After pregnancy, many women start exploring their birth control options. Sterilization is a common choice if you are 100% sure you don’t want more children. However, when you are not entirely certain, you would opt for a birth control method that is not permanent.
If you want practical, lasting birth control without much maintenance, long-term contraception may seem to be the solution you need. Moreover, if you’re one of the many women that have already struggled with the adverse side effects of hormonal birth control — weight gain or mood swings — you would lean towards the non-hormonal choices.
Therefore, your doctor or midwife would recommend that the Paragard IUD non-hormonal birth control be the best route. Paragard is a tiny T-shaped piece of plastic with its arms wrapped in copper and a suspended tail of threads. A doctor will insert the device into the womb to remain for up to a recommended period of 10 years.
Apparently, Paragard is an excellent option because it doesn’t require any extra work on your part: Once your doctor puts the device in, you’re covered. But if you change your plans and you’d like to have kids, it’s easy to get it removed.
If Paragard, a non-hormonal alternative with all the benefits and none of the drawbacks, sounds too good to be true, well, it might actually be. Of course, your doctor will warn you about the possibility of cramping, heavy menstrual bleeding, and other side effects communicated by the manufacturers — Cooper Surgical, who purchased Paragard from Teva Pharmaceuticals in 2017 — but that might not be all.
For example, you might not find out easily about the over 3,000 women who reported the Paragard IUD breaking in their bodies. As there is little information upfront about some of the consequences that come with Paragard, you could spend a lot of time and energy trying to determine if this is a suitable alternative for your needs.
Here is a list of the more severe Paragard side effects women have reported that can help with your decision-making process:
1. Weight Gain
After having the Paragard IUD inserted postpartum, women reported that they found themselves back up to their pregnancy weight. What’s worse, they were also unable to lose weight even when improving their diet and lifestyle. One explanation could be that the copper in the Paragard IUD irritates the uterus and works as a spermicide, which can cause inflammation in the body. Inflammation, in turn, can cause an increase in appetite and weight gain.
2. Heavy Menstrual Bleeding and Painful Cramps
It is prevalent for women to have pain and increased bleeding during the first year of Paragard IUD use, and it’s one of the top reasons women get it removed. For example, many reported that postpartum, when their period returned, they experienced an abnormally heavy flow. Many also had excruciating cramping, even to the point of nausea. Others reported menstrual bleeding so severe that they had to stand slowly after sitting for long periods for fear they would faint from losing so much blood so fast. And this issue persisted month after month when they would experience the same heavy flow and excruciating, nauseating cramps.
3. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
For some women, infection, usually known as a pelvic inflammatory disease, was associated with having heavy menstrual bleeding and painful cramps. When their body rejects the copper, the infection could mean a reaction to that copper being in their system. However, the medical community’s position remains that levels of copper from the IUD are presumably not high enough to cause toxicity.
4. Ectopic Pregnancy
Some women end up with an unexpected pregnancy while using the Paragard IUD. And when they do get pregnant while using Paragard, the risk of ectopic pregnancy is higher. Ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, and given that it cannot develop properly, it can endanger the mother’s life.
5. Perforation of the Uterine Wall or Cervix
In general, Paragard is relatively easy to insert. The procedure takes only a few minutes in a health care provider’s office. However, perforation of the uterus or cervix can occur upon Paragard insertion. The IUD can also migrate over time, eventually piercing the uterus wall or the cervix. When perforation occurs as a result of insertion, symptoms may not become noticeable right away. Women may not be aware of the complication until weeks or months later when severe pelvic pain and cramping begin. When perforation occurs due to Paragard migration, health problems may occur even years later.
6. Device Breakage
During their Paragard IUD removal, many women experienced the following situation: The device broke and embedded in the uterus or otherwise left fragments inside the body. They required surgery to have it removed. The current prescribing information provided by Cooper Surgical lists device breakage as a postmarketing adverse event, and it does warn that during removal:
- The threads can pull back into the uterus or break
- Paragard can fracture
The manufacturer doesn’t say how often breakage occurs, but as mentioned above, more than 3,000 women have reported Paragard broke during removal to date.
When the Paragard breaks, it may cause injuries that can lead to other problems such as scarring, infections, or damage to nearby organs. These complications may require invasive and expensive surgery. Paragard breakage during removal can even cost women their ability to bear a child after being forced to have a hysterectomy.
After suffering the effects of device breakage, many women sued the manufacturers that allegedly sold a product with a potential defective design to recover their medical expenses, lost wages, and damages caused by pain and suffering.
Finding the contraceptive method that works best for your family planning and lifestyle — of course, with the help of your OB-GYN — can be very rewarding, as it lets you direct your life the way you prefer.
Because every woman is different, the birth control option that works best for your friends may or may not be the most effective one for you. Taking time to make sure you’ve selected the best contraceptive for you is well worth it for your health, well-being, peace of mind, and future.
About the Author:
Hilda Oltean is the case manager at Atraxia Law. Hilda helps women injured by defective products gather relevant information to evaluate their rights for compensation and find out if they are eligible to file a Paragard claim.