Copper IUDs: What your doctor doesn’t know may be harming you

By Samantha Gilbert, FNC, CHNP, CNC     Last updated on December 26th, 2021

Copper IUDs have soared in popularity as a hormone-free birth control choice for women. What your doctor doesn’t know about the harmful side-effects of copper could significantly harm you. If you have a copper IUD and are experiencing adverse symptoms, then this post is for you.

What is a Copper IUD and How Does it Work?

A copper IUD is a Class II medical intrauterine device (IUD) that’s inserted into the uterus for long-term birth control (up to 10 years). It is a T-shaped plastic frame with copper wire coiled around the stem and two copper sleeves along the arms that continuously release copper into the lining of the uterus. This process produces an inflammatory reaction in the uterus that is toxic to sperm, which helps prevent fertilization.

What are the Pros and Cons of Copper IUDs?

Copper IUD Claims

Proponents of the copper IUD make a lot of claims that it is a better and safer form of birth control, even citing studies that copper ion levels released by IUDs are too tiny to impair human health. The two main claims that I will debunk that are completely false are:

  • Decreases the risk of endometrial cancer and possibly cervical cancer.
  • Doesn’t carry the risk of side effects related to hormonal birth control methods.

These claims couldn’t be further from the truth, and many women painfully discover this the hard way. In fact, I have yet to work with a single woman in my practice who hasn’t been adversely affected by the copper IUD.

Copper IUD Dangers and Side Effects

Commonly disclosed copper IUD side effects include: cramping, bleeding between periods, and severe menstrual pain, but these are just a small part of the overall story when it comes to copper IUDs and females.

Copper and estrogen share a very intimate relationship with one another because estrogen increases copper retention in the body. Up to 85% of females (in all age ranges) have been estimated to be adversely affected by a common, yet little-known condition called “copper overload” or “copper toxicity,” and they rarely know it’s the cause of their distress.

Implanting a copper IUD into a female who is already (and usually unknowingly) copper overloaded is a recipe for disaster. To make matters worse, few doctors are aware of copper overload, thus, they may unintentionally prescribe hormones and/or devices that could negatively impact health and well-being.

What is Copper Overload/Copper Toxicity?

Copper overload occurs due to an (often hereditary) inability to effectively metabolize and eliminate excess copper. It is not the same as Wilson’s Disease, which is a life-threatening and rare genetic disorder where copper accumulates in vital organs and glands.

Copper has the ability to profoundly affect every system in the body (especially the reproductive, nervous, and glandular systems), and an overabundance of copper can also have a devastating effect on mental health. This explains why common, yet undisclosed side effects of copper IUDs include severe anxiety and panic attacks, depression, hair loss, anemia, increased anger and rage, brain fog, spaciness, paranoia, fatigue, and increased infections (yeast being the most common).

As a metal, copper is a great conductor of energy, (you know how that energizer bunny keeps going and going) which explains why all of my female clients have complained about symptoms of insomnia, racing thoughts, heart palpitations, and dizziness after a copper IUD is inserted for birth control.

To learn more about copper toxicity, check out my podcast episode 10 below with Dr. Judith Bowman, Co-founder of Mensah Medical. You can also find the Eat For Life podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Copper and Cancer

As previously mentioned, estrogen increases copper retention in the body. In our estrogen-dominant world, it’s been well-documented that estrogen dominance can contribute to the development of many cancers, including cancers of the breasts, ovaries, and cervix.

Additionally, impaired methylation synthesis in addition to copper overload is a major factor in today’s soaring cancer rates. You can view the research here.

To learn more about copper and cancer, check out my podcast episode 14 below with Dr. Albert Mensah, Co-founder of Mensah Medical. You can also find the Eat For Life podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts!

Additional Impacts of Increased Copper Levels

Copper Overload and Zinc Imbalance

High copper levels contribute to zinc imbalance. Zinc is an essential nutrient for the healthy function of our bodily processes. It enhances resistance to stress, maintains intellectual function and memory, and mood levels, and it is an important component in the creation of all hormones. Zinc is also a major player in the creation of the master antioxidants metallothionein and glutathione; both are needed for the optimal function of our bodily systems, and they also protect us from disease. Without adequate zinc, we can become prone to pathogenic infections as well as diseases due to the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells.

