Intrauterine Devices (IUD) and Pregnancy

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that inserted into a women's uterus to prevent pregnancy. The device itself is T-shaped with a monofilament end or tail and is inserted by a heath professional in a 15 minute procedure. There are two main types of IUD, the Paragard and Mirena. When embedded in the uterus, the Paragard IUD releases copper from a wire that is entwined around this device. This Paragard can last up to ten years. A Mirena IUD radiates a progestin hormone and can last for five years.

How does an IUD work?

An IUD transforms the uterus into an inhospitable environment for pregnancy. A progestin emanating IUD alters the uterus to prevent egg impanation. It also mutates the cervical mucus, transforming it into a material that prevents sperm from entering. Other IUDs trigger uterine inflammation, which in turn attracts white blood cells. These white blood cells destroy sperm, making it difficult for any to enter the uterus.

Once an IUD has been inserted by your gynecologist, you will need to check it monthly. This is to ensure that your IUD is in place, as it can potentially get pushed out. If it has been pushed out then you will need to visit your gynecologist to have it re-inserted.

The advantage of using an IUD

  • There are many advantages of using an IUD for birth control. These include:
  • The effects of an IUD are instantaneous. As soon as the device is inserted into the uterus it is effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • It is currently the longest lasting temporary birth control method for women. The average life span of an IUD is between 5-10 years.
  • It does not interfere with sexual activity. You can partake in sex without having to worry about birth control or getting pregnant.
  • An IUD can be inserted soon after giving birth. You can also breast feed naturally while using an IUD.
  • An IUD should not have a negative impact on fertility after its removal, though Mirena may cause a delay in return of fertility upon removal.
  • The IUD does not require daily action, unlike birth control pills. You only need to check it monthly.
  • Relatively low cost when averaged over lifespan of device in comparison to other birth control methods.
  • Does not cause weight gain.

Side effects of IUDs

Though there are many advantages to an IUD, there are also some side effects that you should be aware of. These physical effects are in direct consequence of the IUD.

  • Cramps: It is normal to experience slight cramping after an IUD is inserted. However, if the cramping becomes severe, it may be a sign of a serious problem with the IUD. If you experience severe cramps after having an IUD inserted, seek medical consult.
  • Spotting: Many women report light spotting for the first few weeks after insertion. This spotting should not last for more than 4-6 weeks and should not be heavy.
  • Heavy periods: Sometimes, IUDs can cause heavier than average periods. Your periods may also last longer and be more painful. These symptoms should disappear after a few months.

Risks and complications associated with IUDs

In addition to side effects, IUDs also have severe complications and risks. These complications can be dire if not treated immediately. It is therefore essential that you are made aware of which specific conditions may result from the use of an IUD.

  • If you get pregnant with an IUD inserted in your uterus, this pregnancy will likely end up a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy. Women who use an IUD and become pregnant are 40-50 percent more likely to experience a miscarriage. An ectopic pregnancy is when fertilization occurs in the fallopian tubes instead of the uterus. If this occurs, the baby will not be able to develop and the pregnancy will need to be terminated.
  • During the first two weeks following the insertion of an IUD, there is a slight risk of developing a pelvic infection. If you experience severe pain in the lower abdomen coupled with a high fever, see a doctor immediately. A pelvic infection requires medical treatment.
  • In rare cases, an IUD has perforated the womb or cervix. This results in severe pain and damage that must be repaired with surgery.

Is it possible to get pregnant with an IUD?

The IUD's purpose is to prevent pregnancy. Nevertheless, there is actually a slight chance of pregnancy. The likelihood of a pregnancy occurring fluctuates in accordance to the type of IUD. A copper emanating IUD has a 0.6-0.8 percent risk of pregnancy, while a Progesterone radiating device has a slightly higher risk of 1.5-2 percent.

A clinical study showed that one in every 100 women who use an IUD get pregnant. This shows that an IUD, like other contraception methods, is not 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Moreover, it is important to note that most pregnancies occurring while an IUD is inserted either end in miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.

Ultimately, IUDs are one of the easiest and longest lasting forms of birth control. However, there are a number of serious risks that you should consider before selecting this method. If after reading this article you are interested in using an IUD, contact your doctor to determine if it is the right contraceptive method for you.