When you use a birth control method, you anticipate that it will prevent pregnancy, as that is what it is intended to do. Even the highly effective intrauterine device (IUD) is not 100% effective, so if you think you may be exhibiting the typical symptoms, you may find yourself anxiously Googling phrases like “pregnant with IUD symptoms” late into the night.
According to the ACOG, an IUD or implant is 20 times more effective than the pill, patch, or ring during the first year of use, with less than one in 100 women using it becoming pregnant. However, even if you already have one, there is a remote possibility that you could become pregnant. (More on the factors that can increase your risk will follow.)
IUD use and pregnancy are pretty uncommon, so stop freaking over. However, it’s still a good idea to be aware of the potential outcomes and what you should do in the unlikely event that you find yourself in this predicament,
Is it possible to get pregnant with an IUD?
Yes, using an IUD while pregnant is possible. If everything goes as planned, it rarely occurs. That’s not always the case, though, you know. These are a few situations where using an IUD could result in an unintended pregnancy.
- You had unprotected sex right beforehand: This is more of an issue with the copper IUD, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. “If you do have sex before the IUD is placed, of course the copper won’t be there to prevent the sperm from making it up inside. That can lead to failure,” she says. Because of this, Dr. Minkin says, “we usually try to place IUDs during a period—it avoids these questions, and also it is usually easier to place during a period because the cervix is a bit more dilated.”
- You’ve had your IUD for too long: This one is a little tricky, given that your IUD’s effectiveness is unlikely to torpedo at a set period of time. However, IUDs have only been studied for so long, which is where the recommendations on timing come into play. “The Food and Drug Administration has approved IUDs for a certain period of time,” explains women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD. “Beyond these time periods, there’s no guarantee they will be effective.”
So how do you determine if your IUD has been misplaced? According to Dr. Wider, IUDs have strings that hang down and can usually be felt in the vaginal canal if you reach up high enough. Your IUD may not be in its proper position if you are unable to feel those strings or if their length appears to have changed, according to the expert. According to Christine Greves, MD, an ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, “You also might have discomfort and irregular bleeding.”
How would you know if you’re pregnant with an IUD?
According to Dr. Greves, the symptoms of pregnancy with an IUD are typically the same as those of pregnancy without an IUD. According to the Mayo Clinic, they may include the following.
- A missed period
- Tender, swollen breasts
- Increased urination
What are the risks of getting pregnant with an IUD?
Ectopic pregnancy, which happens when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus, is a significant risk, according to ACOG. Here’s the thing, according to Dr. Aagaard: If a pregnancy were to occur, it would likely have occurred outside of the uterus rather than because the IUD itself increases your risk of an ectopic pregnancy. IUDs don’t cause ectopic pregnancies, and patients aren’t at an increased risk for them just because they have one, according to the expert.
We advise removing the IUD at the first appointment for the majority of women whose IUD strings are visible through the cervix.
What should you do if you get pregnant with an IUD?
Dr. Minkin advises that you speak with your ob-gyn as soon as possible. In order to determine whether the pregnancy is ectopic or internal, Dr. Aagaard says that the first step will be to perform an ultrasound. Next, when performing a speculum exam, we will check to see if the IUD is still in place and if we can see and grasp the strings.
How can you avoid pregnancy with an IUD?
Doctors advise against worrying too much about this if you use an IUD. However, Dr. Minkin advises that you can be extra cautious around the time of insertion by having your IUD inserted while you are having a period or by using a backup method of contraception until your next period begins. You can also verify that you can feel your string on a regular basis.
According to Dr. Aagaard, IUDs are very effective for family planning and have few side effects, including pregnancy. For many people and families, they are an excellent and safe option.