If you are a woman who has chosen to use an intrauterine device (IUD) as your contraception of choice, you will likely find yourself in shock if you find out you are, indeed, pregnant. After all, both versions of the IUD (Mirena or Paragard) claim 99% effectiveness, so it is supposed to be one of the most effective methods of birth control available.
However, as a woman who did get pregnant with an IUD, I soon found out that there are a number of women who indeed do get pregnant while using this form of birth control. While I have not been able to find actual statistics, I did find numerous posts by other women on forums online, and two ultrasound technicians shared that they regularly see women who get pregnant with an IUD, usually because of partial expulsion of the IUD from its proper placement (it is more common in younger women or those getting and IUD shortly after childbirth and women who haven’t had a baby).
Schedule a Prompt Visit with your OB/GYN
If you do find that you are pregnant, it is important to see your doctor sooner than later, particularly if you want to continue with the pregnancy. Your doctor will perform an exam and/or ultrasound to determine the placement of the IUD. In most instances, they will recommend removing the IUD immediately. The earlier it is removed, the more likely it is that you will have a healthy pregnancy.
If you are experiencing abdominal pain or bleeding, it is important that you seek immediate medical attention, as risks for ectopic pregnancies are higher for IUD pregnancies. However, your doctor may not schedule an appointment immediately if you are not experiencing any pain or bleeding. If you feel that there is something wrong, make sure you communicate that to your doctor and insist on being seeing sooner if you aren’t comfortable waiting for an appointment.
I will warn you, it can be scary to look up information on the Internet regarding IUD pregnancies and the associated risks, so you may want to avoid looking up information on the Internet and just speak directly to your healthcare provider. The highest risk for miscarriage is in the immediate days after IUD removal. If you experience bleeding (more than some light spotting which is normal after removing an IUD) or abdominal pain, seek immediate medical attention.
If your IUD is successfully removed early on in the pregnancy, the risks of miscarriage drop significantly (according to my own OB/GYN, to the same rates as any other pregnancy).
If the pregnancy is more advanced or the IUD cannot be easily removed, your doctor may recommend continuing with the pregnancy with the IUD in place. There will be higher risks of miscarriage and preterm labor with an IUD left in place, and you and your doctor will need to work together to determine the best treatment and plan of action. However, there are women that deliver healthy, full term babies with an IUD left in place, so don’t lose hope if you want to continue with a surprise pregnancy. Fortunately, IUD pregnancies are not associated with birth defects.
IUD pregnancies do have a higher risk of being ectopic pregnancies because they function by preventing implantation in the uterus, so there is a higher likelihood that a fertilized embryo will implant outside of the uterus. Many providers will automatically monitor for ectopic pregnancy, while others will do more screenings only if you demonstrate symptoms.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are abdominal pain or and/or unusual bleeding. If you have any of these symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention as ectopic pregnancies are very serious. Unfortunately, it is not possible to save an ectopic pregnancy, but it is critical to diagnose ectopic pregnancies and terminate early so the mother’s life is not in danger from internal bleeding.
Prompt medical attention is the best thing you can do if you find yourself pregnant with an IUD. It will bring you peace of mind and ensure you receive the screenings and treatment you need.
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Lynn Norero is a work-from-home mom that actively blogs about parenting and family friendly travel. She actively promotes lake fun at the gorgeous Highland Lakes in Central Texas.