Problems Reported As Side Effects or Complications

May or may not be due to the method.

  • Problems with side effects or complications affect women’s satisfaction and use of IUDs. They deserve the provider’s attention. If the client reports any side effects or complications, listen to her concerns, give her advice and support, and, if appropriate, treat. Make sure she understands the advice and agrees.
  • Offer to help her choose another method—now, if she wishes, or if problems cannot be overcome.

Irregular bleeding or spotting (bleeding at unexpected times that bothers the client)
8 days)

  • Reassure her that some women using LNG-IUDs experience irregular bleeding. It is not harmful and usually becomes less or stops after the rst several months of use.
  • If irregular bleeding starts after several months of no bleeding, or you suspect that something may be wrong for other reasons, consider underlying conditions unrelated to method use (see Unexplained vaginal bleeding).

No monthly bleeding

  • Reassure her that many women eventually stop having monthly bleeding when using the LNG-IUD, and this is not harmful. There is no need to lose blood every month. It is similar to not having monthly bleeding during pregnancy. She is not pregnant or infertile. Blood is not building up inside her. (Some women are happy to be free from monthly bleeding.)
  • If monthly bleeding stops very soon after insertion of the LNG-IUD, assess for pregnancy or other underlying condition.

Heavier or prolonged bleeding (longer than 8 days)

  • Reassure her that some women using LNG-IUDs experience heavier or prolonged bleeding. It is generally not harmful and usually becomes less or stops after the first several months of use.
  • Provide iron tablets if possible and tell her it is important for her to eat foods containing iron.
  • If heavier or prolonged bleeding continues or starts after several months of no bleeding, or if you suspect that something may be wrong for other reasons, consider underlying conditions unrelated to method use (see Unexplained vaginal bleeding).

Cramping and pain

  • She can expect some cramping and pain for the first day or 2 after IUD insertion.
    •  Suggest aspirin (325–650 mg), ibuprofen (200–400 mg), paracetamol (325–1000 mg), or other pain reliever. If she also has heavy or prolonged bleeding, aspirin should not be used because it may increase bleeding.
  • If cramping continues beyond the first 2 days, evaluate for partial expulsion or perforation.

Acne

  • If the client wants to stop using the LNG-IUD because of acne, she can consider switching to COCs. Many women’s acne improves with COC use.
  • Consider locally available remedies.

Ordinary headaches

  •  Suggest aspirin (325–650 mg), ibuprofen (200–400 mg), paracetamol (325–1000 mg), or other pain reliever.

Breast tenderness

  •  Recommend that she wear a supportive bra (including during strenuous activity and sleep).
  •  Try hot or cold compresses.
  •  Suggest aspirin (325–650 mg), ibuprofen (200–400 mg), paracetamol (325–1000 mg), or other pain reliever.
  •  Consider locally available remedies.

Weight change

  •  Review diet and counsel as needed.

Nausea or dizziness

  •  Consider locally available remedies.

Mood changes

  •  Clients who have serious mood changes such as major depression should be referred for care.
  • Consider locally available methods.

Partner can feel IUD strings during sex

  • Explain that this happens sometimes when strings are cut too short.
  • If partner finds the strings bothersome, describe available options:
    • Strings can be cut even shorter so they are not coming out of the cervical canal. Her partner will not feel the strings, but the woman will no longer be able to check her IUD strings.
    • If the woman wants to be able to check her IUD strings, the IUD can be removed and a new one inserted. (To avoid discomfort, the strings should be cut so that 3 centimeters hang out of the cervix.)

Severe pain in lower abdomen (suspected pelvic inflammatory disease [PID])

