Health benefits, risks and side effects of using the hormonal coil

The main effect of the hormonal coil is that it reduces bleeding.

Because of this, it will also lower the risk of anaemia for anyone who normally has very heavy bleeding.

If you suffer from painful periods, the hormonal coil can help. It also helps with any pain as a result of endometriosis or adenomyosis.

Health risks of the hormonal coil

The hormonal coil is generally safe to use but there are some health risks associated with it.

Whether you’re likely to experience these health risks can often be predicted by looking at your medical history and your family's medical history.

This is why when you first get the coil, you’ll be asked key questions to see if it’s suitable for you. 

Very slightly increased risk of ovarian cysts

Using the hormonal coil means you’re slightly more likely to get ovarian cysts. These are usually small and go away on their own. If you’ve had ovarian cysts in the past, this should not stop you from using the hormonal coil.

If you get cysts while using the hormonal coil, it doesn’t mean that you need to have it taken out. Most of the cysts will go away on their own without treatment.

Risk of ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that starts to grow in the fallopian tubes and not the womb. A normal pregnancy implants in the womb. An ectopic pregnancy implants in the fallopian tube.

The risk of ectopic pregnancy if you are trying to get pregnant is 1 in 90. With a hormonal coil, the risk of an ectopic pregnancy is 1 in 1,000.

The coil reduces the chance of any pregnancy, including an ectopic one. However, the coil may be less good at stopping a pregnancy growing in the fallopian tube than in the uterus. For this reason, when people do get pregnant with a coil in place then the pregnancy is more likely to be ectopic.

If you’re using the hormonal coil and you think you might be pregnant, then it’s important to do a pregnancy test as soon as possible. If the pregnancy test is positive then you should go to your doctor immediately.

I love it. 2 years on and no bleeding. During my first week, I had horrible pain, like period pain. These got less frequent over the first few months and I had a lot of spotting and bleeding when I didn’t expect it. After month 4 it settled and I got very occasional light bleeding and since then nothing at all. No breast tenderness, no spots, no low mood – this really worked for me.

Side effects of the hormonal coil

Most of the hormones from the hormonal coil stay locally in the uterus. However, small amounts do enter the bloodstream. Some people experience acne, breast tenderness and headache while using the coil.  

The hormonal coil often causes unpredictable bleeding in the first 6 months. This usually settles with time. There’s no evidence to suggest that the hormonal coil causes weight gain or changes in sex drive.

What to do if you experience side effects 

Everyone experiences different types of hormonal contraception differently. If you're getting side effects that you do not like, keep a record of how you feel on it, then try a different method to see whether it’s any better.

Sometimes it can be hard to know if any symptoms you have are because of your contraception or something else.  

We recommend that you: 

  • keep a record of any side effects to see how they change over time

  • discuss it with your clinician, particularly if it carries on after using the contraception for 3 months

  • stop if you have unpleasant side effects over a longer period of time, and try an alternative method of contraception

Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error before finding the right method of contraception for you. And what’s right for you may change over time. So just because one method suited you in the past, doesn’t mean it will suit you now.

Everything you wanted to know about sexual health and wellbeing - your questions answered by our expert team.