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Side Effects of Mirena & Copper Coils

author image Susan T. McClure
In 20 years as a biologist, Susan T. McClure has contributed articles to scientific journals such as "Nature Genetics" and "American Journal of Physiology." She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She enjoys educating people about science and the challenge of making complex information accessible.
Side Effects of Mirena & Copper Coils
IUD provides birth control for women. Photo Credit: Marcin Balcerzak/iStock/Getty Images

The Mirena and copper ParaGard intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are the only types approved for contraceptive use in the United States. These T-shaped devices, once inserted by a doctor into the uterus, prevent pregnancy by either releasing progestin, as is the case of Mirena IUD, or copper, as with ParaGard, to inhibit sperm movement and, therefore, fertilization. Generally, these types of IUDs are considered a very safe and effective form of birth control for women.

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Minor Side Effects

ParaGard copper-containing IUDs can cause anemia, backache, an inflamed vagina and painful sex, and vaginal discharge. ParaGard IUDs can worsen menstrual symptoms, causing stronger cramping, heavier or longer bleeding, or breakthrough bleeding. Because Mirena IUDs release the steroid hormone progestin, they have the opposite effect. Women with Mirena IUDs tend to have lighter, shorter periods with less cramping, and some women do not menstruate at all while using Mirena. Less pleasant hormonal side effects can include acne, breast tenderness, headache, and ovarian cysts. Both types of IUDs can cause nausea.

Serious Side Effects

Insertion of an IUD carries a risk of bacterial infection of the uterus. Planned Parenthood notes that this is a rare occurrence and most likely to happen within three weeks of insertion. â??Very rarely,â? according to Planned Parenthood, the IUD can push through the wall of the uterus during insertion and if unnoticed, it can move around and cause further damage. A womanâ??s uterus can spontaneously expel either type of IUD. Sometimes the IUD comes out of the uterus completely, but sometimes it just slips. In cases where it slips, a doctor must remove it. When an IUD slips, the woman can get pregnant.


Signs of a problem with an IUD include severe abdominal pain or cramping, pain or bleeding during sex, and unexplained fever and chills or flu-like symptoms. When properly inserted, the IUD string will hang an inch or two out of the cervix; if the string is longer or shorter than before, or if you can feel the hard plastic of the â??Tâ? shape against your cervix, the IUD has probably slipped.


Over-the-counter pain medication can treat minor symptoms like aching or cramping. Uterine infections require antibiotic treatments. An IUD that has slipped must be removed by a doctor. In cases where a doctor does not immediately realize that an IUD punctured the uterus during insertion, surgery might be needed to remove it.

Pregnancy Risks

Only one out of 100 women who use an IUD will become pregnant, but those who do have a higher risk for an ectopic or tubal pregnancy, pelvic infection, miscarriage or premature labor. Planned Parenthood recommends that women who become pregnant while using an IUD should have the IUD removed as quickly as possible.

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