Warnings about Hormonal IUDs

For women tired of having to remember to take a contraceptive pill at the same time everyday, the hormonal IUD can seem like a helpful solution. As a form of birth control that equips users to “set it and forget it,” the hormonal IUD can make women who are worried about getting pregnant feel more confident in their method. Hormonal IUDs are frequently known by the trade names Mirena®, Kyleena®, Liletta®, and Skyla®.

But while hormonal IUDs differ from the Pill, they actually carry many of the same side effects and complications as other hormonal contraceptives, in addition to health complications related to having a foreign object implanted in one’s body.

How hormonal IUDs affect your body

Hormonal IUDs are progestin-only, whereas many formulations of the Pill (besides the progestin-only “mini-pill”) contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. Because of their lack of estrogen, hormonal IUDs are thought to carry less risk for blood clot formation than estrogen-containing forms of birth control. However, similar to the Pill, the IUD can cause side effects such as headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, mood changes, and ovarian cyst formation, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Other common side effects include loss or lack of libido, bloating, weight gain, acne, and missed periods and/or spotting in between periods. 

Uncomfortable or painful insertion are another common side effect of IUDs. Experiences vary on the level of pain involved in IUD insertion. Some women report mild discomfort during the insertion procedure, while some find it exceedingly painful.

For the first six months after insertion, some women report heavier than usual bleeding that gradually lessens over time and may disappear altogether. Pelvic pain and/or cramping is another possible side effect of the hormonal IUD. As one IUD-user shared with The Everygirl: “While not having a period, I have been spotting for three months sporadically. It’s also given me weird abdominal cramps that are unpredictable, forcing me to take naproxen more frequently throughout the month (instead of just once a month for pain management). I gained weight (10 pounds thus far), and hormonally I feel kind of crazy, but that could just be in my head. I wouldn’t subject my body to it and would find some other way of contraceptive.”

Since hormonal birth control has been connected to depression, anxiety, and other serious mood disorders, women who feel unlike themselves should take care not to dismiss mental-health symptoms as “in their heads.”

Serious complications from the hormonal IUD

Ectopic pregnancies—when the fetus develops outside the womb, typically within a fallopian tube—is a serious side effect, that ultimately results in the death of the fetus, potential loss of fertility for the mother, and potential death for the mother if left unresolved. 

On occasions, the IUD has also migrated outside of the uterus, causing internal damage, infection, and necrosis. It has also been known to cause uterine perforation, and expulsion of the device can also occur.

Some women seeking to avoid artificial hormones opt instead for the copper IUD, but those share similar device-specific side effects of IUDs while adding risks of copper toxicity that can affect one’s thyroid. Read more on the copper IUD and women’s testimonials on this site to make the most informed decision.

Natural Alternatives to Birth Control

Safe, side effect-free, and effective natural birth control options based on learning the signs that mark the fertile and infertile phases of a woman’s cycle, are known as fertility awareness or natural family planning methods. These methods also serve as practical tools for monitoring reproductive health while offering the many health benefits of a naturally functional fertility cycle.

Kyleena®, Mirena®, and Skyla® are registered trademarks of Bayer. Liletta® is a registered trademark of Odyssea Pharma SPRL, an Allergan affiliate.