What Can Go Wrong With a ParaGard IUD Removal? Are there side effects to removal? Does it hurt? And what happens if the IUD fractures or breaks? 5 women reveal what can go wrong when you have this popular birth-control method removed.
If you’ve ever contemplated getting a copper (ParaGard) IUD, then you probably did some research or asked friends to find out what the insertion process is like for this one-inch, T-shaped plastic device wrapped in copper.
But you may not have given much thought to what happens when it’s time to take out this long-term contraceptive—because you either don’t want it in you anymore, the device moved, you plan to have kids, or the ParaGard IUD reached the end of its 10-year lifespan.
Sometimes, despite following the instructions provided by the manufacturer, the IUD removal is unsuccessful. In a nutshell, here’s what should happen during a successful removal.
You’ll make an appointment with your OB-GYN, similar to when you had the device put in. In a simple, non-surgical procedure, while you’re on your back on the exam table, your doctor or nurse will insert a speculum. This lets them find the IUD strings, which should be in the cervix. Once your doctor grasps them, they’ll gently pull on them with forceps until the IUD slides out of the cervical canal and then out of your vagina. The process should be quick, easy, and need no extra preparation or anesthesia.
However, for some women, the IUD does not come out easily. What’s worse, the procedure may fail when doctors attempt to remove the device, which calls for surgery to get out the pieces left inside. Many women had to live with broken debris from the ParaGard inside their bodies until removal through a surgical procedure. As for side effects, they could not go back to their regular routines immediately and some suffered permanent injuries.
“It Felt Like Intense Cramps”
Looking for a low-risk, low-maintenance, and effective form of birth control after having kids, Stacy, 35, a nutrition coach, chose the copper IUD. She used the IUD for a couple of years but found herself among the women for which the device moved and became uncomfortable.
“I could feel not only the strings but also the entire IUD,” she says. Getting it out, though, was another story. Her doctor tried grasping the IUD and pulling gently. Instead, the IUD broke inside her. “It felt like intense cramps,” she says. “Afterward, the doctor told me I would need to have my ParaGard IUD removed surgically.”
“The Strings Ripped Off”
After giving up on birth control pills, the ring, the contraceptive shot, and the patch, 34-year-old Wendy, a personal trainer, gave the copper IUD a try. She ended up using it for three years when she took a positive pregnancy test. Wendy says that getting the IUD in was quite painful. When she decided to have it taken out, she went to the ER, and they could still see the strings, so they attempted to remove it. “After yanking on the thing for 10 minutes, the strings ripped off and the doctors decided not to continue with the removal,” she says.
Wendy had bleeding and extreme pain, but her baby was still growing perfectly. The doctors did an ultrasound and confirmed the IUD was embedded in her cervix. “I wasn’t able to stand for long or walk because I could feel it jabbing into my cervix,” she says. At 25 weeks, the IUD ruptured her water and Wendy delivered her baby two weeks later. Her baby spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit until they could finally go home. After a successful IUD removal, the doctors could notice a deterioration of the copper covering the device and how some small parts had broken off the main coils.
“I’ve Been Struggling With Sharp Stabbing Pain”
Marlo, 32, a writer, had her first IUD, the copper kind, for nearly five years—until she and her husband decided to have kids, so she wanted it taken out.
Unfortunately, the IUD broke when it was being removed. Three hard tugs and it came out missing one arm. Scans showed the device had embedded into the lining of the uterus and migrated into the muscle layer beyond. “I’ve been struggling with sharp stabbing pain and sudden backaches,” she says. Finally, her doctor was able to remove the entire 15mm piece from her muscle layer by surgery and her abdominal pain was gone.
“It Was Excruciating, but It Was Over Quickly”
Gwen, a 43-year-old psychologist, opted for an IUD because she wanted a birth control method that she didn’t have to think about. She had two ParaGards. She had one in for 10 years and then used a second IUD for three years before deciding to have it taken out because it had migrated and the strings were missing.
She says that the first IUD hurt a lot when it was put in, but was manageable. The second insertion came with unbearable pain. Cramping afterward was misery with both. When Gwen went in for the removal, her doctor had to dig around to find the strings. “It was excruciating, but it was over quickly. That was enough for me. No more IUDs,” she says.
“It Wasn’t Quick and Painless”
Looking for a reliable, low-maintenance type of birth control without side effects, 36-year-old Linzi, a marketing manager, had her first IUD for six years before getting it removed to have her son.
She says she experienced painful and permanent injuries when her doctors attempted to retrieve the device and found that it had migrated out of position. “The doctor attempted to remove it by grasping the strings using the forceps and pulling gently,” she says. “It wasn’t quick and painless,” she explains. Despite following the instructions provided by the manufacturer, they retrieved only a portion of the device with one arm missing and she required additional procedures.
According to many women, defective design, manufacturing problems, and the manufacturer’s negligence can make the ParaGard IUD prone to fail and break during removal. This, in turn, often results in the need to undergo additional surgeries or procedures to remove fragments or have a total hysterectomy that impacts their ability to have children in the future.
Hilda Oltean is a case manager at Atraxia Law. She supports women injured by the ParaGard IUD and helps them gather and organize relevant information to evaluate whether they may be entitled to compensation through an individual claim or class action lawsuit.
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