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What Happens When You Get Pregnant With An IUD?

Author
Alicia Betz
November 4, 2020

It’s well-known that no contraception methods are 100% effective, but when you use a birth control method that is over 99% effective, you generally expect it to work. That’s why many women have been shocked to find out they became pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD). So, what happens if you get pregnant with an IUD?

How Do You Get Pregnant With An IUD?

A IUD is a small “T” shaped device that a medical professional inserts into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It works by either releasing a small amount of hormones or using copper to create a hostile inflammatory environment that prevents fertilization and implantation. Many women choose an IUD as birth control because they are extremely effective and they can be left in for many years. 

There are four main causes of pregnancy with an IUD: 

1.The IUD moves out of place

Especially within the first few months, it’s possible for an IUD to move out of place, which increases the chance of pregnancy. To minimize this risk, make a habit of regularly checking your IUD: 

  • Clean your hands
  • Insert a finger into your vagina
  • Make sure you can feel the IUD strings

If you can’t feel the strings, they feel longer or shorter than normal, or you can feel the IUD itself, contact your OBGYN. Additionally, many providers recommend patients come in to check placement a month after insertion. 

2. The IUD breaks apart

Specifically with the ParaGard copper IUD, the device can break apart inside the uterus. Not only can this increase the chance of pregnancy, it can also lead to organ damage if the broken pieces lodge themselves in the uterus or other organs. Because women were not warned about this potential side effect, some have begun filing ParaGard lawsuits. 

3. The IUD expires

Every IUD has an expiration date, which is anywhere from two to ten years. Leaving an IUD in longer than the expiration date makes it less effective, thus making pregnancy more likely. Make sure you know when your IUD expires and talk to your provider about when it needs to be replaced. 

4. The IUD is expelled from the uterus

While an IUD can move to a less effective place in the uterus, in rare cases, it can also be completely expelled from the uterus. This is most likely to happen within the first few months after insertion. 

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What Are The Risks Of Getting Pregnant With An IUD?

According to a systematic review of studies for the journal Contraception, Leaving the IUD in throughout pregnancy increases the chance of adverse outcomes. Removing the IUD early in pregnancy reduces the chance of complications, but it doesn’t bring the risk all the way down to the level of someone without an IUD. 

Potential complications of getting pregnant with an IUD include: 

Miscarriage

Women who get pregnant with an IUD are more likely to experience miscarriage, which is the loss of pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation. 

Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are extremely serious and can be fatal to the mother, and it is usually not a viable pregnancy. While getting pregnant with an IUD doesn’t necessarily increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy, it does make it more likely that your pregnancy would be ectopic. This is because it is much less likely that your pregnancy is in the uterus due to the IUD preventing a normal uterine pregnancy. 

Going without prenatal care

If you’re not expecting to become pregnant, you may ignore some of the early signs of pregnancy such as missed period, nausea, or fatigue. Because it may take you longer to realize you are pregnant, you’ll likely miss early prenatal appointments, refrain from taking prenatal vitamins, and engage in behavior that isn’t advised in pregnancy, such as drinking alcohol. 

Preterm birth

A baby is considered preterm if he or she is born earlier than 37 weeks gestation. This is more likely if you conceived with an IUD. 

Infection

Getting pregnant with an IUD can increase the chance for infection of the placenta or amniotic fluid. 

Paragard IUD lawsuit

What To Do If You Get Pregnant With An IUD

First and foremost, if you find or even suspect you are pregnant and you have an IUD, contact your healthcare provider immediately. He or she can talk to you about your options and your risk of complications if you choose to continue the pregnancy. You may choose to terminate your pregnancy or continue to carry the baby. 

If you choose to continue your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will likely remove the IUD if it’s possible. This decreases the likelihood of complications, but you are still more likely to experience complications when compared to someone who didn’t have an IUD when they got pregnant. 

With close monitoring, care, and early removal of the IUD, many women do go on to have healthy babies after getting pregnant with an IUD.

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