The Copper IUD

Material Intelligence, no. 4: Copper (Dec., 2022)

Position: Contributing Editor

“It’s a little T-shaped plastic device, with copper collars and wire wrapping around its frame. That added metal may look like an element for electric conduction, but actually it makes the object one of the most potent contraceptive devices ever developed. Medically known as the CuT380A, this intrauterine device (IUD) has been marketed as the Paragard in the United States since its release in 1988. The official name derives from the element (Cu), its overall shape (resembling a letter “T”), and the total area of the device’s exposed copper surface (380 square millimeters). Many people with uteruses choose the Paragard for its unique qualities: it is immediately effective upon insertion, lasts as long as ten years, and is entirely hormone-free. Unlike IUDs that use hormones, the CuT380A’s active component is the copper itself, which makes it over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

For over a century, IUD design haphazardly followed the arc of prevailing material science. . .”

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