You might remember that a few months ago I wrote about my experience having my IUD inserted. Well, I now have another chapter to add to that story, to close the book on my experience with the Mirena IUD.
I had the Mirena inserted in September, 2017. I had very few side effects and was extremely pleased with it. I felt very safe in the knowledge that it was in my uterus, just hanging out and zapping any sperm that swam into the vicinity. Well OK, the IUD doesn’t literally “zap” sperm. It just disorients them and thins the uterine lining so that if one of those little buggers does manage to fertilize my egg, the egg can’t implant into the uterine wall and turn into a baby. At any rate, things were going well and I felt very confident that the IUD was working as it should be.
Then in January this year I saw my doctor because I was having some abdominal pains. My doctor sent me for a bunch of tests, which included an ultrasound and a pregnancy test. The pregnancy test came back negative, which was a massive relief. Even when I know that I’ve been practising safer sex, there is still a feeling of monumental reassurance when I see that single blue line show up on a pregnancy test. My ultrasound was a little bit more alarming.
As the technician was preparing me for my pelvic ultrasound, she asked me a bunch of questions about my sexual history and what contraceptives I was using. I told her that I had the Mirena IUD and that I was having regular sex with a monogamous partner. She then did two ultrasounds- one externally over my abdomen and back (to check my kidneys) and another trans-vaginal ultrasound which is internal. After she was finished, the technician instructed me to clean off the ultrasound goo, get dressed and then wait for her to return so she could talk to me. I was a bit nervous because I’ve never been asked to stay behind after an ultrasound and I was worried that some very bad news was in the offing.
The technician was quick to tell me that she hadn’t seen anything abnormal, and although my doctor would give me my full results, she hadn’t seen anything to indicate that there was anything wrong. Everything was where it should be….except one thing. “I can’t locate your IUD anywhere on the scans” the tech told me. I was taken aback and asked her if she was sure. She replied that she’d done a really extensive scan of my entire pelvis, and that the IUD was nowhere to be seen. So it was likely that the IUD had been expelled from my body. She warned me that I needed to use barrier contraceptives until I’d sorted out other birth control and then showed me to the door.
I spent the entire walk home feeling disoriented and puzzled. How could the IUD be gone? I knew that there was a possibility that IUDs could be expelled but this didn’t make sense to me. It took so long and hurt a lot to get it in my uterus in the first place, how could it possibly have dropped out of there without me knowing? Surely, expelling an IUD would hurt, at least a little, right? And even if it didn’t hurt, if it did come out of my body, surely it would have turned up in my underwear or something. I was completely baffled.
After denial over losing the IUD came anger. I was furious. I’d spent a fair chunk of money on doctors appointments and the unit itself, I’d gone through the pain of having it inserted and the stupid thing hadn’t even had the decency to stick around and do it’s job? I was mad at the doctor who had put the IUD in, worried that maybe she didn’t do it properly, and frustrated with my own body for rejecting it.
And then an icy wall of realisation slapped me across the face. If I didn’t know when the IUD was expelled….it might have been missing for months. Which means that I’d been having unprotected sex for months. I knew I wasn’t pregnant because I’d just taken a pregnancy test, but holy crap, I’d been playing Russian Roulette with my uterus. That thought was the thing that frightened me most of all. I don’t want kids. Ever. And the idea that I was unknowingly at risk of becoming pregnant was enough to nearly make me lose my lunch. I felt like I’d dodged a bullet, because it really was only by sheer dumb luck that I hadn’t fallen pregnant.
I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor to discuss the results of the ultrasound. She confirmed that there was no trace of the Mirena anywhere in my body. It’s gone. She believes that the abdominal pain I experienced was related to my uterus expelling the IUD. As to where the actual unit has gone, it’s possible that it was flushed down the toilet or washed down the drain in the shower without me knowing. Either way, it’s not in my body anymore.
