Pregnancy

A copper IUD on a white background. Here are 8 signs that your IUD has moved

Yes, You Can Get Pregnant With An IUD, Experts Say. Here Are Some Signs

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It's rare, but it does happen

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As far as birth control goes, the intrauterine device (IUD) is fairly foolproof. Unlike other BC, it’s not something you have to think about, (like popping a birth control pill daily), and it’s highly unlikely that you can get pregnant if you have an IUD… but not entirely impossible, either. That’s why you need to know the signs you’re pregnant with an IUD — because it could be really dangerous if you are.

Here’s the good news: an IUD is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, Planned Parenthood reported. So if you think about it, more than 99% would mean 100%, right? Not necessarily. It’s in that .1% grey area where you could still potentially conceive, and if you have your IUD in, that’s probably not what you were planning. The problem with getting pregnant when you have an IUD inserted is that it can do damage to both you and your unborn baby, OB/GYN Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, tells Romper in an email. “You have a higher risk of miscarriage and preterm birth if it stays there throughout the pregnancy,” she says.

If you have had unprotected sex (meaning you didn’t use a barrier like a condom) even though you had your IUD in, there’s an ever-so-slight chance you might get pregnant. Here are your body’s ways of telling you if you’re preggo with an IUD.

You Feel Nauseous

Feeling pukey isn’t just for people who don’t have an IUD, Dr. Huma Farid, MD, an OB/GYN at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA tells Romper. In fact, you can expect to experience the same symptoms as any other woman. "Women may experience signs of pregnancy, such as breast tenderness, morning sickness, fatigue," explains Dr. Farid. And while your nausea could be attributed to that big breakfast burrito you just ate, if you keep having consistent nausea (especially in the morning), you might want to contact your doctor.

You Missed Your Period

If you have an IUD, then you know some of its less than thrilling side effects, the biggest one of which is bleeding. And if your IUD is copper, it can cause heavy bleeding, as was found in the study, “Side effects from the copper IUD: do they decrease over time?” But while your period might get heavier (or you may spot in between), a missed period is often a marker of pregnancy, the Cleveland Clinic reported, whether you have an IUD or not.

You Can't Feel The IUD Strings

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Your IUD is shaped like the letter T, with thin strings at the bottom that are used to ensure that it can be removed easily when you decide you do want to get pregnant. But it can also act as a guide to show you that it’s in its proper place. Now, if you can’t feel the strings, that doesn’t mean that your IUD has moved; it could be that they’ve curled up, Self explained. But in cases whereyour IUD has undergone expulsion or perforation, you might not be protected against pregnancy, especially if you’ve had sex. If you’re unsure if your IUD is still in place, you can schedule a sonogram with your ob/gyn, who can confirm its location — and if you might be pregnant.

You Have Pain Even Though The IUD Is In

One sign of pregnancy that absolutely shouldn't be ignored is pain, especially in your abdomen. "If you are having abdominal or pelvic pain that does not go away with over the counter pain medications, or you are having heavy vaginal bleeding, you need to be evaluated immediately," explains Dr. Farid. Unfortunately, pain can be a sign of something more worrisome. “Women who do get pregnant while using an IUD have an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy, which is very risky for a woman's health."

Here’s how it happens. During an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg doesn’t grow in the uterus (where it’s supposed to), but rather in the fallopian tube, although it can occur in the ovary, or even the cervix, the Mayo Clinic reported. It can lead to pelvic or abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, and pregnancy loss. And if you experience sudden severe pain in your abdomen, shoulder, or lower back, or feel cramping on one side of your pelvis, or even faint, you should go to the emergency room, ACOG reported.

You Feel Pregnancy Fatigue

Can’t get out of bed lately? Even with an IUD, you might be pregnant, Dr. Langdon explains. “Fatigue is a big sign that you might be expecting,” she says. If you’ve been pregnant before, you might recognize that all-consuming tiredness you feel early on when you’re expecting. Fatigue affects up to 60% of all pregnant women, What To Expect reported. So if all you want to do is sink into your bed and sleep all day, you might want to take a pregnancy test… just in case.

You Have A Positive Pregnancy Test

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When you’re happy with your IUD, it might be hard to even imagine that you could be pregnant. So if you’re experiencing symptoms, why not take a test to assuage your fears? “If you’re having spotting, bleeding, breast tenderness, or fatigue, you could very well be pregnant, even with an IUD,” says Dr. Langdon. If it is positive, call your OB/GYN right away to figure out the next steps to ensure your health and safety. “It’s usually removed but sometimes it’s left inside. The complication rate is higher if it is left in the uterus compared to early removal but removal can also cause a miscarriage.” A positive test is definitely one of the biggest signs of pregnancy with an IUD.

Although it can be scary to think of possibly becoming pregnant with an IUD, it shouldn’t stop you from opting for that form of birth control if that’s what you choose. Dr. Farid agrees, stating: "The chance of a pregnancy is extremely low with an IUD; it is still an excellent form of birth control.”

Study cited:

Hubacher, D., Chen, P., Park, S. “Side effects from the copper IUD: do they decrease over time?” 2010.

Atkinson, A., Baum, J. “Missed IUD Despite Threads At The Cervix” 2014.

Experts:

Dr. Kim Langdon, MD, an OB/GYN

Dr. Huma Farid, MD, an OB/GYN at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA