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paleo and the IUD by stefani

The Birth Control Series V: The IUD

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Before jumping into the IUD, a couple of brief notes:

You may have noticed I have sort of dropped a bit off of the map in the last couple of weeks.  Nothing too drastic, just less rapid posting on less complex topics and a decreased social media presence.   But that’s all about to end, and very soon!  Thank goodness.  It’s because I’m almost done with my Big Project, and releasing it in less than three weeks!

PCOS Unlocked: The Manual is a package:

it includes a book with a capital B, a series of how-to and self-diagnosis guides, an audio, and a video, and an email consultation with me… all designed to help you not just understand PCOS in general, but to understand your own PCOS, and what precise steps to overcome it are particularly well-suited to your personal situation.  More about that and giveaways and sneak peaks throughout the next two weeks!  Huzzah.

Then I get to tackle menopause and pregnancy and calorie restriction and high intensity interval training and male libido.  All exciting topics I’ve been scheming on but unable to get around to.

Plus the birth control series is wrapping up!  Today, the copper IUD.   Remaining are sponges and diaphrams and female condoms, and the fertility awareness method.

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The IUD

IUD stands for intra-uterine device.  An IUD is a small, T-shaped bit of plastic that a trained doctor inserts into the uterus, and which can be inserted at any time a woman is not pregnant.  An IUD implant can run as high as 1000 dollars, but it can last up to 12 years.

As of 2002, says the WHO, the IUD was used by as many as 160 million women worldwide.

There are two types of IUDs, and their benefits and side effects vary widely: one is the copper IUD, and the other is a low-dose progesterone IUD.

The progesterone IUD (name brand Mirena)

The progesterone IUD is a small ‘T’-shaped piece of plastic, which contains a synthetic progesterone-variant, levonorgestrel.

The progesterone IUD is coated with a membrane that regulates the release of levonorgestrel. It releases levonorgestrel at an initial rate of 20 micrograms per day and declines to a rate of 14 micrograms after 5 years, which is still in the range of clinical effectiveness. In comparison: birth control pills can contain as many as 150 micrograms of levonorgestrel, all of which feed right into the bloodstream.

The progesterone IUD releases the levonorgestrel directly into the uterus. Most of the hormone stays inside the uterus, and only a small amount is absorbed into the rest of the body. This is unlike the NuvaRing, which is also a hormonal vaginal insert, but which deposits hormones into the bloodstream, and can therefore cause fluctuations in hormone levels all over the body.

The progesterone IUD is inserted by a medical professional in a brief procedure, after making sure the woman does not have sexually-transmitted infections.  If she does, the device can exacerbate the infection.

The progesterone IUD is perhaps the most effective of all forms of birth control, with early year failure rates of .2 percent, and later year failure rates of .7 percent.  This IUD can be used for up to 7 years.

The progesterone IUD works by inhibiting fertilization.  Cervical mucus thickens, sperm are killed, the endometrium is suppressed (since progesterone is antagonistic to endometrium growth), and ovulation is impeded.  Some women ovulate on the progesterone IUD, but many others stop ovulating while on it.  This entirely depends upon how sensitive they are to the progesterone input, and whether or not the low dose of progesterone contained in this IUD is enough to derail hormone signalling.

Because this IUD can derail hormone signalling, it also has the power to decrease menstrual flow, to decrease cramping, and even in some women to end menstruation altogether.   These are some lovely and tempting side benefits for many women.

On the other hand, the small hormonal disruption can be a nuisance to many women, too.  Side effects of the progesterone IUD include:

Irregular bleeding: This is common in the first 3-6 months of use, as the body adjusts to new hormone levels.  After 1 year, however, 20 percent of women stop menstruating, and most women resume normal, lighter menstrual periods.

Expulsion: Sometimes the IUD can slip out of the uterus.  In this case, it needs to be re-inserted.

Perforation: Sometimes the IUD can move into uterine walls, and in this case needs to be extracted via surgery.  This occurs in less than .1 percent of women.

Pregnancy: A super small risk, but nonetheless, ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage occurrences increase when pregnant on this IUD.

Infection: Infections are somewhat associated with starting the IUD, but this is largely due to co-occurrence with sexually-transmitted infections, and should not be a problem with sexually healthy women.

Ovarian cysts: Ovarian cysts have been diagnosed in about 12% of women using the progesterone IUD. Most of these follicles are asymptomatic and do not cause problems or harm, although some may be accompanied by pelvic pain. In most cases the enlarged follicles disappear spontaneously after two to three months of use, and surgical intervention is not usually required.

The copper IUD

The copper IUD is one of the only non-hormonal–and is the only long-term non-hormonal–birth control method available outside of fertility awareness.  It’s the same little T shape as the hormonal IUD, and made out of plastic, too, but with copper wires wired inside it.

The way the copper IUD works is by acting as a spermicide within the uterus.  This makes it’s failure rate quite low– varying between .1 and 2.2 percent, depending upon the brand used and the amount of copper contained in the particular IUD.  The efficacy of each copper IUD is based on how much copper is in it: the most efficient IUD has been shown to have at least  380 mm of copper wiring.

The copper IUD is effective immediately upon insertion–which means it can also be used as an emergency contraceptive–and fertility usually returns within three months of removal.   This is a much safer option for hormonal regularity and fertility than hormonal birth control methods such as the pill.

The presence of copper in the uterus increases the levels of copper ions, prostaglandins, and white blood cells within the uterine and tubal fluids.

Many women have adverse reactions to proposals to use the IUD because of a myth about the IUD: that it works by “irritating” the uterus so much that it cannot get pregnant.  This is not really true.  The copper acts as a spermicide–actively killing sperm–and this is the reason it prevents women from getting pregnant.

The increase in prostaglandins, however, can in fact lead to increased inflammation during the menstrual cycle.   The menstrual cycle already contains bouts of prostaglandin secretion– as the endometrium is shed and surrounding muscles contract– though in a woman sensitive to increased inflammation, an IUD can make cramping and blood flow worse.

It has also been shown that the copper IUD increases blood flow and cramping significantly in the initial months: in the first 3-6 months, blood flow increases on average between 25 and 50 percent.  For many women this drops off after several months, and they enjoy many peaceful years of safe sex.  For others, it does not.  Discomfort is the number one reason for removal of the copper IUD–and again, this is largely because of the copper ions and prostaglandins.

Other side effects of the copper IUD include:

Expulsion: sometimes the copper IUD can be spontaneously expelled from the uterus.   Explusion rates can range from 2.2% to 11.4% of users from the first year to the 10th year, and this varies by the brand.  Unusual vaginal discharge, cramping or pain, spotting between periods, spotting after sex, or the absence or lengthening of the strings (there to assure a woman the IUD is still in place) can be signs of a possible expulsion.

Perforation: Very rarely, the IUD can move through the wall of the uterus. In this case, surgery must be performed in order to remove it, just like with the progesterone IUD.

Infection: The insertion of a copper IUD poses a transient risk of pelvic inflammatory disease (thanks to the copper ions and prostaglandins) after being inserted, though, also like the progesterone IUD, this is usually because of sexually transmitted infections, and not the IUD itself.

Irregular Bleeding and Spotting: For the first 3 to 6 months after insertion for most women, and for a small percentage far longer, the copper IUD can cause irregular periods and spotting between periods.

String problems: A small portion of men report that they can feel the strings during intercourse. In this case, strings can be trimmed.

Pregnancy: Although rare, if pregnancy does occur with the copper IUD in place there can be serious side effects.  Risks of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage increase.   In this case, the IUD should be removed immediately.

Copper toxicity: One aspect of the copper IUD not often discussed in the medical community is copper toxicity.  If a body receives more copper in it than it can handle– and this is particularly the case if zinc is not supplemented or consumed in high quantities while using the IUD– a woman can experience crippling side effects.   Amalia, one of our community members, has written to me and kindly acquiesced to share her story with us.  My hope in sharing this with you is to a) empower you to take your health into your own hands and b) demonstrate to you the symptoms and pathology of copper toxicity, in the case that you may be experiencing something similar.

Amalia’s experience with a copper IUD

Before my health problems began around my 24th birthday, I was the that annoying person who could eat whatever I wanted and never gain weight. I never thought about dieting, was happy with my body, and simply ate when I was hungry. I was always naturally very thin (5’8″ and about 115-120lbs). I’ll also note that I was raised in a very health-conscious, vegan household, but could eat whatever I wanted (i.e. ramen, doritos, bagels, and cookie dough straight from the tube) once I left for boarding school at 13. During college and in the years after, my diet improved but wasn’t great (salads, rice, pasta, Chinese, Mexican, Japanese take out, and sweets).

All of my symptoms began rather suddenly after a period of intense emotional stress. I put on 10 pounds in just one month, which turned into 30 pounds at my heaviest. I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t fat, but I looked puffy and unhealthy. I stopped getting my period but had constant PMS symptoms (extreme bloating, cramps, skin breakouts, irritability) and my gynecologist told me that everything was normal and not to worry. After being on various birth control pills for 8 years, I had gotten a copper IUD about a year before all of these symptoms began. I had chosen the Paragard because I wanted a hormone-free birth control option. My gynecologist assured me that the IUD could not be responsible for my problems because it doesn’t contain hormones. In addition to the PMS symptoms, I was experiencing depression (for the first time in my life), anxiety, extreme fatigue, insomnia, some mild hair loss, and intense and uncontrollable sugar cravings. My eating quickly became disordered, as I binged on anything sweet and tried to hide it from the people around me. It felt like I was in a downward spiral and couldn’t get out. I went to many doctors – western, eastern, natropathic, etc. – and no one could tell me what was wrong with me. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs helped a little but weren’t getting to the root problem. I was miserable and my declining health was all I could think about. Finally, in May 2010 one year after this all started, I saw another gynecologist who told me that the copper IUD could possibly be at fault. I researched more online and stumbled upon a forum of thousands and thousands of women all around the world who were all suffering from the same symptoms as I, all with the copper IUD. I finally felt like I had found the answer and immediately got my IUD removed. Within a couple of months, my periods were back to normal and I was starting to feel a little better. However, a few months later I was still suffering from the majority of symptoms and sent a hair sample to a natropathic doctor who focuses on copper toxicity. He put me a on a diet (80% cooked veggies, 20% animal fats and proteins), gave me a slew of supplements to support adrenal fatigue, liver detox, and sluggish thyroid, and insisted on lifestyle changes to limit stress and focus on sleep. After a year, I felt better but my progress was very slow, especially since I still struggled with sugar addiction – even if my binges were gluten and “sugar” free.

In May of this year, I decided to take my health into my own hands and approach my sugar addiction in a new way. I researched ways to get off sugar, which led me to Dr. Lustig, which led me to the Paleo/Weston A Price world. I’ve been listening to all of the major paleo/real food podcasts I can find and learning so much. I’ve been playing around with my diet within this framework to find what’s right for me and, along with finally being able to do away with the sweets, I’m starting to really feel like myself again. I have much more energy, better body composition, have the energy to work out, and have been sleeping better. I started drinking bone broth, taking the Green Pastures FCL/BO, and got an Earthing sheet for my bed, all three of which I believe have been immensely helpful. I have also been focusing on the emotional aspects and seeing a therapist has been an important component of my recovery. I still struggle with overeating, gut issues, and my periods have stopped in the last few months (corresponding precisely with when I started to feel much better), but I am continuing to make progress.

I hope that my story can alert women to the possible dangers of copper overload from the copper IUD, which for me started a chain reaction of health problems. I realize that it does not affect everyone in the same way, but I want women to be aware of the side effects, many of which are not recognized by the medical community.

Amalia’s Resources

http://www.westonaprice.org/metabolic-disorders/copper-zinc-imbalance
http://www.westonaprice.org/soy-alert/soy-recovery-the-toxic-metal-component
http://www.westonaprice.org/mentalemotional-health/metals-and-the-mind
http://chriskresser.com/rhr-could-copper-zinc-imbalance-be-making-you-sick
http://www.annlouise.com/blog/2011/07/21/hidden-copper-overload/and her book, Why Am I Always So Tired? (she points out copper IUD link)
http://drlwilson.com/articles/copper_toxicity_syndrome.htm (this is the natropath I worked with. he mentions copper IUD as well)
http://www.topix.com/forum/health/birth-control/TPJ6JN7FDCJOTQN53(forum I found of women with same copper overload symptoms from copper IUD)

 

What’s your story?  History, concerns, ideas about the IUD?

 

More on the birth control series:

Part I: Birth control pills: How they work, benefits, and risks

Part II: The Drosiprenone Pill Warning

Part III: Which Birth Control Pills are Which?

Part IV: The Implant and NuvaRing

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Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.

56 Comments

  1. I have to have an ultrasound next week to find out what happened to my Mirena IUD. I just had my yearly exam and the strings have gone missing. It must still be in there since I still don’t have my period, but I’m concerned about the embedding thing that you mentioned. Regardless of where it is in the uterus, how are they going to get the darn thing out without surgery???

    • For the past 9 months I have been experiencing a loss of my sex drive…its like one day I just stopped wanting sex. My long term boyfriend and I have been brain storming…stress at school, stress at work, change in lifestyle…but really it hasn’t been THAT stressful or THAT much of a change, I mostly just agreed to the ideas and in a way convinced myself that those were the issues, until I started doing some research on the copper IUD because I am interested in changing from my Alesse birth control. I was not aware that BC could have an effect on your libido. I have stopped taking my birth control and am going to switch over to the copper IUD in 3-4 days (as long as I can get an appointment at the doctors) and I will track the changes I notice in my body and will post on this forum the differences I notice, if any. I am sure crossing my fingers and hoping this has been the issue. Now that I am aware of the health risk of the copper IUD I can decide if it is for me or not once I have been on it for a sufficient amount of time.
      Cheers!

      • thank you! please do, and good luck!

      • Hello, I am also in your situation. only instead of loss of libido I had been experiencing depression and anxiety. I was on Alesse, and once I went off I felt so much better. It’s a slow process but I’m getting there. My boyfriend has been amazing and patient with me and this whole process. I have been contemplating the copper iud but I’m a little hesitant. If you could update me on your experience with it, if its what you choose to do, that would be great! best of luck to you!

  2. Thank you for your informative articles…particularly on birth control. Did you know that most insurances will cover Mirena but NOT the copper IUD? I find it interesting that they will cover the artificial hormone route rather than a more natural alternative. I don’t know if it is a cost or risk issue…I just find it kind of suspicious.

    • When I got my copper iud inserted it was only 70$, that’s it one payment. I almost fell over when my doctor told me. And I know a friend of mine that got the Mirena and she paid for half and the other half was covered. It may depend on your health plan, if your a student or not.

    • I have a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan and out the $1000 dollars an IUD usually costs, I had to pay a total of $90.
      Of course, I know not many insurance plans are as amazing as this, and I feel for those who have to go through that :(

  3. I used the Mirena IUD after my third pregnancy. I was scared of the copper IUD increasing cramping and bleeding so, after speaking with a Nurse Midwife, I chose the Mirena. I was told the hormones were of such a small dose they would stay in and around my uterus and would not affect the rest of my body. For me, this was NOT true. First, I did bleed the entire time I had the Mirena in. The strings were cut too short and would poke my husband in his urethra or leave scratches on the head of his penis any time we were intimate. As for the hormones, I found my skin broken out like a teenager (I never had breakouts even as a teen), I had horrible mood swings with bouts of severe almost suicidal depression, anger, and was almost violent (which was completely out of character for me). I went to see the doctor to discuss having it removed and was told that it couldn’t possibly be the IUD because it didn’t have enough hormones to be causing the mood problems and the severe acne. I was made to feel like I was going crazy. My mood swings got so severe I was afraid for my marriage and for my violent feelings toward my children. I went back to the doctor and demanded the removal of the IUD. She did remove it (with many sighs and nasty comments) and within a few days I was okay. My skin was back to normal, My mood swings were gone. I was no longer suicidally depressed. My husband was happy to be able to have non-painful sex. I do know of several women who have had success with the Mirena, but I’ve also learned that I’m not the only the hormones had a nasty effect on. I’d be very careful if you decide to get one.

    • i too had terrible and immediate hormonal reactions with the mirena. I was only able to put up with it for three days. It totally turned my moods upside down. I was very depressed, irrational, angry, irritable and sad. It was horrible. I think it has screwed my hormones up, and i am still dealing with it three + years later.

      • Don’t get the copper IUD. Just fucking don’t, unless you want to become a paranoid schizophrenic. Copper toxicity is not something to play around with or debate the pros and cons of. It’s poison.

  4. I have the Mirena, and I Love It. I cannot have estrogen birth conrol pills due to gallbladder issues, and the progesterone in pills causes depression for me. The Mirena has a much lower dose, so it has a much lower (though not a zero) effect.

    One thing to remember is that for some women, the skill of the practitioner placing the IUD is important. The first time i was measured, the woman was somewhat against IUDs, and said my uterus was too small for an IUD. The second opinion i got (a few months later), it was fine and the IUD was placed.

  5. Thank you for the informative article! Since you shared a reader’s negative experience with the copper IUD, I would like to share mine with the Mirena…I made the decision to get the Mirena IUD a while back and it truly was the worst decision I have ever made. I started experiencing all sorts of odd and seemingly unrelated symptoms–Extremely rapid and excessive weight gain especially around my mid-section, depression, short-term memory loss, anger, uncontrollable crying, pain during intercourse and bleeding afterwards, sugar cravings, nausea, extreme fatigue… I felt like I was going crazy and had even started to look up signs for Alzheimer’s at age 26, because the memory loss was so acute and so unlike me. I told my husband I felt like a train going off the tracks–Like I had zero control over my emotions or body. I kept calling my doctor who kept assuring me the Mirena was not at fault for anything other than the pain and bleeding, but that it ‘would go away soon’. I told her how I couldn’t even wear jeans anymore, because they cut into my skin when sitting and it would make me cry in pain… I was told again, to ‘give it more time’. I gave it a year. Worst mistake I ever made. I should have listened to my body. I knew the moment they put it in where exactly it was positioned and hated having this alien thing inside me. When I got it removed by a different doctor I told her about all my symptoms and how that was why I was having it removed. She said she would remove the IUD, but I would need to make a follow up appointment, so she could examine me separately for the symptoms, sice those ‘could not be caused by an IUD.’ I have had it out a year and have slowly returned to myself. My short-term memory is still a little scattered, but I’ve lost the weight, am as happy as a clam with no depression, only cry when feeling sad, and have no angry outbursts. Googling and finding that other women were experiencing the same symptoms gave me the power to stand up to my doctor and demand removal. It validated what I already knew–that my body was being poisoned. I know it works for some women, but I was not so lucky. Know your body and be your own advocate–I had to learn this valuable lesson…

  6. I used the Mirena IUD for 5 years after the birth of my first child. I thought it was really great – the only problem I noticed during that time was how ironically even though I was freed up to have worry-free sex with my hubbie, I wasn’t into it because I had very little sex drive. But I’m not sure if it was because of the IUD or if it was just me. Anybody else have that experience?

  7. I have to admit I didn’t actually read this whole post – I use the sympto-thermal method of FAM, for both health and religious reasons. BUT – I just needed to say that I’m SO excited for you to post about pregnancy! My husband and I have recently decided to have a fourth baby, and this will be my first pregnancy since going Paleo. Can’t wait to read as much as I can!!

  8. I have used Mirena for the last 4 years, and really couldn’t be happier. I had been on the pill previously for years which just made my hormones WACKO.

    Now that I’m more aware of hormones/my body/paleo/etc. sure, in an ideal world, not being on any form of [hormonal] birth control would probably be the most ideal situation. That being said, the body and hormones are an intricate thing. The “stress” of not being on birth control for my fiance and I, having to use condoms, etc. would seriously affect me far more than Mirena is – if it is even affecting me at all considering I’ve had nothing but a positive experience since I switched to it.

    My periods are regular. My cramping is less than before. I still PMS [which, IMO, is a good thing, it’s signaling to me that my body is still functioning on it’s 28 day cycle], etc. No mysterious weight gain [or loss].

    I honestly only have great things to say about Mirena and my experience with it. I’ve recommended it to a number of friends who have also gotten it, and their experiences mirror mine [not saying there AREN’T people who have had bad experiences by any means, but I just happen to be in the group that have had a very positive experience – which I also think is important to note as well].

    Just my 2 cents and experience :)

  9. Around 1970, had a Dalkon Shield IUD inserted. Within a year or so I wound up seeing 9-10 gynecologists for strange abdominal pains. Turns out the IUD perforated the wall of my uterus. I had all kinds of scar tissue growing and connecting my uterus, tubes, colon, ovaries, etc. 3 surgeries later and a lot of heartache, paint, confusion, depression (as the abdomen is the center of creativity as well as the place of nurturing self, etc.) and cancer. . . I’m finally healing. FORTY YEARS LATER. I don’t recommend IUDs of any kind. My story turned out to be a life adventure in reproductive & endocrine health. Many women have horror stories about IUDs and other birth control and hormonal issues. I consider myself lucky, and grateful to be over 60 and thriving finally. In good health to all, Marcia

  10. I am booked in for the copper IUD in 2 weeks time. Over 2 years Paleo and the idea is to remove the pill in favour of a non-hormonal birth control. I saw a comment on your FB page asking what the heck this subject has to do with Paleo, following a misinformed opinion on how it actually works, clearly did not bother to read the article and has trouble dissecting fact from fear. As Stefani says, the volume of emails from women experiencing menstrual issues on a Paleo diet is staggering. Birth control is incredibly important in the paleosphere, no doubt one of the most frequently discussed topics among health conscious women looking to take control of their bodies and their emotions for a healthy sex life while minimising the chances of unplanned pregnancy.

    Thank you Amalia, for sharing your story. I think it’s important for any readers weighing up the upside and downside of the copper IUD that Amalia’s diet played a huge part in her health issues, exacerbated by a copper toxicity / imbalance. My question on the copper IUD was to find out what kind of changes the contraception may still have on my body, given its capabilities, even though it is non-hormonal. Amalia your story has brought to my attention the connection with zinc, and while researching foods high in zinc my most favourite food in the entire world was number 1 on the list… Oysters!!!! And it just so happens that I’ve recently moved to a small coastal town where oysters are cheap and plentiful. We all do the best with what we have, and platforms like the Paleo for Women website is a great place to connect like-minded individuals. Thanks Stefani, for your efforts and dedication.

  11. I have had a Paragard IUD for a year and I’m very pleased with it. I do, however, have concerns about exactly how healthy it really is to have the additional prostaglandins and inflammation long term. (I don’t want children, so fertility isn’t my concern, just ultimate long term health in general) I was hoping the article might address the most likely potential consequences of increased prostaglandin production long term, other than the obvious like increased cramping and bleeding. My cramps/period are not any worse than before the Paragard, but I’m still a bit worried. Is there any concern other than cramps about increased prostaglandin production over 12 years or longer?

    I know that FAM would be the most healthy method, but I have a strange sleep schedule and I don’t believe that taking my temperature would be reliable, so I’m hoping the next best non-hormonal method won’t have too much of adverse long effects.

  12. I’m very glad to see you include Amelia’s experience in this post. I had a very similar experience with the copper iud. My symptoms set in just a month after I had it put in. I started not being able to think clearly, some days I was barely able to make it through work. I was tired all the time and extremely emotional. Like Amelia I found similar experiences women shared online and I had the iud removed asap, which was about a year ago now. I immediately felt a little better but its been a slow recovery since then. I only recently got into Paleo and have been doing it for about a month but it seems to be helping. Now I use the temp/planning method with the help of a LadyComp (best money I ever spent on birth control!)

  13. I’ve had a copper IUD for about 18 months now and I love it. Insertion wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected it would be. I did have heavy bleeding for the first four or five months, but that has subsided. I found that low doses of Advil helped. I do have spotting and irregular bleeding, but I honestly don’t know what “regular” bleeding is… is it what occurs when you’re on a 28-day hormonal bcp pack?

