Birth control plays a significant role in family planning. There are several contraception methods, one of which is using an intrauterine device (IUD).
An IUD is said to be one of the most effective contraception methods. It is for this reason that many women choose to have it inserted inside their uterus. Truly enough, it is more convenient than having to take contraceptive pills and less hassle-free than any other methods. However, there are rare cases where women may still get pregnant despite having one.
So, what are the risks of an IUD pregnancy? Before we go into details, it is also important that we understand IUDs more and how they really work. Let us start!
An IUD is a small, T-shaped device inserted through a woman’s cervix into her uterus. With it in place, it prevents fertilization. As a reversible method of contraception, it is said to be one of the most effective with about 99% success rate.
A woman with an IUD is at the greatest risk for pregnancy within the first year after insertion.
Despite the success rate, it is still common to worry about getting pregnant. After all, the menstrual cycle becomes irregular during the first few months after insertion. Then, the monthly periods become lighter. Some women even stop having them.
There are five types of IUD, which include the following:
- Skyla; and
The first four are hormonal while the last one is non-hormonal and uses copper instead. They release the progestin hormone levonorgestrel into the uterus. Kyleena lasts for up to five years;
Liletta for up to four years; Mirena for up to five years; Skyla for up to three years; and ParaGard for up to 10 years.
With Mirena, about 25% of women using it stop having their monthly periods. On the other hand, women using ParaGard do not experience any problem with their menstrual cycle. That is, of course, as long as they are not (yet) pregnant. However, during the first few months, women might have heavier periods as one of the side effects.
ParaGard interferes with the fertilization of egg and the movement of sperm cells, effectively preventing implantation.
Once an IUD is expired, it is removed from a woman’s uterus using the two strings attached to it. It can also be removed earlier for various reasons such as complications, pregnancy, among others.
There are some women who have it inserted inside their uterus right after giving birth. This is part of their efforts to control birth and plan their family.
IUD Side Effects
Like any other contraceptive methods, IUDs come with side effects as well. These may last between three to six months, depending on how fast your body adapts to the changes it needs to go through.
First, you are likely to experience pain once it is or has been inserted. Backaches and cramps are also normal during the first few days. Similarly, you may notice spotting in between periods during the first few months.
None of these side effects are serious. There is no need to be alarmed, should you experience any of these. They are all perfectly normal, especially if it is your first time to get an IUD.
Who Can Get an IUD?
While most women can get an IUD, there are some exceptions due to certain conditions and/or possible complications.
It is not safe for you to get an IUD if you:
- Are possibly pregnant;
- Have a pelvic infection or have had it post-childbirth or abortion in the last three months;
- Have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI);
- Have untreated cervical cancer;
- Have uterine cancer; or
- Have vaginal bleeding other than your monthly period
Meanwhile, you cannot get ParaGard if you:
- Are allergic to copper;
- Have a bleeding disorder making it hard for your blood to clot; or
- Have Wilson’s disease
Further, those who have had breast cancer cannot get hormonal IUDs.
What to do When You Suspect an IUD Pregnancy?
Annually, about one out of 200 women get pregnant despite having an IUD. The symptoms are similar to common pregnancy symptoms, so you could suspect easily. Now, what do you do if you think you are that person?
Here are the steps you need to take should you suspect an IUD pregnancy:
1. Get tested:
Of course, the first thing you need to do is to confirm whether or not it is indeed an IUD pregnancy. You may use a home pregnancy test. However, home pregnancy tests do not usually provide accurate results during the first few weeks of pregnancy.
The best way to get accurate results remain to be through a blood pregnancy test. Seeking the help of your physician will also allow you to understand the necessary steps you have to take next, should the test result turn out to be positive.
2. Consult your physician:
As you consult your physician, it is important to determine the type of your pregnancy. You would want an IU or a normal pregnancy, where the fertilized egg develops in your IU.
Immediately, you need to rule out ectopic or tubal pregnancy. In this case, the fertilized egg develops in your fallopian tube. More often than not, it leads to loss of pregnancy. Also, it can damage your entire reproductive system if not treated right away.
To rule it out, you need to get a blood pregnancy test. It should be repeated after two days to make sure that your human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels are increasing steadily. If they are, it means that you have a normal pregnancy.
3. Get an IUD Removal
Once an IUD pregnancy has been confirmed, it is highly recommended that you have your IUD removed. There chances of risks lessen when you do but they are not completely eradicated.
Risks of IUD Pregnancy
Chorioamnionitis is a condition where the membranes around your baby and the fluid bathing him or her are infected. It could be fatal; so you need to have your IUD removed to reduce your risks for developing it.
2. Hormone Exposure:
As mentioned earlier, four types of IUD are hormonal. When you use any of these, you are at great risk for hormone exposure.
Hormonal IUDs release progestin into your uterus slowly. These hormones may affect the development of your baby.
Miscarriage is probably the most common risk of IUD pregnancy. If you opt not to have your IUD removed after discovering that you are pregnant, your miscarriage risks increase to as much as 50%.
In fact, you are still likely to miscarry even after having your IUD removed. The chances are less, but still high at about 35%.
4. Placenta Separation
There is also a risk of your placenta separating from your uterus while you are pregnant. Sometimes, it might even separate during delivery.
5. Premature Delivery
If you leave your IUD inside your uterus as you continue with your pregnancy, you are five times more likely to deliver your baby prematurely.
Pregnancy After IUD Removal
Now, most women are successful when it comes to birth control using IUD. There may come a time when they finally want to conceive. Of course, the first step is to have their IUDs removed.
Ideally, you have to wait for about three months or so before trying to conceive. Accordingly, you need to give your body enough time to adjust and recover its normal menstrual cycle. Nonetheless, this is only to help you track your fertility and ovulation cycles.
IUD Pregnancy: To Sum It Up…
An IUD pregnancy is a very rare case. However, you really cannot help but worry. After all, there is still a minimal chance that you might get pregnant even while an IUD is in place.
Should you suspect pregnancy, it is important that you observe the following steps:
1. Get tested.
2. Consult your physician.
3. Get an IUD removal should the test result be positive.
It is also important that you are aware of the risks associated. That way, you know what necessary precautions to take and how you continue with your pregnancy properly. After all, you are not just worried about your life but also about the life inside of you.
Even if the baby is unexpected, it is still fulfilling to have a life grow inside of you. It is even more fulfilling and more overwhelming once you finally get to see him or her, especially when you hold him or her for the first time.
Do you know someone who has experienced or is experiencing an IUD pregnancy? How about someone who has dealt with or is dealing with ectopic pregnancy? How did they get through or how are they getting through? Do not hesitate to share your stories with us! We would love to hear from you!
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