An Overview of the ParaGard Copper IUD

Copper T 380A IUD

The ParaGard Intrauterine Device (IUD) Copper T 380A is a small "T"-shaped contraceptive device, about 1 1/4 inches wide by 1 3/8 inches long. It's made of flexible plastic that's wrapped in copper.

Doctor with coil
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The ParaGard IUD must be inserted by a qualified healthcare provider (such as an ob-gyn or nurse practitioner). It is hormone free, so it does not alter a woman’s natural menstrual cycle.

The ParaGard IUD releases a tiny amount of copper (which acts as a spermicide, which kills sperm) continuously over a 10-year period as a way to prevent pregnancy.

How It Works

The ParaGard IUD helps to prevent sperm from joining with an egg by interfering with the movement of the sperm toward the egg. It is also believed that the ParaGard IUD causes changes in the lining of the uterus to reduce the likelihood of implantation.

ParaGuard protects against pregnancy immediately after insertion.

Copper Found in ParaGard

Copper is an essential trace mineral that is naturally present in a person’s body and found in foods like whole grains, shellfish, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, and nuts.

The small amount of copper that the ParaGard IUD releases each day is less than the amount contained in the average daily diet. The copper in the ParaGard IUD does not increase the overall level of copper already present in your body.

Who Should Use It

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved hormone-free ParaGard for people with a uterus throughout their entire reproductive lives—from age 16 until menopause (when menstrual cycles have stopped for 12 months straight).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports the ParaGard IUD is safe and effective for young women, however, not all healthcare providers are familiar with the updated guidelines and may be reluctant to insert an IUD in teenaged girls.


  • It can be used while breastfeeding.
  • It does not alter or affect a woman's hormone levels.
  • IUDs can improve a woman's sex life by allowing for spontaneity.
  • It can provide continuous pregnancy prevention for 10 years and can be removed anytime within that 10-year period.
  • It's a good alternative option for women who cannot tolerate or do not wish to use hormonal birth control methods or IUDs that release hormones, such as Mirena and Skyla.
  • After removing the IUD, a woman’s ability to become pregnant returns quickly.
  • It's an eco-friendly method of contraception.
  • It is an extremely private and discreet birth control method. Nobody can tell if you are using it, and there is no packaging or other evidence of use that may embarrass some people.
  • It's convenient and hassle free—once inserted, you don’t have to do anything.
  • The ParaGard IUD can be used as a form of emergency contraception. If it is inserted within five days after unprotected intercourse, ParaGard can reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99.9%.


Although most women do not experience any trouble adjusting to having an IUD, some women may experience heavy bleeding and cramping during the first few weeks or months after insertion. However, healthcare providers can prescribe medication that can lessen cramps and bleeding during menstruation.

Some people experience cramping or a backache for several days or weeks after an IUD is inserted. Spotting may occur between periods during the first few months of IUD use.

Your first few periods after an IUD insertion may last longer, and the flow may be heavier than usual. It is not unusual for a person to have heavier and longer periods while using the ParaGard IUD.

Side Effects

You may experience side effects, but in most cases, they will go away after the first few weeks or months. This includes:

  • Lower abdominal pain, cramps, and/or back pain
  • Spotting between first few periods
  • May cause a 50%–75% increase in menstrual flow, which for some women, may increase their risk for anemia

Serious problems, such as perforation (puncturing) of the uterus or infection, are rare with the ParaGard IUD. It is critical to report any problems to your healthcare provider right away to avoid further complications.

IUD Removal

  • After 10 years are up, you must have the ParaGard IUD removed. You can choose to have another one inserted during the same visit.
  • You can also have the IUD removed at any time before the 10 year period ends.

ParaGard must be removed by a healthcare provider. You should not try to take it out yourself. 

  • If ParaGard is expelled (it partially or completely comes out), you may not even notice. This is why it is so important that you check for the IUD strings. It's the only way to know that your ParaGard is still there. If the device has moved, you need to contact your healthcare provider to have another one inserted. Your practitioner will most likely perform a pregnancy test, to make sure that you are not pregnant, before inserting a new ParaGard IUD.
  • If the ParaGard IUD has become partially expelled, it is important to call your healthcare provider right away and use backup birth control.

Associated Costs

If you plan to use birth control for at least one to two years, an IUD is the least expensive contraceptive option available. The onetime cost of ParaGard in comparison to other contraceptive methods could save you hundreds of dollars or more over time.

Medicaid may cover these costs. In general, the charges from family planning clinics will usually be less than private healthcare providers.

ParaGard should be covered with no out-of-pocket costs for most insurance plans, but check your policy in advance to confirm coverage.


ParaGard is one of the most effective reversible methods of birth control available. The ParaGard IUD is 99.2%–99.4% effective. This means that fewer than 1 out of every 100 people who use ParaGard will become pregnant within one year.

Most pregnancies occur because the ParaGard slips out and the person does not realize it.

Though the chance of pregnancy while using ParaGard is very low, if it does happen, you should contact your healthcare provider once you know you are pregnant.

STI Protection

ParaGard offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. ParaGard® (Copper IUD).

  2. KidsHealth. About the IUD.

  3. ACOG Committee Opinion No. 735: Adolescents and Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and Intrauterine Devices. Obstet Gynecol. 2018;131(5):e130-e139. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000002632

By Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC
Dawn Stacey, PhD, LMHC, is a published author, college professor, and mental health consultant with over 15 years of counseling experience.