    I think the post is wrong where is reads, “The copper IUD is effective immediately upon insertion–which means it can also be used as an emergency contraceptive–and fertility usually returns within three months of removal.” The copper IUD doesn’t have any effect on fertility; once it’s removed, you can get pregnant right away.

    I read about the copper toxicity issues and weighed that against artificial hormones, which ruined my sex drive. My GYN said he’d never heard of any issues, but that I could have the IUD removed very easily if I had problems.

    So far, so good. I have an incredible sex drive, the ability to have spontaneous sex with my partner (we are monogamous), and birth control that will last me another 8+ years. And, yes, my insurance covered it.

    • I’ve had a Paraguard for nearly 5 years and LOVE IT. I love that the only hormones in my body are the ones that I produce myself. I love not worrying about taking my pill every day. I love that I can pounce on my husband any day, and any place (ahem, within reason…) and not have to worry about a condom, or anything else like that. The sense of freedom that I have is amazing.
      My insurance completely covered my IUD and I can’t be happier with it. We’re thinking about having a kid in the next year or so, and I’ll get my IUD out then…and have another one put in the second that my Dr green lights it. I’m so sorry that anyone has negative side effects with any type of birth control, but my experiences with my IUD have been the best of all forms of birth control that I’ve ever tried.

    • My experience with the Paragard has been very pleasant, too! I have had it for 8 months. The insertion KILLED, but I was a virgin at the time, so pretty sure that would have a lot to do with it.
      It has made my period a lot heavier, and I was starting to get pretty bad cramps, but after I cut out gluten, grains, excessive sugar, and starches from my diet (for other reasons), my cramps have almost disappeared!
      I’m just worried about the copper overload and low zinc levels… though I haven’t felt too much of the symptoms listed above except for extreme bloating.

  14. I have had BOTH a Paragard and now have a Mirena. I got my Paragard right after the birth of my child, and mostly I loved it. I loved not having to think about it, remember it. I liked that it was hormone free since I was breastfeeding, and that my body still cycled. What I did NOT like was that I bled really really heavily. So much that after 7 years my Dr. said I was anemic and had to stop bleeding. I got it taken out, went on 9 months of the pill (bad) and just had a Mirena put in a month ago. So far Mirena is treating me well. Still cycle, still bleed but not a lot.

  15. Hi there

    Thanks for the informative article. I just thought I’d share my experience in case other women are interested.

    I had a copper IUD (no hormones) from the age of 22 to the age of 26. I had to fight to get one because the medical community (in the UK at least) are very reluctant to give them to young women who have not yet had children, but the family planning clinic finally agreed to let me have one when I explained that I was in a stable relationship and didn’t want children for the next 5 years or so.

    I don’t completely regret the experience, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either.

    On the positive side, it was great to have no worries about contraception and to feel clear headed and “like myself” again once I no longer took the contraceptive pill. It was also great for our relationship in terms of romance and “spontaneity”.

    On the negative side, I occasionally had random, intense cramping pains at any time of the month, sometimes so bad that I would be bed ridden for a few hours. My menses became 8 days long (from my usual 4 days) and were almost unbearable in terms of pain and heaviness (I couldn’t go more than a 2 hours without a bathroom break, plus having to get up in the middle of the night at least once).

    I did some research though and read that taking vitamin E and omega 3s could help reduce pain and heavy flow, I started taking these and did notice an improvement. I actually had several months of feeling almost normal and not needing painkillers.

    I removed it in the end though after a few incidents. Despite careful planning, I still had too many annoying “accidents” which ruined clothes, sheets etc. Travelling (road trips, flights etc.) during TOM became a nightmare due to having a find a bathroom every 1-2 hours. I also became slightly anemic.

    Since then I’ve used a combination of natural family planning and the femcap (a sillicone cervical cap) with natural spermicide (I order the natural spermicide from Germany, I think it’s called Contragel and contains lactic acid as the active ingredient). This has worked for the last several years. There is more planning involved but I think it is worth it to be free from painful, unpleasant side affects or mess with hormones.

  16. Pingback: Link Love (20/10/2012) « Becky's Kaleidoscope

  17. Hey there! This may be a silly question, but does anyone have an IUD (either kind) and use a Diva Cup? Having never had an IUD, I have no idea how long the strings are and if you’d need to be careful not to pin them against the wall of your uterus when you insert the cup. I’m considering getting an IUD and I LOVE my Diva Cup, so any insight is much appreciated. And thanks for such an informative series of articles!

    • My best guess Shannon is that it’s okay to pin the strings… I don’t know if you could deliberately do this, but I can also conceive of how you might get the strings inside the cup so it’s not a concern at all.

    • I use a cup and have had no problems with it. :)

    • no problems.

    • Just wanted to reiterate. I used a diva cup for a couple years and then decided to get the Paragaurd. Have never had any issues with using them together, but my OBGYN cut the strings a little shorter than normal just in case.

    • I have a cooper IUD and use a keeper (the predecessor of the Diva Cup). The string was cut long on my IUD to be more comfortable for my partner and I have had no problems. It’s been 5 years that I have been using them together. I heard a lot of horror stories of people losing their IUD upon removing a keeper or a tampon, but in an instance like that, it was probably likely the IUD was already coming out.

  18. I feel incredibly lucky to have come across this article last week. I’ve had a weird assortment of symptoms that I thought were all unrelated and circumstantial that I now think may be copper toxicity from my IUD (which I got in the middle of last December). I went to a doctor (recently became a student again – my regular physician isn’t covered) after I first read this post and was told that there is no way the IUD could be responsible for my symptoms (irritability, acne, sugar cravings, extreme fatigue, memory issues, depression, and sometimes insomnia). In fact, the doctor said many of my symptoms could be caused by depression. My response was “you can’t just pick one of my symptoms and say that’s the cause.” My concern is that the IUD is the only “easy” non-hormonal birth control outside of condoms (which are not sustainable long term and I don’t want to rely on for the rest of my life). I don’t want to have to use a diaphragm or cervical cap, so I want to try to find a way to keep it. Does anyone know of someone who has been able to reverse their symptoms or control copper toxicity using supplementation or some other means? I would really like to keep it if I can!

