had children or who are going through the menopause and still wish to use contraception;
- Flexi-T+ 300 – a slightly larger size of device for women who have had one or more children;
- Flexi-T 380 – a slightly larger size of device again, for women who have had one or more children.
After giving birth the uterus tends to be slightly larger than before pregnancy. The most suitable size of Flexi-T will be recommended by your doctor.
When is Flexi-T used?
Flexi-T is used as contraception when a woman does not wish to become pregnant.
It can also be used to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex has taken place if it is inserted into the vagina up to 5 days after this has happened.
Flexi-T does not contain hormones so a woman’s menstrual periods continue as usual. For some women, they may become slightly heavier than before the device was inserted.
This device is ideal for women who cannot take hormone-based contraception, for example, women who:
- Have diabetes;
- Have thrombosis;
- Suffer from migraines;
- Are heavy smokers;
- Suffer from acne;
- Have mood swings.
Flexi-T is an IUD (intrauterine device) and should not be confused with an IUS (intrauterine system) which contains the hormone progesterone and is also used as a form of birth control.
Flexi-T is considered to be more reliable than the contraceptive pill or condoms as it is possible to forget to take a pill or a condom can slip off or not be on properly.
If you have a Flexi-T device fitted while you are in your 40s it can remain in place until you go through the menopause, provided you don’t have any other associated problems. Once you have reached menopause it is important to remember that you can still become pregnant until at least a year after your last menstrual period.
How do you use Flexi-T?
Flexi-T must be inserted by a gynaecologist, doctor or nurse. It has to be inserted into the uterine cavity for it to work effectively.
Fitting is quick and painless and takes about 15 minutes. A local anaesthetic is not necessary, however, if you feel you would like it to be used then please discuss this with your doctor.
Your doctor will also advise you which size of Flexi-T is best for your individual circumstances, i.e. whether you have given birth or not and the size of your uterus if you have had children.
Your doctor should also check the position of your uterus before fitting the Flexi-T, either by ultrasound or a physical examination.
Neither method should be uncomfortable, however, this will depend on how relaxed you are and if you have had children. It is advisable to take a painkiller such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen at least 30 minutes before the fitting to lessen any slight pain that may occur. It is also recommended to have this intrauterine device fitted at the end of or immediately after your menstrual period as the neck of the uterus tends to be wider at this time, which allows easier insertion.
A single thread is then left in place high up in the vaginal to assist removal. You will be able to feel this if inserting your finger into the vagina but should not be able to feel it otherwise.
It is then recommended to have a check-up after 4-6 weeks to ensure the device is still in the correct position and then again after 6 months. After this, unless your doctor suggests otherwise, you should have an annual check.
In very rare cases (the likelihood is higher if a woman has not been pregnant and in younger women) the Flexi-T can come out of the vagina (expulsion). If this occurs it is likely to be in the first 72 hours after the fitting or during the first 3 months of fitting and at the end of a menstrual period.
If your Flexi-T does come out consult a doctor as soon as possible and do not attempt to reinsert it yourself.
The Flexi-T may be used for 5 years of contraceptive protection before being removed.
Do not attempt to remove it yourself – a qualified medical professional should remove it for you. This is a quick and painless procedure done by using a special instrument to grasp the thread and pull it.
Once the Flexi-T has been removed you will immediately become fertile again and could get pregnant.
If you think you have become pregnant while the Flexi-T is in place you should have it removed immediately.
You can still use tampons if you have Flexi-T fitted.
What dosages are there?
There are three different sizes of Flexi-T, with the 300 being the smallest:
- Flexi-T 300;
- Flexi-T+ 300;
- Flexi-T 380.
Your doctor will decide which is best for you depending on whether you have had children or not.
What are the side effects of Flexi-T?
There are few side effects when using the Flexi-T. Some women may experience:
Stomach cramps after the device is fitted (these should go after a few days);
- Feeling dizzy immediately after the device is fitted;
- Heavier periods (this may change after a few months);
- Irregular periods;
- Uterus, fallopian tube or ovary infection (pelvic inflammatory disease).
When shouldn’t you use Flexi-T?
You should not use Flexi-T if you are pregnant. Neither should you use it if you have any abnormalities of the womb.
You should ensure your doctor fits the correct size of Flexi-T, depending on whether you have had children or not.
Flexi-T should also not be used if you:
- Have unexplained vaginal bleeding;
- Are allergic to copper;
- Have had an ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo attaches to the outside of the uterus, not the inside);
- Have had pelvic inflammatory disease;
- Have an artificial heart valve.
It is important to note that the intrauterine device does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – to prevent these a condom should be used. It is safe to use Flexi-T if you are breastfeeding.
Does Flexi-T interact with other medications?
Flexi-T is not likely to interact with any other medications.
Where can you buy Flexi-T?
Flexi-T must be fitted by a gynaecologist, doctor or nurse, it cannot be bought over-the-counter.
Can I get Flexi-T without a prescription?
This device must be prescribed and fitted by a doctor.
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Intrauterine device (IUD). 22 February, 2018. Retrieved 16 December, 2019 from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/iud-coil/
IUD Side Effects. (N.D.). Retrieved 16 December, 2019 from https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/iud-side-effects##1
Kayat, S. 16 December, 2016. Everything you want to know about the coil - but are too afraid to ask. Retrieved 16 December, 2019 from https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/sex-life/a27421/coil-iud-contraception-guide/