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February 12, 2013

The Risks of Using Mirena Birth Control

As intrauterine devices (IUDs) become more popular, it is important for women to know the risks of these long-term birth control options.

Mirena is one popular IUD. It is implanted into the uterus and can prevent pregnancy for up to five years. Unfortunately, it also poses a threat to women's health because it can come out of place and can lead to permanent infertility.

Why Women Use Mirena

A study published in August 2012 in Obstetrics & Gynecology evaluated what type of contraception women would use if cost was not a factor. Most women chose an IUD or hormone implant, showing the shift from birth control pills to longer-lasting options.

Under the Affordable Care Act, IUDs may be completely covered by insurance, providing a new option to millions of women who were previously limited to daily pills or other options because IUDs were too expensive. Many of these women are considering Mirena, which is manufactured by Bayer and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000.

Problems with Mirena

Mirena is placed into the uterus by a health care provider and is supposed to remain anchored there. However, the device sometimes moves from where it was placed. If the device moves, it can lead to expulsion or migration, both of which put the woman at risk.

Device expulsion occurs when Mirena is expelled by the body. Women may experience cramping, bleeding and pain during sex, after device expulsion. Patients will need to use another form of birth control until a new IUD can be implanted.

Device migration occurs when the device travels within the body. It can tear through the uterine wall and create problems in the bladder, abdominal cavity, blood vessels or pelvis. This is one of the most dangerous complications of Mirena.

Not only can migration be painful, but it can cause serious damage and infection. It requires surgery so that the device can be located and removed.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Pregnancy

Within the first 20 days of using Mirena, women may develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is a bacterial infection of the reproductive system. If women have a vaginal infection when the device is implanted, the risk of PID increases. Women with PID experience constant pain and sometimes encounter complications that require a hysterectomy.

The FDA says that women with a history of PID should choose another method of contraception.

Although the chance of becoming pregnant while using Mirena is less than 1 percent, if a woman does become pregnant it can become a medical emergency. Many of these pregnancies will end in miscarriage or be ectopic, meaning the egg is fertilized outside of the womb.

Half of Mirena pregnancies are ectopic, and these require surgery. This can cause internal bleeding and infertility.

Women should discuss the benefits and risks of any new birth control method with their doctor.

Alanna Ritchie is a content writer for, specializing in news about prescription drugs, medical devices and consumer safety.

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