How Does an IUD Work?
A doctor or other healthcare professional must place the IUD in your uterus. This can be done in a doctor’s office or clinic on an outpatient basis.
Before it’s inserted, the IUD is flat. It also has strings hanging from the end. The following steps occur during an IUD insertion:
Once it’s in place, you won’t feel the IUD. The procedure takes only a few minutes. You may have some spotting and minor discomfort for a few weeks after insertion. Your doctor will let you know how and when to check your IUD between visits.
The IUD works by thickening cervical mucus to make it harder for sperm to get through. It also affects the lining of the uterus. This change in the lining makes it harder for a fertilized egg to implant. Some brands of IUD contain hormones to help prevent ovulation.
Symptoms of Infection
The symptoms of an infection may include:
See your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
How Can an IUD Cause an Infection?
IUDs don’t directly cause infections. If you have an existing infection, inserting the IUD may spread it. Two common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are chlamydia and gonorrhea. That’s why some doctors may want to test for STDs before inserting an IUD.
According to the Office on Women’s Health, you’re at slightly higher risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) for a few weeks after your IUD is inserted. PID is an infection of your reproductive organs.
The vagina normally contains some bacteria. If bacteria are pushed up into the reproductive organs during IUD insertion, it may result in PID.
Are IUDs Safe?
The IUD seems a bit mysterious. One reason some women are wary has to do with the Dalkon Shield IUD. This IUD was first marketed in the United States in the 1970s. Women using them experienced a high rate of pelvic infections and perforations. Deaths were reported and more than 200,000 lawsuits were filed. The Dalkon Shield was eventually pulled from the market.
Today’s IUDs are considered much safer. Side effects may include spotting between periods or mild cramping in the first few months.
It doesn’t happen often, but your IUD can slip out of place, especially if you’ve never had a baby. If that happens, you’re more likely to get pregnant. In very rare instances, the IUD can perforate the uterus. An IUD that’s out of place requires immediate medical attention.
An IUD isn’t a good choice for everyone. You may not be able to use one if you:
Your doctor will be able to tell you about the different types of IUDs and whether or not an IUD is a good choice for you.
How Is an Infection Diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosis will likely be a physical exam. Your doctor may also want to perform blood and urine tests. If necessary, an ultrasound or other imaging tests may be required.
How Is an Infection Treated?
Untreated PID can permanently damage your organs. Pelvic infection can lead to infertility or chronic pain.
The sooner you start treatment, the better. That usually involves taking antibiotics. Other treatments will depend on what type of infection you have.
You don’t necessarily need to have your IUD removed. That said, this may be advisable if the infection doesn’t show signs of improvement within a few days.
Studies show that treatment outcomes for women who keep the IUD versus women who have it removed are about the same, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those studies involved only IUDs that don’t contain hormones.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations and continue with your follow-up care.
Is There a Way to Prevent an Infection?
IUDs raise the risk of infection for only a few weeks. On the other hand, they don’t offer any protection against infection, sexually transmitted or otherwise. One way to lower your risk of STDs is to use a condom.
You can also prevent infection by not douching. Your vagina has naturally occurring bacteria. Douching increases the risk of spreading bacteria up into your reproductive organs.
See your doctor right away if you have signs of infection. Early treatment can prevent it from spreading.
Kobby Blay is the chief health editor at Ghanahealthnest.com. A professional practicing nurse with specialty in mental health and focus for health communications, public health, medical/documentary photography, ICT and systems perspective for health improvement.