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Preventing unwanted pregnancy is something that all women should consider if they are sexually active. Nowadays, there are many different contraceptive options for both men and women, only some of these will prevent sexually transmitted infections too. Different methods of contraception will suit different people, some can be used just during sex, others will prevent unwanted pregnancies for up to ten years. It’s worth taking a look at the methods available to find the best one for you.
What is T-safe?
T-safe is a T-shaped Intrauterine Device or IUD made from copper on a polyethylene frame. T-safe does not contain any hormones so you will still get your period as normal. T-safe works by slowly releasing copper into the womb. The copper alters the cervical mucus. The change in mucus prevents eggs from becoming embedded in the womb and also by prevents sperm from surviving so that it cannot travel up the fallopian tubes to the eggs to fertilise them. T-safe is 99% effective.
T-safe is commonly known as the copper coil, although there is more than one make of copper coil.
When is T-safe used?
T-safe is used to prevent unwanted pregnancy in women of child-bearing age who are sexually active. You can start using T-safe at any point in your menstrual cycle and it is effective immediately. There is even some suggestion that it is a better option than the morning after pill for preventing pregnancy after having sex.
T-safe 380 is the most commonly used version of the T-safe copper coil and this is suitable for women who have already had children. There are other smaller IUD’s available for women who have not had children or who have a smaller than average womb.
When inserted correctly and IUD is 99% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy. This means that over a year if 100 women use T-safe less than 1 will become pregnant. Over 5 years this means less than 2 pregnancies.
Unlike some other forms of contraception, T-safe will not prevent you from contracting a sexually transmitted infection so you should still use condoms to protect yourself and your partner.
How do you use T-safe?
T-safe must be fitted by a trained medical professional. Once fitted T-safe will immediately protect you from unwanted pregnancies and will continue to do so for 5-10 years.
A doctor or nurse will need to do an internal examination in order to fit T-safe properly. This is so they can feel the size of your womb and any abnormalities.
The appointment to fit your IUD will last 20-30 minutes, this is to carry out important checks and make sure that you understand any risks. The actual fitting of the IUD will only take around 5 minutes.
Fitting the IUD can be painful so be prepared. A few things to think about during and after your appointment:
You will need to lie down and your vagina will be opened (in the same way as when you have a cervical smear);
- The IUD will be inserted through the cervix and into the womb;
- Try to relax while the procedure is being carried out as this will help to make it less painful;
- You are likely to experience some pain or discomfort when the IUD is inserted. You may want to take paracetamol beforehand help with this. You could also have local anaesthetic if required;
- You may also experience some spotting or light bleeding for a few days after having an IUD inserted;
- After you have had T-safe inserted you may experience cramps, a bit like when you get your period. If the pain is really strong then you should contact your doctor as something might be wrong.
Other points worth noting:
- T-safe can be put in at any time during your menstrual cycle, provided you are not pregnant;
- To remove T-safe you will need to book another appointment with a trained professional. You can have T-safe removed at any time;
- An IUD can usually be fitted 4 weeks after giving birth;
- An IUD can usually be fitted immediately after an abortion or miscarriage;
- T-safe can sometimes become displaced, especially after a period so you should check that it is still in place every so often by feeling for the threads. Your doctor or nurse can explain how to do this when you have your appointment to fit the IUD;
- T-safe will not affect your sex life, your partner is very unlikely to feel the device when you are having sex.
What dosages are there?
Not so much a dosage but the facts: T-Safe is a T-shaped device that is 36mm long and 32mm wide. It contains 380mm2 of copper wound around the shaft and the cross of the T. T-safe is a long-acting reversible contraceptive that works immediately once it is fitted.
T-safe can last up to 10 years, though you will usually need to get it checked after 5.
What are the side effects of T-safe?
On the whole, IUDs are considered to be very safe. Side effects are usually mild and problems with the devices are rare, but they do occur so it is worth being aware of the risks and warning signs.
Unfortunately, there is no way to predict how your body will respond to an IUD so the only way to know is to try one. Of course, your doctor will take into account your medical history before fitting an IUD.
Like all medication, T-safe does come with some side effects. Not everyone who has an IUD fitted will experience them and the severity of the side effects can also vary from person to person.
Changes to your period. Your period may be heavier for a few months after having T-safe fitted. You may also get spotting or irregular periods. Your cycle may return to normal within 6 months of having the IUD fitted but it may stay irregular;
You may experience cramps, dizziness and period-like symptoms for a few days. Mild pain is normal but contact your doctor if you are in extreme pain;
- Infection. There is a risk of infection within the first 20 days of having the IUD fitted. Signs of infection are:
- Smelly discharge;
- Itching or burning sensation;
- Rejection. In rare cases, the IUD can be rejected by the body or become displaced. You can check yourself if the IUD is in place by inserting your finger and feeling for the two threads. You should be told how to do this when your IUD is fitted;
- Thrush. There may be a slightly higher risk of contracting thrush when you have an IUD. If you get frequent thrush, talk to your doctor about switching to a different kind of contraception;
- A hole in the womb. It is very rare but sometimes a hole could be made in your womb when the IUD is fitted. This could be painful but you may feel nothing. The risk is extremely rare with an experienced, qualified healthcare professional fitting your IUD but if you are in pain afterwards contact your doctor as you may need surgery to remove the IUD;
- Ectopic pregnancy. If you are the 1% that becomes pregnant with an IUD in place, then there is an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy. There are also risks to having an IUD removed when pregnant.
When shouldn’t you use T-safe?
You shouldn’t use T-safe is any of the following apply:
- You have a sexually transmitted infection or pelvic infection;
- You think you might be pregnant;
- You have unexplained bleeding between periods or after sex;
- You have problems with your womb or cervix.
You should seek medical advice about having an IUD fitted if you’ve ever had an ectopic pregnancy or you have an artificial heart valve.
Does T-safe interact with other medications?
As T-safe contains no hormones it can be used alongside most other medication. Using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids over a long term may diminish the effectiveness of T-safe 380.
Where can you buy T-safe?
Contraception in the UK is available free of charge on the NHS via doctors’ surgeries and family planning clinics. You can purchase a T-safe intrauterine device online. However, you will still need to have it fitted by a qualified and trained healthcare professional. Fitting an IUD is not something you should ever do at home as it could have serious and even life-threatening consequences.
Can I get T-safe without a prescription?
No, you cannot get T-safe without a prescription. In the UK you usually wouldn’t need a prescription as if you are getting the IUD fitted at your doctors’ surgery or family planning clinic then they will obtain the IUD and store it ready for it to be inserted in a sterile environment, using the proper equipment.
You could obtain a prescription for T-safe after a consultation with a doctor online or via the telephone but you would still need to arrange an appointment with a properly qualified and trained healthcare professional to have the IUD fitted to avoid any risks.
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Johnson MD, T. (2019). Do IUDs Cause Side Effects?. [online] WebMD. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/sex/birth-control/iud-side-effects#1 [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].
NHS (2018). Intrauterine device (IUD). [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/iud-coil/ [Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].
University College London (n.d.). Copper Coil. [online] Contraception Choices. Available at: https://www.contraceptionchoices.org/contraceptive-method/copper-coil[Accessed 22 Nov. 2019].