The Side Effects Of IUDs & How To Manage Them

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a form of birth control inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It’s a long-term form of birth control and one of the most effective types on the market. But like any form of birth control, it still comes with side effects.

There are various types of IUDs, and the side effects can vary depending on which one you go with. Generally, IUDs are divided into two types – hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs. They’re similar in the sense that they both change the way sperm cells move through the uterus to prevent it from reaching an egg. But they differ in the technique they use to alter sperm movement. As their names suggest, one uses copper while the other uses hormones to change the course of sperm.

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Below, we review the common types of side effects associated with IUDs and how you can help manage them so you can use this form of birth control carefree.

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Headaches

Headaches are more common with hormonal IUDs, as the hormones used to interfere with sperm can encourage the onset of premenstrual symptoms. When you’re experiencing a headache, you may feel pain in your head or face. It can be sharp or full and may even have a pulsating feeling.

There are a variety of ways to manage headaches, naturally and via medication, including:

  • Massage
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Hot or cold compress
  • Rest in a quiet, dark room
  • Over-the-counter pain relief

Acne

If you’re taking a hormonal IUD, then you’re at a greater risk of experiencing skin blemishes. Greastist explains that progestin found in many hormonal IUDs can increase the level of androgens in the body (which includes testosterone). This can cause the skin to produce more oil, thus encouraging acne to flourish. You’re at higher risk of IUD acne if you’re prone to hormonal breakouts.

However, if your hormonal IUD contains both estrogen and progestin, this combination can actually help to lower testosterone levels. Not only does this lower the risk of acne as a side effect, but it can help combat existing breakouts.


If you’re struggling with acne, the following strategies can help mitigate the breakout:

  • Avoiding irritants
  • Showering after exercise
  • Stop touching your skin
  • Avoiding heavy makeup
  • Using gentle skincare products
  • Protecting your skin from the sun
  • Limiting amount of skincare products used
  • Alternative medicine (such as tea tree oil and brewer’s yeast)
  • Skin therapies (such as drainage and extraction, light therapy, chemical peels, and steroid injections)
  • Topical and oral medications (such as antibiotics, retinoids, salicylic acid, azelaic acid, dapsone etc.)

Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication or ointment to treat the acne or may have suggestions for over-the-counter remedies.

Tender Breasts

Acne isn’t the only side effect progestin is responsible for. This hormone can also result in breast tenderness, which is another symptom of a hormonal IUD. You may experience this with a copper IUD, but the chances are lower.

There are natural ways to help manage breast pain, including the following:

  • Stop smoking
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Sticking to a low-fat diet
  • Over-the-counter pain reliever

If the breast pain doesn’t subside, your doctor may recommend switching to another form or brand of IUD. You may even be suggested to try a different form of birth control altogether.

Mood Changes

It’s common to experience changes to your mood while on an IUD. You may experience moodiness or mood swings, similar to when your period is about to begin. But some people have reported experiencing anxiety and depression on an IUD.

For example, one study found that 6.4% of people who used the Mirena IUD (a hormonal contraceptive) experience depression within 5 years of starting it. Similar research has found the risk of depression after getting an IUD is higher in teenagers ages 15 to 19.

The mood changes tend to lessen as your body gets used to the IUD, but this isn’t the same for everyone. But there are things you can do to help mitigate the effects of mood changes, including:

  • Practice self-care
  • Limiting caffeine
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Avoiding stress, when possible
  • Speaking to a mental health professional
  • Use relaxation and meditation techniques

If you find the mood changes caused by your intrauterine device are interfering with your daily life, we encourage you to speak to your doctor. They’ll be able to suggest treatment options or may even recommend you opt for another form of birth control.

Irregular Periods

It’s normal to experience abnormal periods after an IUD is inserted. This can differ depending on the person. Some people experience irregular bleeding for several months, while others have lighter or shorter periods. Some people stop menstruating completely.


To help your regular menstrual cycle, try the following strategies:

  • Eating healthily
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Getting the right vitamins
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Introducing certain foods and drinks to the diet (for example, ginger, pineapple, cinnamon, and apple cider vinegar have been proven to help regulate periods)

It’s important to remember irregular bleeding after getting an IUD is normal. But if anything seems off or you have any questions, speak to your doctor.

Camps

Finally, don’t assume that you’re not going to have cramps while on birth control. It’s normal to experience abdominal pain, but this symptom should become less noticeable in the months after insertion. Cramping can occur because of the uterus tightening after the IUD has been placed and/or the release of hormones if you opt for a hormonal IUD.

You can treat IUD cramps in the same way you would menstrual cramps. Strategies can include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Reducing stress
  • Warm compress
  • Regular exercise
  • Dietary supplements
  • Over-the-counter pain relief

Remember – the following side effects are common after an IUD and should lessen over time. But with the aforementioned strategies, you should be able to manage the symptoms until your body gets used to the IUD.

If you’re experiencing symptoms after getting an IUD, especially ones that are worsening or not going away, we recommend speaking to your doctor for further information on how to treat the side effects. Since the symptoms vary depending on the type of IUD, so will the treatment that’s effective for you.

Sources: Planned Parenthood, WebMD, Medical News Today, Health Harvard, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Hopkin’s Medicine, Healthline, Healthline,


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