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.

 

 

Dr. Houston Anderson is a licensed Chiropractic Physician with a master's degree in Nutrition and Human Performance. He provides cutting-edge clinical insights to patients from across the world dealing with difficult health conditions.

10 comments

  • jen

    Ok but the LOW FODMAP Diet does not mean you can’t eat fruit. There’s certain fruits you can and cannot eat. If you’re going to write an article, research the facts.

  • Jen, your comment is a little harsh, but I assume you were only trying to help others, otherwise I would delete it. I believe the article made it clear by using the words “pretty much”. The article is not about Low FODMAP diets and thus I chose not to elaborate, but rather give a general statement on what one might avoid more of on a diet.

  • Muste

    I am 51 yrs, and want my UID removed. But what can I use instead? I still bleed one or two times a year, so I think there is still a possibilty to get pregnant.

  • I would speak with your doctor regarding your fertility. Bleeding 1 to 2 times a year doesn’t really give you a good indication while you are on on IUD. Unfortunately some people still bleed monthly and some not at all while on the IUD, so there is more to be investigated. Most other traditional forms of birth control appear to have less complications. But each case is individual and should be worked out with your physician.

  • Huda

    I am 22 years old with a year old child and I have had a copper IUD placed a year ago. today I felt pains similar to contractions and when I move they get worse?! I am not sure if they could just be period cramps because I would have to sit and wait for the pain to go away.

  • Huda, sorry we didn’t get to you earlier. As the article states, I am not a fan of copper or any other IUD. Menstrual cramps are very common so it would be difficult to define the exact cause of the cramping. Try to correlate when the cramping started with the IUD placement. If they do not coincide then you would need a doctor to examine you. Thanks!

  • Susan

    Huda,
    I had a Paragard for three years, up until a year ago. Within a week of having it put it I started having intermittent but severe contraction/labor type of pains mid-cycle and during my cycle. The pain would stop me in my tracks and I would have to sit and wait it out. These pains became more severe and more frequent over the three years. My doctor didn’t seem to think it was related to the IUD, as it was in the proper place. Honestly, I waited far too long to have it removed, but when I did the pains never came back. I had the Paragard removed about a year ago and just last month I decided to go ahead and try a Liletta (like a Mirena). I am 40 and done having kids and was getting nervous about having a “surprise”. Ever since last month I have been having lower back and hip pain. I am regretting my decision already.

  • Susan, thank you for sharing your story! We hope that others can read it and at a minimum understand the risks associated. As IUDs are now the most common form of birth control, this information needs to be available to all. Thanks again!

  • Julie Gascho

    I have a Mirena IUD, I’m currently training for a marathon and had some hip pain come on vey suddenly. I thought it was yesterday training but I’m beginning to think it’s the IUD as it has also caused several infections in my body as well.

  • Julie, that is a unique observation. Obviously the hip pain could be from a lot of things as it is pretty common for runners to have hip pain. The hard part with IUDs is that sometimes the problem is immediate and other times it takes 6 months for symptoms to appear. I still recommend against them in general for contraception.

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