Copper IUDs and Menstrual Issues

Practitioners are often told to inform patients that adverse menstrual irregularities will eventually subside after insertion of a copper IUD, but I have found the opposite to be true. Disorders such as endometriosis, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) actually tend to increase in severity and duration after a copper IUD is implanted.

Copper Overload and Depression

Postpartum depression (PPD) and psychosis are directly connected to elevated levels of copper, especially with multiple births because copper levels increase with each pregnancy (copper is needed to make blood vessels) and often do not go back to normal post-birth. When I hear about women drowning their children, committing suicide, or shooting their husbands, I wonder if monitoring their copper levels would have helped prevent such sad stories. Additionally, copper is a major player in ADHD/ADD, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, hyperactivity (especially in children) bipolar disorders, fibromyalgia, and paranoid schizophrenia.

Genetic Copper Toxicity

Copper overload has a strong heritable component, which means that it is often passed down from generation to generation, something we call Transgenerational Epigenetic Inheritance (TEI). If all the females in your family share similar symptoms as mine do, copper toxicity may be the underlying cause.

Final Thoughts on Copper IUD Toxicity

Copper overload is a very treatable condition, which I’ve been blessed to overcome after a lifetime of pain and struggle. In order to heal copper toxicity, I aim to identify and address the root biochemical causes and imbalances of your symptoms. I offer a free 1:1 consultation to help you disconnect from the hype and the marketing jargon, and address the true source(s) of your discomfort. It’s time for your healing journey to truly begin.

Share Your Copper IUD Experiences

Have you experienced negative side effects after the insertion of a copper IUD? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below. If you know of someone who is experiencing negative side effects after insertion of a copper IUD, please share this post. Sharing creates community, eliminates guilt and shame, and brings about healing.

References

Walsh, William J. (2012). Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain. New York, NY: Skyhorse.
Walsh, William J. Elevated Blood Copper/Zinc Ratios in Assaultive Young Males. Psychology and Behavior, Vol. 6, No. 2, pp. 327-329, 1997.
Walsh, William J., Crayton, John W. Elevated serum copper levels in women with a history of postpartum depression. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, Volume 21, Issue 1, March 14, 2007, Pages 17-21.
Mzhel’skaya TI. Biological functions of ceruloplasmin and their deficiency caused by mutation in genes regulating copper and iron metabolism. Bull Exp Biol Med. 2000; 130(8):719-27.
Chauhan, Abha, Chauhan, Ved, Brown, Ted W., Cohen, Ira. Oxidative stress in autism: Increased lipid peroxidation and reduced serum levels of ceruloplasmin and transferrin – the antioxidant proteins. Life Sciences, Volume 75, Issue 21, 8 October 2004, Pages 2539–2549.
Faber S, Zinn GM, kern JC, kingston HM. The plasma zinc/serum copper ratio as a biomarker in children with autism spectrum disorders. Biomarkers. 2009; 14(3):171-80.
Liang J, Shang Y. Estrogen and Cancer. Annual Review of Physiology. 2013; 75:225-40.
Lontie, Rene. (1984). Copper Proteins and Copper Enzymes. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. S.D.G.
Baylin, Stephen B. DNA methylation and gene silencing in cancer. Nature clinical practice Oncology 2 (2005): S4-S11.

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299 thoughts on “Copper IUDs: What your doctor doesn’t know may be harming you”

  1. I had a hormoal IUD fitted in 2007 and had it removed in 2009 because my periods were too heavy and suffered bad cramps most of the time. 2012 I was advised to hbae a non-hormonal one fitted. I still suffered very heavy periods with cramps in my lower abdomen when getting out of bed. The worst thing is I lost all feelings in my vaginal area and lost any interest in sex and have joint pain. I am now thinking it could be caused by the IUD. I know there is nothing documented about this but it could be cause of this. Everyone gets affected differently by different things. That is why one person will be allergic to Penicillin and could die whilst another could be cured by it.

    1. Yes, we are all biochemically unique and will respond differently to the same substance or nutrient. Thank you for sharing your story, Hilary!