  19. I don’t want to discount the bad experiences women have had with copper IUDs, but since this thread has a higher ratio of bad-to-good IUD personal stories, I’d like to point out that in the United States, IUDs have higher satisfaction and retention rates than other birth control methods (something like 80%).

    I understand that the side effects of IUDs can be very serious, but there are disproportionally numerous alarmist IUD stories both online and from old-fashioned OBGYNs considering how popular IUDs are in the studies. Are women with IUDs just not talking about it or something?

    A good friend of mine who’s my age (30) and has never been preggerz was the first woman I’d met who had nothing but good things to say about her copper IUD, the only other thing she mentioned about it was increased menstrual flow, especially the first few months after you first get it inserted. Then I found out that my other friend, who is 30 with two kids, has and loves her hormonal IUD, no downsides at all, loving basically not having periods anymore.

    So, to address a couple complaints I see here. Regarding copper imbalances, Amelia mentions that she was both vegan and stressed. In the Chris Kresser podcast she links to, he mentions that the primary dietary source of calcium not balanced by zinc is vegetarian proteins, like in grains and legumes. He also mentions that stress depletes your zinc levels over time. Perhaps, if you have a high-stress career and/or are vegan or vegetarian, a copper IUD is not for you.

    Regarding older IUDs, a pre-1970s model of IUD was pulled off the market because it was linked to infections, deaths, and “septic pregnancies” (that sounds horrible). Modern IUDs are much, much safer. Risk of infection — and uterine perforation — is highest during insertion, so you want to go to an experienced doctor. Most doctors will give you a one-time antibiotic to take after the insertion to minimize the risk of infections.

    Regarding the other risks: Things that are more statistically likely to happen to you than uterine perforation with an IUD include death by car crash, fall, MSRA, suicide, or accidental poisoning. As far as ectopic pregnancies, risk of any pregnancy with an IUD is less than 1%; of those, only 3-4% are ectopic. So that’s like a 0.04% chance of ectopic pregnancy on the high end.

    Other reasons an IUD might not work for you: Another friend tried to get an IUD but couldn’t because the position of her uterus made it too difficult to insert, and her doctor was a bit concerned about how that would play out with the walls of her uterus being weakened from several c-sections. So if you have a tilted uterus and have had several c-sections, maybe an IUD is not for you.

    My original OBGYN refused to do the procedure for me because I don’t have kids and she has the opinion that it can cause infertility. Studies show that infertility happens with women who have IUDs AND chlamydia (it causes scarring of the fallopian tubes), but not just IUDs on their own. Plus, most doctors require a negative STD test before inserting an IUD. So if you’re not in a monogamous relationship and don’t use condoms, maybe an IUD is not for you.

    I ultimately ended up switching OBGYNs, between my old doctor refusing to do it, and also realizing that she was trying to make me scared of a perfectly safe procedure. She had this story about women fainting from thinking about the pain of the insertion. It’s not fainting from pain, it’s a vasovagal reaction, the same thing that happens to some people when they stand up too fast. Also, I would categorize the pain from her sounding my uterus to be less severe than my typically painful period cramps. Plus, it goes away immediately when the doctor is out of there, unlike period cramps.

    The woman I’m seeing now inserts IUDs for many younger and childless women. In her opinion, it’s as effective as tubal ligation, with the benefit of being reversible. The most common problem she has seen in women like me is expulsion, so she prefers to insert the IUD the week after your period ends, to decrease the chances of the IUD getting expelled during your next period.

    I’m hoping to finally get my copper IUD this month, after spending 6 months fighting with my doctor and insurance company to get coverage. Hopefully I’ll be happy with it too. With the various risks involved, I’m definitely going to be using a paleo approach to get as healthy as possible, both for my own well being and to minimize discomfort and side effects.

    In conclusion, that is everything I have learned in the last six months about the actual risks of getting an IUD.

    • i have had my Paraguard for 6-7 years and only now am realizing that i am having side effects from the excess copper. i put up with the heavy bleeding and intense cramps because it was better than hormones or being preg. but. i have developed melasma on my face in the last 4 years (patch on my forhead, ‘goggle tan’ area, upper lip, and other random patches. all over basically. also i have been fatigued- feeling like i need 9-10 hrs of sleep a night, for the last 2-3 years and now realizing this is the cause.
      i do consider myself lucky these are the ONLY negative side effects i am having(that i know about). but its good for everyone to know the risks and deliberate if they are worth it.
      i have considered the mirena. i have friends who are really happy, but i have also heard horror stories.
      when trying anything new, always keep an eye on your mental state, energy levels, and really, any other changes to your normal state.
      i think i will ride out the rest of my time with paraguard, but do a copper detox for that time

    • So with a copper IUD do you suggest taking Zinc and vitamin E to help with heavy menstural flow and cramping and general health?
      I’m thinking of getting a copper IUD but really don’t want bad side effects like having to change a super tampon every two hours!!!

      • Yes! And, worse comes to worse, you can always take it out

    • Update: I’ve had my Paragaurd for a little over a year and so far am super happy with it.

      It took a ridiculously long time for my libido to start coming back, but it eventually did (!!!!!). My cramps are actually much less severe than when I first went on the pill when I was nineteen. I now get about 10 minutes of acute cramping per menstrual cycle (sometimes none!), but that’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be. I’m sure my flow has increased, but I hadn’t had a natural period for over 10 years, so I’m not sure what it used to be like before. I have about a day and a half of having to empty my Lunette menstrual cup every 3-4 hours or so and the rest of the time I can empty it once or twice a day. My periods last six days on average now. Overnight and when I do martial arts class, I combine the cup with a cloth pad (Party In My Pants pads are great!) and haven’t had any problems.

      I thought I felt the tip of the IUD poking out and went to see my gynecologist, but she said that while the strings were longer, but the end of the device wasn’t showing, so it had probably just settled lower in the uterus. It’s been pretty much the same ever since, even with menstrual cup use and all that.

      Also, the insertion was LESS painful than my previous gynecologist sounding my uterus to check its size. So for anyone worried about the pain of insertion… just get yourself a good doctor. Preferably one who routinely inserts IUDs for women who haven’t had kids.

      It’s too early for signs of copper toxicity, but overall I feel like ditching hormonal birth control for the copper IUD has profoundly affected my mental well-being in a positive way.