  • Some common signs and symptoms of PID often also occur with other abdominal conditions, such as ectopic pregnancy. Be particularly alert for additional signs or symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, which is rare and not caused by the IUD, but it can be life-threatening (see Question 10).
  • If possible, do abdominal and pelvic examinations (see Signs and Symptoms of Serious Health Conditions, for signs from the pelvic examination that would indicate PID).
  • If a pelvic examination is not possible, and she has a combination of the following signs and symptoms in addition to lower abdominal pain, suspect PID:
    • Unusual vaginal discharge
    • Fever or chills
    • Pain during sex or urination
    • Bleeding after sex or between monthly bleeding
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • A tender pelvic mass
    • Pain when the abdomen is gently pressed (direct abdominal tenderness) or when gently pressed and then suddenly released (rebound abdominal tenderness)
  • Treat PID or immediately refer for treatment:
    • Because of the serious consequences of PID, health care providers should treat all suspected cases, based on the signs and symptoms above. Treatment should be started as soon as possible. Treatment is more effective at preventing long-term complications when appropriate antibiotics are given immediately.
    • Treat for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and anaerobic bacterial infections. Counsel the client about condom use and, if possible, give her condoms.
    • There is no need to remove the IUD if she wants to continue using it. If she wants it removed, take it out after starting antibiotic treatment. (If the IUD is removed, see Switching from an IUD to Another Method.)

Severe pain in lower abdomen (suspected ectopic pregnancy)

  • Many conditions can cause severe abdominal pain. Be particularly alert for additional signs or symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, which is rare but can be life-threatening (see Question 11).
  • In the early stages of ectopic pregnancy, symptoms may be absent or mild, but eventually they will become severe. A combination of these signs or symptoms should increase suspicion of ectopic pregnancy:
    • Unusual abdominal pain or tenderness
    • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or no monthly bleeding—especially if this is a change from her usual bleeding pattern
    • Light-headedness or dizziness
    • Fainting
  • If ectopic pregnancy or other serious health condition is suspected, refer at once for immediate diagnosis and care. (See Female Sterilization, Managing Ectopic Pregnancy, for more on ectopic pregnancies.)
  • If the client does not have these additional symptoms or signs, assess for pelvic inflammatory disease (see Severe pain in lower abdomen).

Suspected uterine puncturing (perforation)

  • If puncturing is suspected at the time of insertion or sounding of the uterus, stop the procedure immediately (and remove the IUD if inserted). Observe the client in the clinic carefully:
    • For the first hour, keep the woman at bed rest and check her vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, and temperature) every 5 to 10 minutes.
    • If the woman remains stable after one hour, check for signs of intra-abdominal bleeding, such as low hematocrit or hemoglobin, if possible, and her vital signs. Observe for several more hours. If she has no signs or symptoms, she can be sent home, but she should avoid sex for 2 weeks. Help her choose another method.
    • If she has a rapid pulse and falling blood pressure, or new pain or increasing pain around the uterus, refer her to a higher level of care.
    • If uterine perforation is suspected within 6 weeks after insertion or if it is suspected later and is causing symptoms, refer the client for evaluation to a clinician experienced at removing such IUDs (see Question 6).

IUD partially comes out (partial expulsion)

  • If the IUD partially comes out, remove the IUD. Discuss with the client whether she wants another IUD or a different method. If she wants another IUD, she can have one inserted at any time it is reasonably certain she is not pregnant. If the client does not want to continue using an IUD, help her choose another method.

IUD completely comes out (complete expulsion)

  • If the client reports that the IUD came out, discuss with her whether she wants another IUD or a different method. If she wants another IUD, she can have one inserted at any time it is reasonably certain she is not pregnant.
  • If complete expulsion is suspected and the client does not know whether the IUD came out, refer for x-ray or ultrasound to assess whether the IUD might have moved to the abdominal cavity. Give her a backup method* to use in the meantime.

Missing strings (suggesting possible pregnancy, uterine perforation, or expulsion)

  • Ask the client:
    • Whether and when she saw the IUD come out
    • When she last felt the strings
    • When she had her last monthly bleeding
    • If she has any symptoms of pregnancy
    • If she has used a backup method since she noticed the strings were missing
  • Always start with minor and safe procedures and be gentle. Check for the strings in the folds of the cervical canal with forceps. About half of missing IUD strings can be found in the cervical canal.
  • If strings cannot be located in the cervical canal, either they have gone up into the uterus or the IUD has been expelled unnoticed. Rule out pregnancy before attempting more invasive procedures. Refer for evaluation. Give her a backup method to use in the meantime, in case the IUD came out.

* Backup methods include abstinence, male and female condoms, spermicides, and withdrawal. Tell her that spermicides and withdrawal are the least effective contraceptive methods. If possible, give her condoms.