  2. Ok this article makes me feel less crazy! I got the copper iud in the summer of 2016 and started having heavy periods which never got lighter.
    I had a lot of heart palpitations which I went to cardiologist because it was all the time! I wore a monitor for two weeks and they were just palpitations. Extreme fatigue, hair loss ( my hair has been thinning out since I got it) I noticed I am angry more than I ever was with pms. I am always patient but not since the iud. I think I named most of my symptoms. I think somehow it is cause inflammation issues with my bladder. It just started about a month ago. But I am getting it removed Thursday. I can’t wait to get it removed and I wish I had listened to my body last year when I knew it wasn’t right.

      1. Exhausted lady

        Hi,

        I have found this post so helpful and it makes me feel completely less crazy. I have been having health issues since I had my IUD inserted. All of which I had no idea were connected. And when I asked my GP he said it would not be related. Therefore i have had various tests, various medications and the problems only seem to be worsening.
        When I had it fitted it was extremely painful on insertion and for days afterwards. Periods are very heavy and despite how careful I am it always catches me out at some point. They last anywhere between 8-15 days.
        On top of that I have had recurrent water infections, I have had chronic fatigue and exhaustion, I’ve been having terrible headaches and feels as though I have a lot of pressure behind my eyes.
        I struggle to concentrate and feel foggy all the time which has led to me doing very stupid things. I’ve been breaking out in my skin where I don’t want to leave the house. I’ve been craving chocolate just for some energy. ( I do not have a sweet tooth so this is new for me) I’ve had terrible aches and pains and I’m mid twenties so i feel it is out of the ordinary.
        As a result i am feeling completely terrible and crazy because all the tests have been coming back saying I’m fine which is making me feel like I’m going crazy and leaving me hopeless.
        Due to feeling so bad I made some healthy lifestyle choices I started eating super healthy. A very well managed balanced diet I have started going to the gym and have been working with a personal trainer. If anything. However this has only seems to make things worse. Since I’ve been trying to take control I’ve only ended up more exhausted and runn down than before. For instance I went to the gym today and slept. For 6 hours afterwards as I had no energy. This is the opppsite of what it should be doing.
        So reading this and relating to so much of the blog as well as everyone’s posts. It’s made my mind up and I am going to have it removed. Hopefully I can be bacj to full fitness and health when I’ve had it out.
        Also forgot to mention I have had heart palpitations quite regularly. However due to suffering from anxiety prior to this I had put it down to this. Thanks so much.
        Please can you advise how long it will take to return to my normal self when I have had it removed?

        Thank you in advance. There should be more emphasis on this when you are being informed about contraception.

      2. I️ am having these same exact symptoms to the t. I️ feel like I️ should’ve wrote this. Is there anyway you could email me so I️ can learn more about what happened with you once you got this removed ? Please and thank you!

      3. Hi I am on my second copper coil and am so so so sad that i was affraid to take the pill as i now realise that the last 10 year of hell have been caused bybth colper coil.
        I thought I was hormonal and depressed crying all the time it has made my marrage very very strained and made me into a mum that could have done so much better..
        I only know this because i had it out after 10yrs my husband was away so left it out for 2months..then under pressure to sort contraception out and affraid of hormones i had on put back in
        My hair is now all falling out, i am in constant hip leg or back pain. I am so so tired and just can’t be bothered with anything..
        I am going to have it removed and use a diaphragm. I want to have some time just being me..
        I feel.its such a shame that women suffer in silence just accepting that they feel terrible.

    1. Angela,

      These are the same symptoms I had! Heavy bleeding, longer periods and more intense cramping. I had a lot of heart palpitations and hair loss too. At some point about a year and a half ago (after having it four five years) something told me to get it taken out, so I did. My period has gone back to normal and the heart palpitations have stopped. So glad I got it out. After stumbling across this feed, I am now going to get my copper levels tested.

  3. I just mine inserted yesterday and I wish I had seen this site and others before I made this decision. I know it’s too early to tell if I will have any symptoms but I also don’t want to live in fear. I’ve been very healthy and trim and will be 48 next month. Thought this decision would simplify my life and hopefully it will and not cause unwanted complications. Praying for all of you that have had difficulties with the IUD.

    1. Hi Christine,

      I just had mine inserted last Wednesday (May 31st) and I feel the same way! Reading all this has freaked me out even though I have yet to experience any adverse side effects… Have you noticed anything since you’ve had yours in?