    • Thank you for the thorough comment! I have been reading all of these negatives and freaking myself out about making a decision to go with the copper IUD and this made me feel quite a bit better about the decision. There are risks involved in anything you choose to do. My original OBGYN said the same about not wanting to provide to someone who hasn’t had children, so hoping to find a provider that will. I do not want any hormones, but like the idea of not having to worry about something that will affect my body even more!

  20. Actually the copper iud prevents implantation of the fertilized egg. And does not act as a spermicide. Please check your facts!

  21. Hi all, I wanted to share my story with paragard IUD because I feel that if some women have it put in that have prior mental health issues, they will be in imminent danger if they experience copper toxicity. I had my paragard placed after plenty of research and 4 different types of pills all of which made my emotions either crazy one way or the other making me completely numb. I am the type of person that strives on my feelings and if my feelings and emotions start getting out of whack, I worry. I have never had mental health problem(naturally) until I started messing with hormonal birth control which is why I chose the paragard and although I had read negative experiences I ne’er stand that everyone is different. I personally could handle the heavier periods although I was annoyed with them and I had to take ibuprofen constantly for the cramps the first few days…that was not my concern. I start becoming obsessive compulsive, paranoid and seriously felt like I was a basket case. I was Just down right hateful and angry for no reason just felt like hurting something or screaming or whatever I could to get it out. I didn’t because I know better but it was an unbearable feeling of hatred and resentment. So I started researching knowing the only thing that has ever made me down right mean was a birth control pill. I found that copper can exist naturally higher in some people and that of it gets higher than that and zinc starts declining you can experience mental health issues. I am also experiencing depression, irritability, constant racing thoughts, dread, jut anything negative and I am usually a very positive person so I am disgusted with myself. I explained it to my fiancé that I knew I was supposed to feel sorry for being mean to him so I said I was sorry but I couldn’t FEEL it!! It annoys me. I still have the paragard, I was supposed to get it removed yesterday but when I went to leave, my car wouldn’t start(you should have seen the rage that put me in) I feel bipolar and schizophrenic and just not “me” I will have it removed on Monday and I will never put anything else in my body to prevent Mother Nature from doing whatshe needs to do. My fiance is having a vasectomy(he has a son and i a daughter so we are done, we dont want any more, they are both almost 10)….I just want to forewarn women who have issues with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia or any mental health concerns to be very careful as I NEVER had problems prior and I currently feel full blown insane. I also have intense cravings for sweets and alcohol and the cramps suck but the mental part is absolutely unbearable… I may have been a little obsessive compulsive but nothing that got it the way of my life…this thing has to go immediately. My poor fiancé probably doesn’t want to come home from work and I really can’t blame him!! I am convinced I have a copper toxicicity and from reading these articles I can expect a slow recovery but at least the first step will be made. I appreciate people sharing so I k ow what to expect. Thanks to all and please be careful, the thoughts I have experienced are so negative I can only imagine what it would do to someone who already suffered from mental health issues.

  22. Since getting the copper iud mg skin has broke our in a bumpy acne like rash. I am not sure if it is hormonal from going off the pill or from copper toxticity. I am very active and very busy. I have a low stress job but am always on the go. Is there anyway to naturally reduce the copper(zinc supplement, diet) as the other parts of my iud have been fine.

    • I highly recommend the zinc supplement, and perhaps a liver detox supplement like milk thistle to keep your detox running as smoothly as possible

  23. Hi there! I’m thrilled to have stumbled across this piece as I suspect I may be experiencing symptoms of copper toxicity.
    I’ve had a Paraguard IUD for over 2 years now and though I am overall very happy with it, I have had intense cramping with every period since insertion, and VERY heavy bleeding. I tend to struggle with keeping up my iron levels and a few years ago had a ferritin level of 8, which is, as I understand, very low. I’m a vegetarian, as well, but I haven’t experienced a difference in veg vs. non-veg iron levels – I was lower on iron, actually, before giving up animals! All that is just to say that my symptoms may be related to my iron dipping low again with these intense periods. My symptoms revolve around a big brain fog and forgetfulness which is very unusual for me. I’m generally a sharp, sarcastic quick-thinker! I’ve always been very active, but I notice myself getting tired more quickly and having less energy for running, yoga and other strength training I like to do. My fatigue doesn’t seem to go away when I get more sleep, either. I’m otherwise a very healthy 24-year-old, so I hardly think these are signs of aging! Could these symptoms be associated with copper toxicity? If so, how can I nurture myself without removing the IUD since it really is my best option at this point in my life?

  24. Thank you for sharing! I’ve been very happy with my copper IUD for a year. I’ve had much heavier bleeding and that hasn’t been bad. I’ve suffered with vulval cysts for years and the past few months, they have become constant and unbearable. Without hormonal birth control, I have my sex drive back, but can’t do anything about it now! I think it may be this bad because of the IUD but I can’t find any information about it. All other sources I’ve found only talk about how it does not have hormones so you should not get other side effects except for maybe heavier bleeding. Though I still haven’t found anyone else who has experienced what I’m going through, this reassures me that it is possibly the cause and I’m considering having it removed.

  25. I want to testify to everyone on how my husband and i got children after our 5years of marriage. we got married and we could not conceive a child we have been to several hospitals for checking and the doctors always say that we are okay that nothing is wrong with us, we have been hoping for a child, my husband was beginning to keep late night outside and pressure from the family for him to marry another wife and divorce me, i was always crying and weeping because i was loosing my marriage. so i visited my friend in Florida and she told me that she also have been through this same situation but she got her help of getting her own child from a great priest of fertility from Africa, so she told me that she will contact me to the priest and he will do some fertility spell for me to have my own child, i spent 4days with her in Florida and we both email the priest and he said i should bring all my information to him and he said in 2days after the spell will be completed. so i waited and i went back made love with my husband and i conceive. so i am very greatful to the priest for his help and miracle that help me save my marriage. please for same help, conatct him on fertilitytemple@yahoo.com

  26. My name is Jessica Ruiz from Florida I have to give this miraculous testimony, which is so unbelievable until now. I had a problem with my Ex husband 2years ago, which lead to our break up. when he broke up with me, I was not my self again, i felt so empty inside me, my love and financial situation became worst, until a close friend of mine Lucy told me about a spell caster who helped her in the same problem too his name is Dr Shiva. I email Dr Shiva the spell caster and i told him my problem and i did what he asked of me, to cut the long story short. Before i knew what was happening my husband gave me a call and told me that he was coming back to me in just 2days and was so happy to have him back to me. We have two kids together and we are happy with ourselves. Thanks to Dr Shiva for saving my relationship and for also saving others own too. continue your good work, If you are interested to contact him and testify this blessings like me, the great spell caster email address is:hinduspelltemple@yahoo .com you are the best among all the spell caster online I hope you see my testimonies and also pray for my family too.

