The link between the IUD and UTIs

Sep 18, 2018 | Daphne Kim

The link between the IUD and UTIs

IUDs are a popular contraceptive choice for women because of their convenience as a “hassle-free” birth control that can last for years. However, there are some concerns about IUDs increasing your risk for certain health issues like UTIs. Here’s more info on the link between IUD and UTIs.

What is an IUD, and how does it work?

An IUD or intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of long-term birth control made of plastic or copper that is often inserted into your uterus. Some IUDs are also hormonal and are used to prevent ovulation.

Inserting an IUD is a short procedure. A doctor conducts a pelvic exam and uses an applicator to insert the IUD through the cervix. IUDs are flat before insertion but is expanded into a “T” shape once it reaches the uterus. Although the initial insertion usually causes some cramping or discomfort (even a few weeks after insertion), you won’t feel it once it’s in place. The doctor will check your IUD in follow up appointments.

IUDs thicken the cervical mucus, making a difficult barrier for sperm to pass. They also change the uterine lining to make it harder for a fertilized egg to implant. IUDs that contain hormones can also help prevent ovulation. Mirena is a popular type of T-shaped IUD THAT uses levonorgestrel as a contraceptive and is said to work for up to five years to prevent pregnancy.

How can IUDs cause UTIs?

IUDs do not directly cause UTIs, but having an IUD could put you at increased risk for these kinds of infections; the results of the study suggested that using intrauterine contraceptives like IUDs (as well as spermicides and diaphragms) was a considerable risk factor for infections in women. A study conducted in 2005 followed 228 women who were candidates for IUD insertion. Of the participants, bacteria were found in 13 of the participants who used IUDs. The study found that these types of birth control methods can cause pelvic and vaginal inflammation or disrupt bacteria in the women’s body. These changes could facilitate bacterial growth in places like the bladder and cause infections like UTIs.

One case found that a woman had contracted 4 recurrent UTIs within a 7-month period after inserting an IUD. The prevalence of UTIs occurring after an IUD insertion suggested that an infected IUD should be considered a risk factor for UTI in women.

What are some symptoms of an IUD infection?

Although IUDs are recognized as a safe, effective contraceptive method, things can sometimes go wrong. If you notice any of these symptoms, it could be a sign that something is wrong with your IUD, and you should speak with your physician: 

  • Late menstrual period.
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge and spotting.
  • Chills, or flu-like symptoms like fever
  • Missing IUD string.
  • Painful sexual intercourse.

Alternatively, if you experience symptoms of a urinary tract infection after inserting an IUD, make sure to check in with your doctor. Common symptoms of a UTI include:

  • Constant or recurring urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Only urinating small amounts
  • Cloudy urine instead of transparent
  • Blood in the urine, which often looks red or brownish
  • Pelvic pain, especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone for women

What are the risks of using IUDs?

Today, IUDs are quite safe and health complications are not common. Still, these types of contraceptives can potentially increase your risk of getting an infection like a UTI. To mitigate your risk of developing UTIs, some experts recommend that you don't keep an IUD in for more than 3 years. It's also worth noting that your doctor should also perform certain tests like a pelvic exam or scan for STDs prior to inserting your IUD.

    Ultimately, there are pros and cons associated with all types of birth controls, and but it's good to know that there can be a connection between IUDs and recurring UTIs. 

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