Finding the right contraception for you is a long and personal process, often with upsetting stops along the way. Sometimes it feels like when choosing a form of birth control you’re choosing between the lesser evil in terms of the level or types of hormones used. There’s always the risk of trying out a new brand of the Pill, or that your body will reject your Mirena, or that your period will get even heavier and more painful after you get an IUD. Now more than ever, women are looking for non-hormonal ways to prevent pregnancy – that don’t have horrific side effects.
Enter the IUB (the Intrauterine Ball), also known as the Copper Pearls. These work in the same way as the more familiar Copper T-shaped IUD, except because of their shape and size they are less likely to perforate your cervix or be rejected by your body.
You might be nervous to use something you’ve never heard of before, but the device was only perfected in 2014 and is relatively new to South Africa’s shores. It’s likely that you’re going to be hearing a lot more about this tiny yet effective device in the months to come.
How do Copper Pearls work?
T-shaped IUDs are popular because they are hormone-free and last for five years. The downside is they’re prone to malposition, which can lead to pain and bleeding. One doctor decided it was time this device, which was invented all the way back in the ’70s, got a much-needed makeover.
The IUB looks like a string of copper pearls – literally. They are smaller and fit more comfortably than the Copper T. Once they’ve been inserted via a thin tube they shift into a round shape, without sharp edges that could cause harm.
As soon as they’re in your body, the pearls release small and safe amounts of copper into your uterus. Copper ions make it near impossible for you to get pregnant by acting as a kind of spermicide, thus preventing fertilisation. Copper devices are one of the most effective forms of contraceptive, with only a 0,7% failure rate per year. We like those odds.
How long does it last ?
You can use the Copper Pearls as birth control for up to five years. A lot of contraceptives take a while for your body to get used to after insertion and removal, but once the pearls have been inserted they are immediately effective. Also, you are back to being fertile as soon as they are taken out.
What are the benefits?
It’s hormone-free, meaning you won’t experience any unnecessary side effects like you might from the Pill or the contraceptive injection. This form of birth control also doesn’t cause weight gain, or affect ovulation and your libido.
It is also really effective – on par with oral contraceptives like the Pill. The effects on your period are minimal, meaning you don’t have to disrupt your cycle in the name of birth control.
Plus, you won’t feel it at all and are free to use tampons or your Mooncup as usual.
COST: Relatively affordable, considering they last for five years. The device costs R2 052, but doctor’s insertion fees will vary.
Are there any downsides?
While the IUB is really effective in preventing pregnancy, it obviously can’t protect you against STDs. Because it’s so high up you won’t be able to feel the device at all once it’s in, but some men might be able to feel the removal strings that hang down from the device. If this is the case, your doctor can just shorten them.
After insertion, you might feel cramps for a short while caused by your uterus adjusting to the device. It is nearly half the size of most IUD devices, though, so it’s less of a shock to your body.
Although it’s rare, some women are allergic to copper and will therefore have an allergic reaction to a copper IUD. If you experience hives, intense itching, swollen lips and tongue and/or genital irritation during your menstrual cycle you could be having an allergic reaction to your copper IUD. The solution is to have it removed. You should discuss the possibility of you having this allergy with your doctor before having any form of copper birth control inserted.
Other side effects could include spotting or longer and heavier periods, however, these effects shouldn’t last longer than two to three months. It is also possible for the copper pearls to perforate the wall of the uterus or be expelled from the uterus – however, these are both rare. That might sound scary, but these potential risks are the same for other IUD devices.
How to get the copper pearls inserted in SA
As you should before you make any changes to your contraceptive choice, discuss the copper pearls with your gynaecologist. If you decide it’s the right option for you, they will order it online and insert the device for you.
The process is as straight-forward as putting in one of the more common IUDs. There are three difference sizes of copper pearls ranging from 12mm to 18mm. Your gynaecologist will be able to measure you and advise which size is most suitable for your body. The best time to get it inserted is during the last few days of your period, when your cervix is at its widest.
NOTE: The copper pearls are a relatively new form of contraception to South Africa and it’s possible your gynaecologist or GP won’t have heard of them. Phone your health practitioner before you go in to discuss the copper pearls. They will then be able to read the medical literature and have an informed discussion with you at your appointment.
If you’ve been praying for something that will keep the babies at bay but won’t take away your sex drive, make your put on weight, cause heavy bleeding or any of the other side effects we’ve come to accept as normal, the Copper Pearls could be your answer.
Check out the Copper Pearls South Africa site for more information.
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