Paragard is a intrauterine device (IUD) used for long-term birth control method by thousands of women. It is a non-hormonal copper IUD that prevents pregnancy with an alleged 99% effectiveness for 10 years after insertion.

However, according to a large number of adverse reports submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Paragard side effects are much more serious and harmful than what the manufacturer initially told the public.

Below, we will explore them to provide you with all the information you may need before choosing to have this IUD implanted.

What are the side effects of the copper IUD?

Shortly after a doctor places the birth control IUD in the woman’s uterine cavity to prevent pregnancy, the patient may experience a broad range of mild side effects.

This is because Paragard doesn’t allow a woman to get pregnant by causing a temporary inflammation that prevents implantation egg fertilization. Therefore, the body may have a hard time adapting to this object, and react accordingly.

This first bout of side effects is just temporary since they are not true adverse reactions. Most sensations of discomfort will go away when the body finally adapts to the foreign object and inflammatory reaction typical of all copper IUDs, usually in about 3–6 months. In most cases, however, they will just last for the first few days after the Paragard IUD is put in.

These somewhat minor side effects include:

  • Abdominal or uterine cramps or pain
  • Nausea
  • Heavy periods
  • Spotting between periods
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Painful menstruations

Can ParaGard make you gain weight?

According to current studies, Paragard does not cause weight gain. This side effect is, in fact, usually linked with use of hormonal IUDs such as Mirena. They’re nonetheless rare, affecting less than 5% of women in any case.

All the other typical effects of hormonal imbalance associated with hormonal IUD devices (such as acne, mood swings, or excess hair growth) are, instead, not present with copper IUD birth control methods.

Can ParaGard increase the risk of infections?

Among the other, more serious side effects caused by Paragard, there’s a risk of vaginal infections that may have been underestimated by doctors and patients. According to some trials, in fact, the presence of a IUD copper contraceptive to prevent pregnancy may alter the bacterial flora of the female genital tract.

First, when the IUD is inserted, the protective barrier of the cervical mucus is breached, creating a transmission link that pathogens may use to access the uterus. Second, the very presence of the device apparently promote the colonization of the genital tract by several dangerous bacteria or fungi while inhibiting the growth of other species known for their protective purposes.

This combined action may increase the risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease or reduce the ability of the woman’s body to stave off other sexually transmitted diseases.

Adequate information about this risk is often missing, yet it is really important to know that since the above-mentioned mechanisms may contribute to a sub-clinical copper intoxication (as explained in the next paragraph).

Can ParaGard cause copper toxicity?

Once the device is implanted, the copper found in the Paragard coils can be slowly absorbed by the body. If the blood levels of this metal become too high, it can cause symptoms of systemic toxicity. It is important to contact your doctor immediately if you suffer from any symptom of heavy metal intoxication such as:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Confusion, cloudy thinking
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Jaundice
  • Gastrointestinal distress

Copper poisoning may occur as a Paragard side effect only in rare circumstances. This potentially toxic metal can be absorbed at an higher rate when the patient must stave off a bacterial, viral or fungal infection. The body does, in fact, use it as part of the immune reaction, but its increased absorption may cause an imbalance of minerals in some subject.

As we explained in the above paragraph, since the IUD may alter the vaginal microbiota and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, the patient may suffer from asymptomatic infections which increase the absorption of Paragard copper.

A recent study found that the serum level of this metal and zinc as well are higher in women using Paragard T 380A, even if they do not reach observable toxic levels. However, the consequences of this sub-clinical copper poisoning are still unknown.

On the other hand though, despite some sources claim that the copper found in Paragard may cause cancer, this one, at least, is not one of the side effects of this IUD. On the contrary, reliable evidence even shows that it may have a protective effect against a risk of invasive cervical cancer.

Device breaking and other serious injuries

Perhaps the most notorious and dangerous side effects of Paragard are those linked with its inherent risk of breakage.

According to many lawsuits like Paragard Lawsuit that have been recently filed all across the United States, during the 10 years of pregnancy prevention, the device may break, and its fragment migrate to other organs or embed themselves into the uterus.

Organ perforation, internal bleeding, and other serious injuries have been reported. A complicated surgery may be required to remove the product, which can also break during the removal procedure.

Some attorneys claim that the manufacturer had information about this risk all along, but decided to willfully hide it from the public. To avoid the potentially fatal consequences of a metal fragment traveling inside your body, you should warn your doctor immediately if you suffer from any of these symptoms:

  • Smelly vaginal discharge
  • Copious or unusual bleeding
  • Unexplained fever
  • Excruciating pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Cramping or spasms
  • Chronic fatigue

Is Paragard effective at preventing pregnancy?

Paragard is advertised as a safe and effective method to prevent pregnancy. The IUD is implanted for up to 10 years, and is often used by those couples looking for planned parenthood without having to resort to emergency contraception.

However, an information that is often left out from Paragard’s warning label, is its greater-than-usual chance of causing an ectopic pregnancy.

This unusual type of pregnancy occur when the egg gets does not attach itself outside the uterus, frequently in the fallopian tubes. During an ectopic pregnancy, both the life of the newly developed fetus and the mother are at risk.

As the fetus starts growing, it can’t develop in a normal way, leading to severe internal bleeding, reduced fertility or infertility, and in some instances, even death. To prevent further damage, the still undeveloped baby must be removed surgically as quickly as possible.

References:

  1. Elhag KM, Bahar AM, Mubarak AA. The effect of a copper intra-uterine contraceptive device on the microbial ecology of the female genital tract. J Med Microbiol. 1988 Apr;25(4):245-51.
  2. Imani S, Moghaddam-Banaem L, Roudbar-Mohammadi S, Asghari-Jafarabadi M. Changes in copper and zinc serum levels in women wearing a copper TCu-380A intrauterine device. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2014 Feb;19(1):45-50. doi: 10.3109/13625187.2013.856404. Epub 2013 Dec 5.
  3. NICE, “Contraception – IUS/IUD”, Clinical Knowledge Summary, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, May 2019
  4. Gaetke LM, Chow CK. Copper toxicity, oxidative stress, and antioxidant nutrients. Toxicology. 2003 Jul 15;189(1-2):147-63.
  5. Li C, Zhao WH, Meng CX, Ping H, Qin GJ, Cao SJ, et al. Contraceptive use and the risk of ectopic pregnancy: a multi-center case-control study. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(12).
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