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I’ve been told IUDs can get stuck or lost inside of you, but how likely is that to actually happen?

Dear student,

Intrauterine  devices (IUDs) are becoming increasingly common as a safe and effective contraception method. IUDs are more 99 percent effective, which means that in 100 women who have an IUD, fewer than 1 will get pregnant each year. The Planned Parenthood website is super helpful with explaining some potential risks. The purpose of the IUD is to be “stuck” inside you… in the proper place in your uterus to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. The chances of an IUD getting unstuck inside of you and floating around where no one can find are slim.  Although an IUD can move around, it will be found and removed if brought to your physician’s attention.

IUDs can sometimes move in the uterus, which can increase risk for pregnancy. If it does move, it needs to be removed and a new one put in. Although it is possible to get pregnant even with the IUD sitting in the correct spot, this is extremely rare. If bacteria get into the uterus, it could cause an infection—and if untreated— could lead to pelvic inflammatory disease and cause infertility.  There is a small risk of a uterine puncture upon insertion, but as unpleasant as that sounds, it apparently isn’t terribly painful.

Some potential red flags of something gone awry with an IUD include: the IUD string length feeling shorter or longer than it was upon insertion; feeling the hard plastic bottom of the IUD coming through your cervix; cramping, pain or soreness in your abdomen; unusual vaginal bleeding or discharge; pain during sex; or unexplained fever, chills or having trouble breathing. If someone experiences any of these, it’s best to visit your doctor or nurse practitioner.

So, yes, there are risks, just as there are with many methods of contraception. That said, many women choose IUDs as their contraceptive method. It is highly effective for the prevention of pregnancy. Of course, it does nothing to guard against sexually transmitted infections, so if you’re having sex with people whose status is unknown to you, or you’re having sex with more than one person, it’s best to also use a condom. They are generally appropriate for anyone, but according to Planned Parenthood, people should NOT get an IUD if they currently have an STI or other pelvic infection resulting from childbirth or an abortion, think they might be pregnant, have untreated cervical cancer or other cancer of the uterus or experience vaginal bleeding.

IUDs are long-lasting, so they are great for people who know they do not want to become pregnant for several years. People typically report having lighter periods or no periods at all while using an IUD. Birth control failures can result from user-errors – with birth control pills, people have to remember to take the pill each day. With an IUD, failures are reduced because the user doesn’t have to remember anything. Although I have outlined some risks associated with using an IUD, these are rare instances. The approval process for contraception prevents the acceptance of methods that cause harm on a large scale. Since 2000, the FDA reports the following severe negative outcomes among IUD users: ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus); intrauterine pregnancy (a pregnancy with an IUD in place); pelvic inflammatory disease; embedment of the device in the uterine wall (getting stuck, as you say) and a perforated uterine wall or cervix (getting unstuck, but not necessarily lost).  While these things can and do occur, they are rare because there are measures under the FDA that serve to protect the public by ensuring the safety of the product they approve.

If you’re interested in getting an IUD or would just like some face time with a professional who can answer your questions, visit the CWU Counseling and Medical Center or Planned Parenthood in Ellensburg.

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