Common Copper IUD Side Effects and Complications

Previously I made posts about hormonal IUDs and their benefits and side effects. This post regarding copper IUD side effects will help you consider some points before finally going for it.

What is copper IUD?

Copper IUDs (Intrauterine Devices) are T-shaped devices with strings attached at the bottom inserted into the uterus of a woman for the purpose of controlling birth or as an emergency contraceptive after unprotected sex (which will work if used within five days). Once in the uterus, their work lasts for twelve years, although fertility will return as soon as an inserted copper IUD is removed.

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Copper IUDs have a one-year failure rate of approximately 0.7% which makes them one of the most effective birth control techniques we have and. Both parous and nulliparous females can use such IUDs. They are available under, among others, the trade names ParaGard and Copper-T.

Common Copper IUD Side Effects

Before getting inserted one, one should take a while to consider copper IUD side effects. Firstly, in this article, however, we take note of two points: one, (copper) IUDs have nothing to do with birth defects, e.g. Down Syndrome; two, even though it has been observed that side effects are slightly more common with nulliparous women, not having given birth is no contraindication of copper IUDs and IUDs generally for that matter.

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To start with, there have been cases of the spontaneous expulsion of an inserted copper IUD from the uterus. Though not the only cause, Magnetic Resonance Imaging is known to be capable of dislocating an inserted copper IUD which could lead to an eventual spontaneous or pain-induced intentional expulsion.

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Some signs of possible expulsion include absence or lengthening of the strings of the IUD, spotting after sex, spotting between periods, unnecessary pain, unusual vaginal discharge, and dyspareunia.

Expulsion rates are very low (2.2% to 11.4% of users from the first to the tenth year). However, re-inserted copper IUD (after a prior expulsion) has a re-expulsion rate of about 33.33% after one year.

In contrast to copper IUDs getting expelled from the uterus, they could also go “too deep inside”, a process called perforation. It is very rare but one can actually have a copper IUD move through their uterine wall. This can cause damage to internal organs, and surgery is sometimes required to remove the device. Usually, risk of perforation varies with the skill of the personnel who inserted the IUD, but is usually 0.1% or less for experienced medical practitioners.

Also, a user of copper IUD faces a transient risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease for 21 days after insertion. Rest assured though that the risk is negligible and is actually due to preexisting gonorrhea or chlamydia infection.

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Pain and menstrual pain

Many women experience pain during the insertion of a copper IUD and immediately after. For some women, this may continue for a week or two. The pain has been attributed to cervix dilation during insertion.

Some women also notice increased menstrual pain as a result of an inserted copper IUD.

Apart from increased menstrual pain, increased blood loss during menstruation is also a documented side effect of copper IUDs (studies show that 20-50% more blood is lost to menstruation after a copper IUD has been inserted).

In fact, heavier periods go hand in hand with increased menstrual pain and may or may not stop after three to six months. Irregular bleeding and spotting is also a possible side effect.

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Once in a while, men report that they feel copper IUD strings during sex in which case the strings can be trimmed. However, medical ultrasonography may be needed to check the position of the IUD in the uterus if the string is cut too short.

Finally, to state the last but not least of the copper IUD side effects, pregnancy, though highly improbable, can occur even with a copper IUD in place. If this happens, you should get an expert to remove it properly, as it poses a higher risk of early delivery or miscarriage.

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Now, you know the possible copper IUD side effects. Do their pros outweigh their cons? Better still, can you hedge the possible risks? These are some of the things to consider before making a decision on whether or not to choose to use a copper IUD. Good luck!

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