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.