      1. Hi Natalie,
        Thanks for your note. I have had mine in for 1 month now and glad to say all has been smooth so far. I had my first cycle and it was pretty much as others described, heavier flow and more cramping than before but totally manageable and no other symptoms. Although in the beginning, I kept a log of anything unusual going on with my body because I was so concerned after reading other women’s negative experiences. Armed with the knowledge of what others have gone through will help keep me focused if anything unusual starts happening and if so I know I will get it removed. Good luck to you and hope we both have a positive experience and can enjoy the benefits for the next 10 years!!
        Christine

      2. Hi Christine,

        I just got my IUD put in about 3 weeks ago and I am currently going through my first period right now. I always had VERY easy periods with barely any bleeding and little to no cramps. So as you can imagine this first period is very new to me. I am bleeding more than I ever have, and for the first time experiencing some harsh cramping. I understand this is normal for about 6 months and should subside. I am very nervous I did the wrong thing. I did not want hormones in my body anymore from oral contraceptives and the depo shot, which I had both before. I am newly 22 and scared. I keep reading awful stories and hoping I did not just ruin my body at such a young age. Any suggestions are appreciated.

      3. Hi Lauren
        Get it removed!
        When I was 21 I got a IUD, at the age of 24 I had the feeling that I was pregnant. Took a home urin test but negative, whent to the doctor, she didn’t belive me, said it was so rarely people became pregnant with a IUD, – but my mother did: she had me, and a miscarige before, eventhough she had a copper IUD (10 years later she had breast cancer, later cancer in the liver and died at the age of 59).
        The doctors urintest didn’t show pregnacy, so she tried a blood test on me, it was positive.
        A scanning showed the pregnacy in the oviduct, and it had to be removed, – I didn’t want a operation, it was my last choice.
        I got some pills (same as for cancer), but they didn’t helped much, and some days later I got heavy pain in the abdomen. I knew there was a chance of the oviduct could broke and therefore I had to take care and not lift heavy things, but it was difficult.
        I lay on the floor afraid of be moving, called the specialist center I was treated of, the doctor said “call a ambulance!”, – the bleeding out in the abdominal cavity is dangerous.
        Lay in the hospital some days, and in the end I got a operation, because the bleeding didn’t stop, and the oviduct was removed.

        So my advise to you, – and I wish I had it myself before I ruined my body, – is to removed the IUD and also don’t use hormone contraception.
        Good luck
        Kirstine

  4. Wow this really hits home for me. I go to a physician who trained under William Walsh. She tested all sorts of levels and I had a high copper level and low histamine indicating overmethylation. I had horrible auto immune hives for 6 months and am still not sure what to attribute them to. Maybe the copper IUD? and just recently have had mood instability and depression before my cycle. I am a fitness instructor and am very health conscious and have a hard time maintaining my weight. Originally I chalked it up to a slowing metabolism but am now wondering if it is related to my IUD. I get it taken out tomorrow and can’t wait! I’m a little concerned about the efficacy of barrier method but will take my chances. I’m getting my compounded supplement later this week to start detoxing my body from copper toxicity and to address my methylation issues. Thank you for the info!

  5. eversince they inserted dc copper iud, ive been having terrible headache, heavy breasts n bin growing big, growing belly n it is big now n im gaining weight i inserted it on december 2016, n im always dizzy, n im always hungry, and im no longer interested in having sex as a result my boyfriend has left me

  6. Thank you thank you thank you. I can not thank you enough I thought I was going completely off my head being angry, crying, and being very possessive and paranoid but now thanks to my mums findings and reading about other women who hav and are suffering the same symptoms as me who hav beennon or still hav the copper coil inserted I feel normal again. I hav never had so many suicidal thoughts as I hav since I had the coil in I even tried to slit my wrist yday and all I every do and want to do is sleep sleep sleep coz I am out of the pain and suffering of it all. I can’t b bothered with anyone not my kids, my family no one. So today h hav an appointment with the dr and I am going to b telling them I want it out and I want sterilised I already hav two kids and my partner has four so we don’t need any more. Thank you all once again for making me feel normal. Xx

    1. Hello after reading your story I can relate I have had really bad side effects not realizing it was the IUD but I had mine in for 9 years not realizing that my anxiety and depression and the OCD was because of this I took the IUD out to find out all my side effects were going to get worst now I have sever anxiety and depression The OCD has caused me to have inturstive thoughts and has been scary I have had blood test done and there is cooper in my blood but the docter keeps telling me it is not from the iud im lost because I dont know what to do I never thought all this was relating back to the iud

    1. Yes, absolutely but it requires testing and an in-depth assessment. Please know there is no one-size-fits-all nutrient therapy approach.

