IUD, or intrauterine device, is a birth control device shaped like a ‘T’. It is either made with plastic or copper and medically inserted into the womb by a trained medical professional. IUDs usually stay functional for 10 to 15 years and can be reversed at any time with the help of an obstetrician or a gynaecologist.
While it is uncommon, the IUD can get out of its place. It is important to get medically checked at the earliest if you feel like your IUD has been misplaced. The misplacement of the IUD can cause a lot of trouble if it is not treated. Hence, you should not ignore the IUD out of place symptoms.
Before we discuss the IUD Displacement in detail, let’s talk about how it functions. This will help you better understand displacement and steps you can take to prevent it.
A] How Does An Intrauterine Device (IUD) Function?
The objective of the IUD is to stop the sperm from reaching and interacting with the egg. IUDs are usually of two types: copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. Both of these have different properties and work differently.
Copper intrauterine devices (IUDs) also known as ParaGard IUDs actively release copper into the womb, triggering an amplified inflammatory response within the body, consequently fostering an unfavourable environment for fertilisation. Even if the egg gets fertilised, the inflamed uterus lining prevents the egg from implanting and developing, preventing pregnancy in the process. Copper IUDs are a very reliable long-term method of birth control and hence, very common.
Mirena IUDs or Hormonal IUDs release a small amount of the progestin hormone levonorgestrel over time instead of copper. Levonorgestrel is a synthetic contraceptive hormone which makes it difficult for sperm to reach your fallopian tubes. Levonorgestrel is known to thicken the cervix mucus and thin the uterus lining which makes it more difficult for the sperm to swim and the egg to release.
Now, let’s focus on IUD displacement. We’ll start with the symptoms and signs that can help you identify that your IUD has moved out of place.
B] IUD Displacement Symptoms And Signs
There are many factors which can cause the IUD to move and be misplaced. This can be uncomfortable for the person and also lead to various infections, unwanted pregnancy, irregular bleeding and health complications if not treated in time. Hence, identifying the signs and symptoms at the earliest is crucial. Here are the displaced IUD symptoms that you should look out for.
- You can’t feel the IUD strings: IUD strings are designed so that you can self-examine them regularly to see if the IUD is in its place. If you can’t feel IUD strings, then there’s a possibility that it may have moved further in your uterus. The IUD could have partially or completely exited from the uterus or moved to a different region.
- Feeling the parts of the IUD: It is common to feel the strings of the IUD, but not the IUD itself as it is placed inside the uterus. If you can touch the hard outer shell of the IUD, it is a sign of the IUD moving and it may fall out. The displaced IUD can cause irritation and even hurt like a small needle.
- Intense cramps: Some women may feel intense cramps after the IUD is placed, especially if it is a copper IUD. Likewise, if the IUD falls out or is moved, you may also feel intense cramping. It is a sign that the uterus rejects the IUD and starts contractions to expel the foreign device from the body. It may cause immense cramps as the muscle contracts repeatedly to push out the IUD.
- Sudden heavy menstrual bleeding with Mirena IUD: Many women get IUD because it has proven to be helpful in reducing heavy bleeding. If you notice a sudden return of heavy bleeding, especially if you have hormonal IUD, it might be one of the symptoms of the Mirena IUD moving. So, if you start noticing irregular and excessive bleeding after a considerable time post-insertion, then it is a sign that your IUD is out of place.
- Sudden change in menstrual flow with ParaGard IUD: Typically a copper IUD can cause heavy menstrual flow, however, if it is misplaced your period flow might go back to normal. So, you may notice a sudden change in your menstrual flow, it may be a sign that your ParaGard IUD has moved out of place. Keep in mind, this is one of the symptoms of IUD displacement, so it is necessary to confirm with a doctor.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge: Abnormal discharge from your vagina may be a symptom that your IUD has been displaced. It happens when the IUD irritates the uterus. If you notice that the discharge differs in colour, smell and texture (and not due to yeast infection), then contact a specialist immediately.
- Your partner feels the IUD: Sometimes the person who uses the IUD may be unaware that the IUD has displaced. Sometimes their partner may notice the change during/after intimacy. Your partner may feel the hard plastic of the IUD, which is a clear sign that the IUD has moved.
- Perforation: Perforation is a process in which the IUD pushes out or pokes through the uterine wall. It may happen in 1-2 cases out of 1000 insertions. If the IUD moves due to perforation, the removal process can be complicated and surgery may be required. Perforation can cause severe pain, cramps, and bleeding.
If you ever notice any of the above symptoms, do not try to fix the IUD by yourself. Contact a professional coil fitting service which inserted it in the first place.
C] What Should You Do If You Suspect Your IUD Has Moved?
If you experience any symptoms, the best course of action will be to see a specialist. When the IUD is misplaced, intercourse can be really painful; hence, it is advisable to abstain until you see a doctor.
On visiting the clinic, the doctor will check if the IUD is moved, If moved, they will begin the process of removing or replacing it. If it can not be located, the doctor might ask you to do certain tests like ultrasound to locate it. The doctor will replace the IUD or advise you to switch to a different contraceptive method.
D] Causes Of IUD Displacement
The chances of IUD displacement are very low, however, it does happen every once in a while and it is never a good idea to neglect it. It can be caused due to various reasons:
- Improper placement of IUD during the insertion.
- Natural contractions of the uterus.
- An abnormality in the uterus, like a tilt, fibroids, or bicornuate uterus.
- Infection or inflammation in the uterus.
- If the IUD is too small or too large for the uterus.
- Being in your early twenties.
- Rigorous activities like sports, exercise and lifting heavy objects.
- Having IUD inserted after childbirth.
E] Consequences Of Displaced IUD
1. Increased Risk Of Pregnancy
If the IUD has moved out of its place, the person does not have any protection against impregnation. Hence, the risk of unwanted pregnancy is increased and the person might have to choose another form of birth control until it is fixed.
2. Irregular Periods
Hormonal IUDs are also used to suppress heavy periods. If they are misplaced, the person can experience heavy or irregular periods. Sometimes the IUD can also cause the period to delay.
3. Discomfort Or Pain
If the IUD is partially expelled or moves further up, the person can feel discomfort, pain, bleeding and cramping. The degree of pain and discomfort may vary from individual to individual.
IUD or intrauterine device is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) which is widely used due to its effectiveness and simplicity. It is a safe option for contraception, but it can fall out of its place leading to many complications. It is important to know and recognise the symptoms associated with IUD misplacement and seek proper medical assistance at once.
You should not use IUDs during pregnancy or if you have an active STI. People with cervical cancer and uterine cancer should also avoid it. Lastly, staying well informed on the subject and seeking the right medical assistance from a gynaecologist in time can ensure good reproductive health and overall well-being.
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