“IUDs are about as effective in preventing pregnancy as sterilization (getting your tubes tied). For every 100 women using the IUD fewer than 1 per year will get pregnant (less than a 1% failure rate).”
With its many benefits and seemingly few side effects, it is no wonder that the popularity of IUDs as an effective form of birth control is steadily on the rise. According to many popular medical websites and most doctors, the effectiveness of an IUD far out performs any other form of birth control available today. So, you can imagine my surprise when after four years of having an effective IUD, I became pregnant.
I, like many women, always had trouble finding a birth control option that worked for me. The pill made me an emotional basket case, the Nuva ring left me with high blood pressure and abstinence wasn’t a realistic option. After long conversations with my health care provider, we decided the best option for me would be an IUD. Four years ago, there were only two kinds of IUDs on the market, the Mirena and the Paragard. The Mirena IUD contains hormones and can be left in the uterus for up to 5 years. The Paragard IUD is hormone free and can be left in the uterus for up to 10 years. Considering the history I had with hormones in birth control, I opted for the hormone free version, the Paragard. Within 10 minutes, my new IUD was inserted and I was out the door and ready for my new care free sex life!
Besides heavier than usual periods and the extra bit of cramping during my menstrual cycle, I loved my IUD. I finally felt I had found the solution to all of the previous dilemmas surrounding my quest for the perfect birth control. My new IUD seemed so amazing that I told everyone about it and I talked half of my girlfriends into getting it for themselves. All of whom thanked me for the recommendation after getting their own and seeing how easy and effective they are.
Fast forward to four years later, when this past March I missed my period. At first I didn’t think much about it even though I had never missed a period since having the IUD inserted. I had just had my yearly check up and my doctor did an ultrasound to check that the device was still in place. All looked good. I figured my period would come eventually and chalked it up to stress and exhaustion from excessive travel. But it never came. Finally, on a whim I decided to take a pregnancy test “just to rule it out”. I mean come on, there was NO WAY I could be pregnant… I have an IUD.
I bought a pack that came with two pregnancy tests. We were visiting New York City for what was a tequila fueled trip celebrating my new job and my husband’s birthday just before our one year wedding anniversary. I was in the bathroom of our favorite hotel, the same hotel we stayed at when my husband proposed to me. He was at the gym downstairs. I didn’t tell him I was taking the test. It never occurred to me that it might actually come back positive so I really didn’t think much about it. Boy was I wrong. Almost immediately, there it was staring back at me… a positive sign. It was faint inside the applicator window, but it felt like it was screaming at me. My whole body tensed up and I started to hyperventilate.
You see, having a family was always apart of the plan for my husband and I. But it was part of our 3-5 year plan. It certainly wasn’t apart of our first year of marriage plan. There was so much that we wanted to experience before we settled down and started our family. Those plans raced through my head as I furiously googled, “Does a positive reading REALLY mean pregnant in over the counter pregnancy tests?” We didn’t make it to Italy. We didn’t go skydiving. What about my new job? Our lives changed so much in the first year of marriage just simply by getting married. Now a baby? Could we handle it?
I texted my husband that he needed to come upstairs right away. As he walked into the room, he was wrapping up a call with his best friend. His eyes immediately darted to the bathroom sink where he saw the pregnancy test. A look of shock and disbelief came over his face. He stumbled for words on the call. So much so that it prompted his friend to ask if he was ok on the other end. He said he would call him back some other time. Once my husband was off the phone, he started to breathe…heavily. Now we were both googling the accuracy of home pregnancy tests while we waited for the results of the last test in the package. Positive. It turns out that home pregnancy tests are in fact quite accurate. They pick up a hormone in a woman’s body that is only there when she is pregnant. There was no denying it. I was most likely pregnant.
I called my doctor right away and made an appointment for the day after we returned from New York. As soon as I walked into the office, they took my blood to test for traces of the pregnancy hormone in my body. Next, I was ushered into an ultrasound room where my doctor met us to talk about the chances that this could be for real. With a concerned look on her face she said to me, “This is not good.” I’ll never forget that.
The doctor suggested that the IUD had become dislodged or expelled perhaps without me knowing it. She did a vaginal ultrasound to check on the status of that pesky IUD and to everyone’s surprise, it was perfectly in place. At the same time she checked my uterus for any signs of a baby. And while there was nothing to see yet, she could tell that my uterinie walls were starting to thicken in preparation for what was to come. I was about 4 weeks along. The doctor removed my IUD immediately, however, she explained to us that in doing so, there was a 50% percent chance of causing a miscarriage. The next thing she explained to me was that getting pregnant with an IUD could cause an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is where the baby forms in the fallopian tubes and not in the uterus. That is an incredibly dangerous situation and if left un treated could cause your tubes to burst making it impossible to ever conceive again. The doctor gave us the warning signs for both scenarios and sent us home.
Over the next two weeks, I returned to the doctor’s office quite a bit. I was getting my blood drawn every other day to make sure that the pregnancy hormone was still present and doubling in my system. Waiting for the results of the tests each week was agonizing. I was definitely pregnant but we still had no idea if the baby was forming correctly. It was a very hard time. The only people we told about the pregnancy were a few very close friends and our therapist. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to be pregnant. This wasn’t part of the plan. But at the same time, I had already grown attached to the idea of a baby growing inside of me and I knew I would be devastated if anything happened to it. There were a lot of tears and I was exhausted all the time…not only from the pregnancy but also from the emotional roller coaster we were on.
During the 6th week of pregnancy, we returned to the doctor for more tests and for another ultrasound. It was then that we were able to see that the baby was in fact forming in the uterus. We were so relieved. And if you looked closely enough you could make out what looked to be the erratic beating of a teeny tiny heart in the middle of the yoke sack. It was in that moment that I was hooked.
Since then, my doctor has been keeping an extra eye on me. We have passed all the major milestones in pregnancy with flying colors and we are due to be blessed with a healthy baby this November. Unfortunately, you aren’t ever really out of the woods when you become pregnant with an IUD until the moment you deliver. There is still a risk of pre term delivery. But now that the initial shock of our unexpected pregnancy has worn off, the feeling of fear has been replaced with a feeling of excitement and anticipation.
I suspect that the number of cases similar to mine will continue to increase as the popularity of the IUD as an effective form of birth control also continues to increase. Since sharing my story I have had many women say that the same thing either happened to them or to a woman that they know. Some have asked what I plan to do for birth control once the baby is born. To that, I still don’t have an answer. I saw a psychic a few years back. She said to me, “Be careful… you could get pregnant soon.” I reassured her that getting pregnant would be impossible until we were ready because I had an IUD. To which she responded, “If a baby wants to be born, he will be born.”
We delve a little further into all of this on the next episode of FABLife. Make sure to tune in on Monday Sept 21st to catch this emotional conversation. For more info head over to FABLifeShow.com