  7. Hi there.I’m 29 and thought I’d share my experience with you.
    I’ve had a copper iud for over a year.
    The first few weeks after the insertion were not pleasant. I felt an uncomfortable warmth inside me. And was scared to bend my belly because I had a feeling that it would «break».
    I used to have very irregular period before the iud (no period for up to three to six months). But after the iud it came every months.
    The first few cycles were just awful. Very painful and extremely abundant.
    I experienced back pain and bled so much that i had to go to the toilet every time i could in order not to get blood everywhere.

    The next cycles were regular and although my periods were still really really heavy the first 3 days it wasn’t painful, even less than before.

    But something came up during the same time, a permanent ache in my throat, my nose was often running, I sneezed a lot and had blocked ears.
    My doctor gave me anti allergy medicine and it got better.
    But after many blood tests it turned out that I wasn’t allergic to anything (not even copper).
    So I started to wonder if it was linked to my iud, since it began around the time I put it in.
    Doctors said it was impossible.

    But the periods were too abundant, (had to wear diapers!!!), lasted too long and i sometimes felt that uncomfortable warmth from the first days. I got anemia, was often tired and sometimes cried for no reason.

    So after 1 year and a half of loyal services, i decided to take it out (it wasn’t painful at all).
    I felt a mini liberation.
    It has been two weeks and i feel that my breathing has been better.

    So what can we do to have a pleasant sex life without iud, pills, implants… are condoms the only way?

    1. Frenchgirl, I recommend the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” to learn about the fertility awareness method. It requires tracking your basal body temperature and cervical fluid while better connecting with your body. It takes discipline to learn, so I understand how most women prefer the ‘quick fix’ of an IUD or hormonal forms of birth control… but it’s really rewarding when you can, say, feel which side you ovulate from and exactly where you are in your cycle.

    2. Check out the Lady Comp, Pearly, Daysy…. There are a few of them out there. They work using your basal body temperature. I’ve been using it for many years with success. No babies! It’s natural, no side effects and really helps you to get to know and love your body.
      I was in the same situation as you, My last resort was the copper IUD and it did not go well for me at all. After 1.5 years I was ready to shoot everyone around me if I hadn’t been too tired. Thank god I dislodged it and had to get it removed. It was a shift in personality.
      People don’t talk much about natural family planing methods. There’s no money in it for the pharma industry, so doctors don’t promote it. But there’s a lot of information out there and it’s becoming more and more available.

    3. Frenchiegirl,
      I’m so sorry for your experience! I had the copper IUD inserted about 14 months ago, and have had either severe colds or cold symptoms non stop for 4 months. I am also a vegetarian, and after a lot of reading think it’s related to the copper. I am leaning towards taking mine out. Have you continued to get better? Thank you!

  8. I had a TERRIBLE and PAINFUL insertion of my copper IUD. It was honestly worse than the labour of my child before I decided to use a copper one as my choice of contraceptive. I chose this as my body would reject any hormone type pills. My body would just decide to vomit until it was rid of the hormones.
    The pain eventually went away after 3 months…however I had TERRIBLE insomnia…mood swings…depression…and I never even thought that the “copper” could cause this.

    After 7 years I have just had it removed…which was VERY painful…I had my period 2 days after and it was back to only a day and a half how it was before…but I had and am continuing to have terrible cramps… nausea….dizziness…sudden headaches and tiredness….almost like gallbladder issues….and weirdly it gets very bad around 8:00 at night.

    I can’t find ANYTHING online about why this would be and my MALE doctor says it’s just my uterus contracting. If anyone has had this AFTER removal I would appreciate ANY input.

    1. Lori,

      Based on your symptoms and specific timing of them, it seems you have cortisol issues, like me. I thought I would let you know so you can look into that. Best of luck!

  9. Hi I’m currently on the pill. I would like to stop as I see risks increase from 35 years. I was considering the coil but after reading your article I’m not so sure. What’s the next best option of birth control. Thank u

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