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

By Samantha Gilbert, FNC, CHNP, CNC     Last updated on February 12th, 2022

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. Dysregulation of estrogen and the many endocrine disruptors we are exposed to can contribute to the development of many cancers, including cancers of the breasts, ovaries, and cervix. Click here to read more about estrogen and women’s health.

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

  1. Sami, thanks for sharing this.

    I also have a horror story with my IUD; mine was inhibiting micronutrient absorption. I was hungry and eating all the time, but despite a healthy diet and spending the prior 6 years at the same weight (with the same exercise and eating habits), I gained 20lbs and developed a host of vitamin deficiencies in a short period of time. In the last few months that I’ve been copper-free, I’ve lost the weight and all but one vitamin deficiency.

    There’s already inequality in how women are represented in the research that explores issues relative to everyone, but there is even less done on female-specific health issues. It’s really disappointing.

    Anyways, all that to say I wish I had found your blog sooner and I appreciate your discussion about one of the things many doctors either don’t know or sweep under the rug.

  2. I’m having lots of the symptoms everybody else has mentioned and I’m thinking of having it taken out. What are some of the more natural birth control alternatives? I’m not interested in condoms or charting.

    1. I have been tracking my cycle and using the natural method. You have to pay close attention to your cycle. There are websites and apps to help you figure out when you ovulate, etc.

  3. I got my IUD exactly one year ago. These are the symptoms I have noticed over the time period

    Hives – I had a massive hives outbreak from February – April of 2017 and I could not figure out what caused it.

    I have also been really low especially right before my period and much worse than when I was not on the IUD and I’m guessing it’s because my body is probably retaining a higher level of copper. I’m getting my IUD removed at my next doctor’s appointment

  4. Hi, this article got me thinking. I had my copper IUD inserted 2 months ago, at 12 weeks postpartum. I got my period back the day after the IUD was inserted. That cycle was 31 days long, with 2 days of mid-cycle spotting. Since then, I’ve had a 17-day cycle, and now a 15-day cycle. Do you think the copper IUD could be causing this?

    If this makes any difference, there is a history of estrogen dominance in my family.

  5. Hi there. After having my daughter I got a pulmonary embolism and the doctor suggested that I get a copper iud instead of the mirena. It ended coming out after 6 months. Fast forward 8 years, I had my son and decided to give it a try again. I breast feed and dont consider my diet to be unhealthy. The first 8 weeks after having my son I was steadily dropping weight but as soon as I got the ius put it I have gained 8 pounds in 4 months and have not been able to loose weight. I count calories and exercise but the extra weight does not come off. Should I have it removed?

  6. I had the copper IUD inserted in December. Two months later, I got my first yeast infection ever and have since had recurring infections. I now have the IUD removed, but I regret getting the IUD in the first place as I still have yeast infections and feel the yeast has overtaken my body and doctors seem to be struggling to help me.

  7. I had the copper iud for 2 years and it was awful. My hair was falling out, had heavy, painful periods, and I just didn’t feel right at all. Then it started to smell weird which turned out to be over growth of yeast. When I had it removed I felt so much better almost instantly! I have been using a natural method (tracking my cycle) ever since.

  8. Hello,
    I’m actually planning to write an article on my experience with the copper IUD. I had it in for only 16 months and I swear, I would have eventually died from it. My first symptom was horrific melasma on my face, followed my debilitating fatigue, hair loss, anemia, gastritis, dry skin, brittle nails, no appetite, mood swings, and depression. I had blood work done and showed I was suffering from hypothryroidism (a symptom of copper toxicity & I never had this issue prior). The doctor said my thyroid was operating at the lowest level she had ever seen & that my T3/T4 ratios were strangely off from what she’s seen. After 7 doctors and thousands of dollars later, I ended up doing hair testing and urinalysis and it showed my copper levels were off the charts. A year later, I Im still on a major supplement program, diet changes and chelation. I feel better but the melasma is still there, which leads me to believe it’s still high. It is an extremely complicated process to remove the copper. I get re-tested next week. What a nightmare!!!! I wish I never had that damn thing in; it’s changed my life.

  9. I had my cooper IUD for about 3 months. I have always suffered from yeast infections (other than that I was healthy and had not other health issues) but this device made it worse. On top of that I ended up getting a vaginal mrsa infection and a UTI all in the span of the three months of usage. My blood pressure is always around 110ish/70ish range and now I got told I got orthostatic hypotension and have been experiencing dizziness for almost a month. My doctors seem to think it’s dehydration but I drink about 8-10 glasses of water a day. They also checked for anemia but that came back normal. I’m just so glad I got this device out and glad I found this site. I wish I would have seen it before I had gotten the IUD inserted. I got the IUD out last week and I hope I start feeling better soon. I just want to be healthy again.

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