An intrauterine device, or IUD, is a small device that doctors place inside the uterus as a contraceptive. Many people experience IUD side effects, especially in the first few weeks to months following insertion.
There are two types of IUD available. One type secretes hormones while the other contains copper. Hormone-secreting IUDs release the synthetic hormone progestin while the copper option prevents sperm from fertilizing the egg.
In addition to preventing pregnancy, hormonal IUDs may help to reduce the incidence of painful or heavy periods.
While the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved IUDs as a safe contraceptive, some people may experience bothersome side effects. In this article, learn about the side effects of each type of IUD, as well as when to see a doctor.
Before inserting an IUD, a doctor should make sure that the individual is aware of the potential side effects and risks, including the known side effects of particular brands.
Common IUD side effects include:
- irregular bleeding for several months
- lighter or shorter periods or no periods at all
- symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, and skin blemishes
Rarer side effects of IUDs include:
- Expulsion, which is when the device comes out of the uterus by accident. If the IUD falls out of place, a doctor will have to re-implant it.
- Uterine perforation, where the IUD punctures the uterine wall. This can cause severe bleeding and result in infection.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may occur if the IUD insertion procedure introduces bacteria into the uterus.
The FDA have approved five IUD brands to date. One is a copper IUD called Paragard. The others are hormonal IUDs known as Kyleena, Liletta, Mirena, and Skyla. The side effects of each IUD type are listed below.
Kyleena side effects
Kyleena is a hormonal IUD. In addition to the common IUD side effects, Kyleena can cause:
- inflammation of the outer part of the vagina, called vulvovaginitis
- pelvic pain
- painful periods
- sore breasts
Kyleena may increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that implants outside of the womb, usually in the fallopian tube.
An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is vital to prevent severe bleeding and preserve fertility.
Liletta side effects
A Liletta IUD can also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. People should call a doctor if they experience severe bleeding or abdominal pain with a Liletta IUD, as these signs could indicate an ectopic pregnancy.
Other potential side effects of a Liletta IUD include:
- irregular bleeding and spotting in the first 3–6 months
- ovarian cysts, which can cause pain and discomfort
Mirena side effects
Mirena is a hormonal IUD that releases the synthetic hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy.
Some of the symptoms that people often experience after Mirena placement include:
- pain, bleeding, and dizziness immediately after insertion, although these symptoms should usually go away within about 30 minutes
- missed or irregular periods
- bleeding more or less than usual during a period in the first 3–6 months
According to the manufacturer, an estimated 12 percent of women who use Mirena develop an ovarian cyst.
Skyla side effects
Side effects specific to Skyla may include:
- missed menstrual periods
- ovarian cysts
- risk of ectopic pregnancy if a woman becomes pregnant while using the IUD
According to the manufacturer, one in every 16 people will stop having menstrual periods after 1 year of using Skyla, while about 14 percent of people will develop an ovarian cyst.
Paragard side effects
Paragard IUDs do not secrete hormones. Instead, they have a copper coating that acts as a deterrent for sperm. However, they can still cause side effects, including:
- allergic reactions to the metal
- a backache
- feeling faint
- low blood counts
- menstrual-like cramping
- pain during sex
If a woman with this IUD thinks she is pregnant, she should call her doctor. If she is pregnant, the doctor will need to remove the IUD.
According to the manufacturer, pregnancy with a Paragard IUD in place can result in life-threatening complications.
A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following after an IUD insertion:
- long-lasting or heavy bleeding
- painful sex
- unusual vaginal discharge
- pregnancy symptoms
A person should also speak to a doctor if they can no longer detect the IUD strings in the vagina.
The doctor may check to ensure that the IUD is still in the right place.
Most IUD side effects occur within the first few months after IUD insertion. Some ways to manage the side effects include:
- Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving medications, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen, to reduce pain.
- Applying warm, moist heat to the pelvis just below the bellybutton to relieve cramping and discomfort.
- Wearing loose-fitting, comfortable clothing for the IUD insertion and the days that follow the procedure.
- Wearing panty-liners or pads to absorb any extra bleeding or spotting.
If a person experiences side effects that are unusual for an IUD or are not in the safety information that the doctor provides, they should report them to the FDA. They can do this by calling 1-800-FDA-1088 or visiting the website at www.FDA.gov/medwatch.
It is essential to remember that IUDs do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Adverse IUD side effects should resolve within a few months as the body gets used to the device and any new hormones.
If the IUD causes intolerable symptoms, it is best to speak to a doctor about removing the device.