An IUD, or intrauterine device, is a highly effective and long-term method of birth control. The small, T-shaped copper or hormonal insert fits inside the opening of the uterus. It creates an inhospitable environment for the egg and sperm so that pregnancy rarely occurs. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports only 2 percent of women living in the United States choose an IUD as their method of birth control, however, out of fear of resulting complications.
An ectopic pregnancy is a condition in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, most notably in the fallopian tube. According to the American Pregnancy Association, approximately 64,000 pregnancies in the United States each year are ectopic. Although the use of an IUD does not cause ectopic pregnancy, it does increase the risk. If fertilization does occur, the egg cannot enter the uterus. Therefore, the egg implants in the fallopian tube. At first, the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy present as a normal pregnancy. You might notice a missed period or breast tenderness. You might also experience morning sickness. In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, pain in the pelvis and abdomen is common. You’ll probably notice vaginal spotting, some dizziness and low blood pressure, and lower back pain. If you use an IUD and suspect you might be pregnant, call your health care provider immediately for an evaluation. An ectopic pregnancy can be potentially fatal.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 750,000 women in the United States each year experience pelvic inflammatory disease. Of those women, nearly 75,000 become infertile. Though infection with an IUD in place is not common, it is usually the result of a sexually transmitted disease and not the device itself. Though rare, an infection can occur at the time of insertion. Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include abdominal tenderness, foul-smelling green or yellow discharge, irregular periods, pain during sexual intercourse, chills, fever, nausea and vomiting, pain in the lower back and painful urination. Pelvic inflammatory disease requires immediate medical attention.
Preterm Labor and Miscarriage
In the course of a normal 40-week pregnancy, doctors define contractions that occur before 37 weeks gestation as preterm labor. Of the fewer than 1 percent of women who will become pregnant with an IUD in place, 15 to 50 percent of those pregnancies will result in preterm labor and miscarriage within the first trimester. After the first 12 weeks gestation, the risk of preterm labor and miscarriage jumps to 50 percent, according to the Epigee website. If you suspect you are pregnant, inform your health care provider immediately so that he can remove the IUD. Signs and symptoms of preterm labor include 5 or more contractions within one hour, leaking fluid, vaginal discharge or spotting, abdominal cramps, backache and pelvic pressure.
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