  27. Pingback: Our Decision not to Contracept pt 1. (Toxicity) | Just Fran

  28. Hello there.

    I just wanted to tell you that I had a horrific experience with the Paragard… so much so, that it’s almost 2 years later, and I probably still have 1 year of recovery to go. Don’t lose hope, though!

    I ended up writing about it, in hopes of raising awareness so that women can band together.

    Surviving the IUD: The Genesis https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/surviving-the-iud/id867511203?mt=11

    #SurvivingTheIUD

  29. Thanks for this informative article. I had copper iud inserted after my first baby in 2012. Although doctors deny this, my body is reacting to the excess copper. I have inflated liver in ultrasound. I developed lymph nodes in breast, which is gone now. The doctors said it was because of my wire bra. Anyways, I feel that it is the excess copper in my body which has caused the liver inflammation I have irregular periods now. I have extremely low iron and high thyroid. These things never happened before. I am going to take this thing out of my body a.s.a.p.

  30. I had my Mirena inserted 15 months ago. I stopped bleeding around the 6th month with it and that was a very welcome change. A bit later I went Paleo, and 3 months ago I started having acne on my forehead and chin, and I have never had any acne before, if you don’t count some breakouts the first time I had to stop Nuvaring a year before inserting Mirena.

    Now I am trying to find a reason for this persistent acne that, as far as my research goes, appears to be hormonal. I noticed that it also concurs with me avoiding all phytoestrogens, and now I’m thinking if reintroducing flax seeds can help.

    I am very frustrated about it because I always had clear nice skin, and now that paleo helped me clear psoriasis and cured my joint pains, I have this new acne problem to deal with…

  31. I had the copper coil for about half a year. I put up with the heavy bleeding and cramping, small price to pay for good contraception, right? But, there was more; pain during sex, constant UTI’s/cystitis, and of course, copper toxicity. I had a completely agonising experience during sex with crippling stabbing pains. I had to stop immediatel, and lay in bed for around 3 hours in a fetal position until the pain subsided. I had the coil taken out after that, but sex remained painful, cystitis still is more common, the horrible agonising pain is returning and i am constantly fatigued and sleepy despite having an active lifestyle and healthy diet. I suspect copper toxicity and ovarian cysts, with possibly endometriosis.

    All in all, copper IUD has had crippling side effects for me and a myriad of other women (a quick google search comes up with plenty of similar and even worse stories to mine) and whilst suits some women fine was just far too painful for me and the pain has not subsided a year later, in fact has acted up again. I am going to the doctor tomorrow.

  32. I am so grateful to Rick Simpson, i was diagnose with breast cancer 3 years ago, and ever since i have done a lot of Chemo and Radiation that never helped me, but damaged my immune system and render it weak and helpless. But RICK SIMPSON OIL bounced me back to life.For all cancer patients that lives in the Europe, America and Canada region, get your Hemp oil from:ricksimpsoncancercure102@gmail.com

  33. I want to share my story as I now think women should avoid the Copper IUD at all costs. I got the IUD put in about two months ago. After about two weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling extremely out of it, racing thoughts, heart racing, panicked… this continued to occur for a couple of weeks. I constantly felt out of it and detached, was experiencing insomnia, fatigue, memory loss, brain fog, depression, anxiety, tingling in my back (and sometimes my whole body), random aches and pains. I started doing research and found many girls who had had similar symptoms. I got the IUD taken out about a month ago now. My symptoms have been gradually improving (although it is slow going). I have been following lots of detox procedures which have been helping. If anyone needs help with detoxing or has other ideas on how to speed up the detox process please get in touch with me! Jessica.lukawiecki@gmail.com
    This was my experience, and I am sure it will be different for most women. But I do not think it is worth the risk and I would absolutely avoid this method of birth control if I were you!

  34. Hello All

    Just got my copper it’d removed Tuesday, November 18th. The outgoing was just as smooth as the ongoing: quick and uncomplicated. Over the past 2.5 years of having it, I have experience a continuous downward spin on my health. Generally, a healthy peri menopausal mother with no dramatic circumstances. We conceived and had a healthy baby girl at 45, and decided to go with the copper iud to not interfere with breast feeding. Initially, it seemed to have work fine. I think I was so excited about having a more effective BC that I didn’t notice all the subtle changes taking place: irritability, insomnia, back ache, upper right abdomen pain, return of migraines(had these up thru 20’s, but not much after 30), hair loss, and decline of libido. Again, I first attributed a lot of the symptoms to being peri-menopausal. I used a little bit of Maca powder (Whole World Botanicals) to alleviate the menopausal items, specifically hot flashes. But I couldn’t link the other symptoms, so begin looking elsewhere in terms of what other changes had I made. ::getting the copper IUD.

    After the persistent and often intense upper right quadrant abdomen, back, and right side of body pains, I had an ultrasound. Ultrasound revealed, although no visible gallstones, I am now having gallbladder symptoms; have a dilated common bile duct and a cyst on my liver. WHAT?…… Without delay, I had the IUD removed.

    After five days, the Pain is still insistent. Scheduled for an MRCP next week. Discuss copper toxicity with Dr, but she doesn’t want to link the widely reported symptoms to copper toxicity. Uuuuummmm..

    Let’s see what the MRCP reveals and go from there. It is a different experience for each person. Unfortunately, it seems the copper IUD won’t work for me; however, for those whom it works, it’s a great BC option. At 48, no more children;we are very happy with the three we have.

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