ParaGard is a copper intrauterine device (IUD). It is a form of contraception (birth control) often chosen because it does not employ the use of hormones and does not present the same increased risk for blood clots as some oral contraceptives. However, several common side effects can occur with the use of ParaGard. These include :
- Longer than normal periods (menorrhagia)
- Low red blood cell count (known as anemia)
- Spotting (bleeding between periods)
- Painful periods
- Pain during sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
- Cramping (pelvic pain)
- Vaginal discharge
- Vaginal irritation
- Complete or partial expulsion of the IUD
Below some of these side effects are further explained:
Longer Periods and Anemia
Longer than normal periods (menorrhagia) that last over 7 days are a common side-effect of using ParaGard . Without the use of ParaGard about 5% of women experience menorrhagia. The bleeding can be very heavy, and some of these women may even experience abdominal pain. This means that feminine hygiene products must be changed about every other hour. The presence of clots larger than a quarter can be common. Due to how frequently hygiene products must be changed, menorrhagia can affect the quality of sleep, interrupt enjoyable activities and daily life. Women experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding should seek professional advice, as they may need to discontinue the use of ParaGard. This is because menorrhagia may lead to anemia if left untreated.
Spotting is also common in women with ParaGard. Spotting is when a woman bleeds between periods . Normal menstrual bleeding occurs every 21-35 days and usually lasts around 5 days. Spotting can be spontaneous and affect quality of life.
Painful periods are a reality to many women. In some women it is due to a condition called adenomyosis. This is when tissue in the uterus lining is enlarged into the wall of the uterus. A health care provider can diagnose this condition with a pelvic exam or ultrasound . ParaGard can increase the chances of experiencing more painful periods . A healthcare provider should always be consulted to diagnose a condition.
Pain During Sex
Painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia) occurs to several women for various reasons . However, ParaGard can increase the chances of experiencing pain during sex. Women experiencing dyspareunia should contact a healthcare provider to diagnose the underlying issue as it may be due to an infection which can have serious consequences.
Cramping is common upon insertion of ParaGard. Cramping may even continue for several hours after insertion.
Vaginal Discharge and Irritation
Vaginal discharge and irritation may be caused by bacterial vaginosis in women who have ParaGard. Bacterial vaginosis occurs when there is an imbalance of bacteria in the vagina . A study found that woman using copper IUDs are at an increased risk of developing bacterial vaginosis . Therefore, it is recommended that women who are immunocompromised have a discussion with their doctor about other contraceptive options. Signs of bacterial vaginosis other than vaginal discharge and irritation often include burning during urination, vaginal itching and a fish-like odor. Inflammation from the bacterial infection may occur and is referred to as vaginitis.
Some women may expel (eject) the ParaGard device . This is when the body naturally drives out the IUD from the uterus. Expulsion is common when ParaGard is placed immediately after birth. If the ParaGard device is only partially expelled, it must be removed.
Some of the above side effects of ParaGard may lessen and disappear after a few months . Other side effects can occur during and after removal of ParaGard. This includes light bleeding and cramping . You can report other side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
Does everyone experience side effects from using ParaGard?
No. Not everyone experiences side effects.
Will I get heavier periods on ParaGard?
Many women do experience heavier and longer than normal periods while using ParaGard.
Are any ParaGard IUD side effects dangerous?
Yes. Some side effects, such as vaginal discharge and irritation, may indicate that you have a bacterial infection. If left untreated, the infection can become serious and increase your risk of infertility.