It turns out that expulsion is actually not that uncommon with IUD’s. Around 5% of people who have a Mirena implanted will expel the device. Expulsion usually happens in the first three months of having an IUD, but it can happen later on. Expulsion can be painless, and it’s possible for it to happen without you knowing. And that’s pretty scary, because it means that you might think you’re protected from unwanted pregnancy, when actually you’re still fertile.
I’m not telling you this to frighten you, or to put you off getting an IUD. IUDs are a very effective form of birth control and work for lots of people. But they do come with risks and they can fail. That’s why it’s incredibly important to consider all the different contraceptive options available and also to listen to the messages your body is sending you. If I hadn’t had that abdominal pain, I might not have had the ultrasound and wouldn’t have known that my IUD wasn’t in position. I am glad that I listened to my body telling me that something wasn’t right, and got it checked out.
So this has been a very frightening and confusing experience. I’m still feeling upset but relieved that things weren’t as bad as they could be. I’m back to square one with contraception, and I’ll be getting an Implanon rod inserted soon. If you’re interested, I’ll chronicle my experience with the Implanon, and also answer any questions you might have about it and the Mirena IUD. Fingers crossed I have more success this time.
Holy Shit! That’s freaky that it can just go AWOL like that! All the best with the Implanon.
Thank you. I’ll be sure to pop up a post on here about my Implanon experience too!
It’s so weird to think it happened and you didn’t even know! Or when! I’ve read stories of people expelling an IUD but they all seemed to notice it happening. How fucking scary! I have Nexplanon and look forward to seeing how it works for you!
It is just so weird. I’ve been racking my brain trying to think when it could have happened and I’m drawing a blank. When I got the IUD I was aware that expulsions do happen, but I figured if it did, then I’d know about it and I’d be able to handle it and make other arrangements regarding contraception. I didn’t anticipate that it could happen without me knowing.
What made you go for the Mirena over Implanon initially?
I don’t think side effects or complications from contraception are always explained very well. I took the Pill continuously from age 18 to 31 and it’s caused the lining of my uterus to thicken and my periods to stop completely and not restart. Which is scary because my husband and I are trying for a baby. Now I’m scheduled for surgery to remove the lining and send it off for testing. If I had known this might happen I would’ve stopped the Pill sooner or had breaks – but I didn’t know and wasn’t told.
Hope things go smoothly with the Implanon.
I initially wanted to get a Paragard, the copper IUD because I wanted to try something with no hormones at all. But my doctor suggested the Mirena instead. I was drawn to the IUD over the Implanon to begin with because the IUD lasts 5 years, whereas the Implanon only lasts three.
Oh no, that’s really disappointing. Fingers crossed for you and I truly hope you get some answers soon.
That is so terrifying! I think I’ll stick with pills. Is the rod implanted in the arm? My half-aunt had one (probably twenty years ago, or so) and had a bad reaction to it, although she was assured it was her best option. I know science has definitely improved since then, but I haven’t heard much about rods since. Good luck, I hope this works better for you!
Thanks so much. Yeah, the Implanon has come a long way and it’s now pretty popular. While it’s possible to have a reaction, they’re pretty rare and I”m willing to give it a shot!
I’m happy you figured it out and that you weren’t pregnant. I know that pregnancy, especially unwanted and unexpected is especially hard. One of the reasons I got fixed. For any partner I have and for myself. Super happy for you!
Thank you for your support. If the implanon doesn’t work out, I think I’m going to seriously look into tubal ligation. When I bring up the idea of sterilisation with people they’re always like “But what if you change your mind?” and I can’t help thinking “But what if I got pregnant accidentally when I know I don’t want children? ” I feel like that would be just as traumatic.
They just can’t wrap their heads around not wanting kids. They always think it’s a phase or a passing fancy not a conscious thought out choice. I’m with you. An accidental pregnancy is traumatic and all circumstances that come after have long term effects however you choose. Better to control it from the outset.