There's a brand new hormone-free contraceptive coming to the NHS

·5-min read
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett

When it comes to contraception methods, there’s plenty of choice. From taking a pill every day, to being fitted with the coil or using condoms - there’s different types with varying efficacies, so which form you use (if any) to use ultimately comes down to individual preference.

If you're open to trying a new form of birth control, you'll be all ears about the Ballerine IUB device - the new hormone-free contraceptive that’s hoping to become more readily available across the UK later this year. This intrauterine device (IUD) contains no hormones, is effective for up to 5 years, and prevents pregnancy locally within the uterus.

But what exactly is it, how does it work and are there any potential side effects it's worth knowing about? Dr Elise Dallas, GP at online doctor Babylon, has all the answers you need.

What is the Ballerine IUB device?

“The Ballerine IUB is a hormone-free contraceptive that’s inserted into your uterus for up to 5 years. The frame is coated with polyethylene terephthalate material, allowing the device to find the ideal position and fit easily and cosily in your uterus to minimise risk of damage and irritation,” explains Dr Dallas. “It’s half the size of traditional IUDs (15mm in diameter) and has a unique design consisting of 17 copper pearls which form a spherical shape,” she says.

How does the Ballerine IUB work as contraception?

The Ballerine IUB works on the same principle as other IUDs to prevent pregnancy, for example the coil. “As soon as it is inserted into your uterus, it starts releasing small amounts of copper to provide continuous contraception for up to 5 years,” says the doctor. “It is believed that copper IUDs achieve their primary contraceptive effect by interference with sperm motility and the fertilisation of an egg, and possibly prevention of implantation.”

How effective is the Ballerine IUB work in preventing pregnancy?

Photo credit: Jessica Lockett
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett

“The efficacy of the Ballerine IUB is over 99% in pregnancy prevention,” explains Dr Dallas. “It is an extremely reliable and reversible form of contraception as its efficacy does not depend on you using it correctly like the pill or condoms,” she says. A popular choice, condoms (both male and female) can vary in their effectiveness, depending on if they’re put on correctly, at the right time and do not split. They are thought to be between 85-95% effective due to these variants. The pill is 91-99% effective (again providing it is taken regularly and appropriately), and the coil and implant are 99% effective. So the IUB comes out pretty well.

How does it compare to the other contraception methods?

As another non-hormonal method of contraception, the Ballerine IUB is very similar to the more well-known Copper IUD (the coil), however it “differs with its unique shape, hoping to create a more snug fit in the uterus and in turn reduce cramps,” explains Dr Dallas. “It does not rely on hormones so will not create side effects which are associated with hormonal forms of contraception - nor the potential benefits hormonal contraceptives can bring.”

Who would benefit most from the Ballerine IUB device?

The Ballerine IUB device offers another option for those who want to take a more natural approach to birth control. If you do not want to take synthetic hormones but are still looking for a highly effective contraception which can last for up to 5 years, look no further than this new IUD. “You might choose the IUB if you want an easily reversible method as an alternative to permanent sterilisation, but would like fertility restored immediately after removal,” adds Dr Dallas.

What are the side effects of the Ballerine IUB?

  • Unusual periods

After being fitted with the Ballerine IUB, some women experience spotting between periods or heavier or longer bleeding. “Once your uterus gets used to the Ballerine IUB, these side effects should occur less frequently and diminish after 2-3 months,” explains the doctor.

  • Infection

“There’s a small chance of you getting an infection during the first 20 days after an IUD is put in – you may be advised to have a check for STIs before an IUD is fitted or at the time it’s inserted too.”

  • Rare side effects including perforation and expulsion

Rare side effects can include the device perforating through the wall of the uterus or expulsion (where the Ballerine IUB partially or completely falls out of the uterus). Women who are breastfeeding or have just given birth are at a slightly higher risk of perforation - “the IUB will need to be removed and very occasionally surgery may be needed,” explains Dr Dallas. “Women who have never been pregnant may be more likely to expel the Ballerine IUB than women who have been pregnant before. At the time of your fitting, you will be taught how to feel for the strings to check it is in place,” says the GP.

When will the Ballerine IUB be available in the UK?

The IUB was originally developed in Austria in 2014 and has been available across Europe, Africa and Israel ever since. “It has been available privately in the UK since 2017 and was in fact meant to be rolled out on the NHS last year, but was postponed due to COVID-19. But they are definitely keen for this to be available on the NHS,” reassures Dr Dallas. Watch this space.

The latest issue of Cosmopolitan UK is out now and you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.


You Might Also Like