The copper intrauterine device, or IUD, is a long-term, reversible contraceptive first introduced by Howard Tatum and Jamie Zipper in 1967. Health care providers place an IUD inside a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. Copper IUDs are typically made of T-shaped plastic with some portion covered with exposed copper. Prior to the invention of the first IUDs, women had few long-term options for safe and reliable birth control. Those options mostly consisted of barrier methods and the oral birth control pill, which were only effective if used correctly and consistently. For women seeking to control their fertility, a copper IUD was one of the first forms of long-term birth control that was highly effective and did not require consistent and regular action on the woman’s part to remain effective.

Ernst Gräfenberg was a physician and researcher who studied sexology, the study of human sexuality, in both Germany and the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. Gräfenberg researched the use of intrauterine devices as a form of contraception, and he developed the Gräfenberg ring. The Gräfenberg ring was one of the first intrauterine devices that effectively prevented pregnancy without causing infection, and it became the forerunner of all modern intrauterine devices, or IUDs. Gräfenberg also studied the role of the urethra in female orgasm. He was one of the first researchers to discuss female pleasure in a scientific manner, and, more specifically, he was one of the first to write about the erogenous zone on the anterior vaginal wall, colloquially called the G-spot. Through the technology he developed and the ideas he proposed, Gräfenberg advanced knowledge of female anatomy, pleasure, and reproduction, enabling researchers and professionals to better understand and cater to females’ reproductive and sexual needs.

Hormone releasing intrauterine devices or hormonal IUDs are contraceptive devices placed in a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy by continuously releasing a low dose of certain hormones. Jouri Valter Tapani Luukkainen, a medical researcher at the University of Helsinki, introduced the first hormonal IUD in 1976. Luukkainen’s IUD was a plastic device shaped like a capital T. The horizontal shafts of the IUD held a reservoir of the hormone Levonorgestrel that the IUD slowly released at a constant rate over the IUD’s lifetime, allowing the hormonal IUD to remain effective for five to seven years. Women can use hormonal IUDs for long term contraception that requires no maintenance on the part of the user. The hormonal IUD provides women an option for reliable long-term birth control that does not require maintenance to remain effective.

The Dalkon Shield was an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) that women used in the early 1970s and 1980s. Produced by the A.H. Robins Company in the US, the Dalkon Shield was a contraceptive device placed directly into a woman’s uterus that was supposed to prevent the development of a fetus in the uterus. In the 1980s, researchers uncovered an array of severe birth defects and injuries caused by the Dalkon shield, including pelvic infection, infertility, and death of the user. Eventually the A.H. Robins Company took the shield off the market, and the US Food and Drug Administration banned the device. Some users of the Dalkon shield sued the producers of the device, winning millions of dollars in compensation and punitive damages. After the dangers of the Dalkon Shield became public through those lawsuits, the popularity of intrauterine devices decreased significantly in the US.

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