IUD Discomfort & Complications

Scottsdale Functional Medicine

IUD Discomfort & Complications

I recently had a female patient with a 4 year history of severe abdominal pain, shoulder pain and hip pain.  Over the last few years she was able to see multiple practitioners with varied success, but the abdominal pain always returned.  In order to get any relief she was eating a Paleo diet with multiple FODMAPs restrictions.  If you don’t know what FODMAPs are, it means she pretty much couldn’t eat fruit either.

Her diet was very limited to simple things like rice and chicken without fruit and even many vegetables were out of the question.  In the first 30 minutes of the first visit I identified one problem that no other physician had addressed.  This is not to say I was smarter, I just identified something that nobody else had told her.

Due to her extremely poor reaction to traditional “pill” form birth control she had switched to an IUD about 4 years prior.  She noted that all her symptoms did begin around the time that it was inserted, but was pretty determined to keep it due to her poor response to other forms of birth control.

To be honest, after 2 visits with me she had to relocate and would no longer be able to see me, so she decided to get an ultrasound on her gallbladder.  The doctors prescribed her linzess to improve her bowel motility and told her she needed to have her gallbladder removed due to it being inflamed and having gallstones.  Being a very wise patient, she decided that rather than just cut out the gallbladder (one of the most important organs in the body) she would get her IUD removed as a final resort.

She later emailed me and in her own words reported, “the following day I was pain free (which hasn’t happened in at least a year).”

Not If, but When

For now I won’t discuss the dangers of IUDs such as puncturing the uterus, but I want to focus more on lesser known symptoms that may not seem related.

With IUDs there are 2 major types of problems that can occur.  The first is that the IUD causes mechanical (aka tissue) changes in the pelvic floor and surrounding musculature.  The second is that whether copper or hormonal, all IUDs create chemical imbalances in the body.  You will likely have symptoms of one or the other and some people get lucky enough to experience them all.

The question isn’t usually if you will have a problem with your IUD, but when will it happen and even more intriguing, what random symptom will you experience that appears unrelated.

Mechanical Tissue Irritation

If you watch any animated video on the insertion of an IUD, it makes it look as if it is inserted and it magically floats in space in the middle of the uterus.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The IUD is settles in place by running in to the walls of the uterus.  (This is why it can puncture or the uterus.)

Anatomy: A dense fascial tissue called the paracervical connective tissue lines the outside of the cervix and connects to visceral fascial ligaments.  These fascial connections connect the cervix to the pelvis, ishcial spine, coccygeus, sacrum and piriformis ligaments.  This fascia goes on to connect to the levator ani muscle group.  The levator ani is responsible for relaxation during urination and defecation, a critical component in your digestion.

While the anatomy may not matter to most women, what this all means is that there is a foreign object that is altering the natural movement of the cervix throughout the day and changing how your bowels normally move and function.

In addition, you can see that the fascia that attaches to the cervix and uterus also attaches to the piriformis, who’s primary role is to stabilize the pelvis.  This mechanical irritation alone is enough to cause low back pain and abnormal biomechanics.

Chemical Irritation

The second often overlooked problem that creates IUD discomfort and problems are the synthetic hormones or copper that is used.  Commonly with IUDs I hear that they only contain “a little” hormone or a “very small amount” of copper.  While this may be true relative to other methods, their strength is obviously significant enough to eliminate menstruation completely (in some women) and prevent pregnancy in all women.

Copper Toxicity

From my clinical experience one thing I can say for sure is that copper toxicity creates powerful changes in the body, most specifically related to mood.  When I find patients that are truly copper toxic, it is not unusual for them to be almost hallucinogenic with ideations and irrational thoughts or fears.  On a lesser level if you only add “a little” copper, these changes are often excess emotions, brain fog, fatigue, headaches, anxiety and depression.

Elevated copper is also commonly found in women with excess estrogen.  It appears that as one increases the other proportionally can increase also.  Vitamin C is a direct antagonist to copper and can often be helpful in resolving symptoms after an IUD is removed.

Progesterone Problems

Some IUDs provide a constant supply of progesterone each day.  Adding hormones to the body is never a safe bet.  (see my previous 3 articles) As you artificially elevate your progesterone, this allows estrogen to increase also.  As estrogen increases you may begin to develop symptoms of estrogen dominance.  (see my estrogen dominance articles) While it may be common to suffer from PMS, cramping, bloating, etc. it surely isn’t normal if you are trying to optimize your health.

Being that I treat many athletes, if a female athlete comes in with an IUD and has lower back, hip pain or knee pain, one of the very first steps getting her better is getting the IUD removed.  The reason for this is that IUDs that create hormonal imbalances can affect muscle function.  This correlation has been documented by many physicians that practice professional Applied Kinesiology.  Hormonal imbalances often lead to dysfunction of the posterior chain, namely the glutes and can create everything from low back pain to knee pain.

Conclusion

If you are thinking about getting your IUD removed (and you should) but you aren’t sure if it is important or not, please head on over to my colleague Dr. Stephen Gangemi’s  website and read the HUNDREDS of comments on IUDs from other women.  (scroll to the bottom and click show more comments) IUDs can be an underlying root cause to nearly any and all symptoms related to your health.