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Mirena IUD Side Effects

Mirena IUD Side Effects - Uterine Perforation, InfertilityFor many women, choosing a method of birth control is often a question of convenience. For those who prefer an alternative to taking a pill every day, intrauterine devices (IUDs) appear promising.

According to WebMD, a study conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 5.6 percent of women who use birth control chose IUDs in 2012, compared to 0.8 percent in 1995.

The Mirena IUD is one device that has become increasingly popular. However, before choosing an IUD, patients should talk to their doctors about the potential for life-threatening side effects.

About Mirena

Mirena is a type of hormonal birth control. It is a small device that a healthcare provider inserts into the uterus. Upon insertion, the device begins to release levonorgestrel, a hormone, for up to five years. At that point, the device should be removed. The device may also be removed by a healthcare provider prior to that point, should the patient experience complications or decide to become pregnant. Mirena works by inhibiting the movement of sperm, the release of eggs from the ovaries, and the implantation of eggs onto the uterine wall.

Risk of an ectopic pregnancy 

One of the reported Mirena IUD side effects is the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. This occurs when a fertilized egg implants in an area other than the uterine wall, such as the fallopian tubes, abdomen, cervix, or ovary. Among other risk factors, an ectopic pregnancy is more likely to occur if the mother becomes pregnant while using an IUD and if the mother has scar tissue in the female organs, which can occur with certain complications of the Mirena IUD.

An ectopic pregnancy can cause symptoms such as:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pelvic pain
  • Sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Fainting

An ectopic pregnancy never results in a viable pregnancy and it is a life-threatening condition for the mother. The mother may require emergency surgery, which may involve removal of the fallopian tube. The pregnancy will need to be terminated.

Migration of the device

Along with the potential for an ectopic pregnancy, other possible side effects include migration of the device from its proper position. The device may perforate the uterine wall when it is inserted by the doctor, or this complication may occur at any point after that. If uterine perforation occurs, nearby organs and tissues can sustain serious damage. Scar tissue can form in the area and an infection may develop. It is also possible for the perforation to affect the intestinal wall, which can cause scarring, adhesions, abscesses, and intestinal obstruction.

Additionally, the device may embed in the uterine wall, even if no perforation occurs. In the event of either embedment or perforation, the patient is likely to require surgery to remove the device. Like other surgeries, a surgery to remove the Mirena IUD carries risks such as bleeding, infection, scar tissue development, damage to nearby organs, and problems with the anesthesia.

Despite reports of life-changing complications in some women, no Mirena IUD recall has been issued in the United States.

Other severe Mirena IUD side effects

Uterine wall perforation and ectopic pregnancies aren’t the only serious side effects women using Mirena have reported. Within the first few days of insertion of the device, it is possible to develop sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection of the blood. Sepsis can lead to multiple organ failure, gangrene, and death. Healthcare professionals categorize sepsis into three stages, the latter two of which are severe sepsis and septic shock.

The potential symptoms of these two stages can include the following:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Lowered platelet count
  • Abnormal heart function
  • Very low blood pressure
  • Abrupt change in mental state (i.e. confusion, trouble communicating)

As of 2014, numerous lawsuits are pending alleging Mirena brain injury from a condition known as Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH). Another serious side effect that can occur with the use of Mirena is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). If PID occurs as a result of Mirena, it typically develops within the first 20 days of insertion. PID is a bacterial infection that affects the reproductive organs, such as the uterus. If not treated promptly, women who contract PID may suffer from infertility. PID can also cause chronic pelvic pain and a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. With a severe case of PID, a patient may require surgery and may be at risk of death.

Patients who have received the Mirena IUD should be observant for potential signs of a complication. Patients are advised to call their doctors immediately if they experience any of the following:

  • Pain during intercourse
  • Sudden weakness or numbness
  • Severe or abrupt headache
  • Vision problems
  • Confusion
  • Jaundice
  • Severe pain
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint
  • Unusual or heavy vaginal discharge
  • Indications of an allergic reaction (i.e. hives, facial swelling, difficulty breathing) 

Less serious side effects 

Potential Mirena side effects aren’t always life-threatening; however, women should contact their healthcare providers if these side effects become bothersome. Some women have experienced abnormalities with their periods, such as breakthrough bleeding, irregular periods, changes in menstrual patterns, and heavier bleeding than usual. Other women have reported experiencing weight gain, hair growth changes, and acne.

Other potential side effects may include the following:

  • Changes in sex drive
  • Water retention (puffiness and bloating)
  • Skin rash
  • Mood changes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Mild dizziness
  • Breast pain
  • Back pain 

Thousands of Mirena lawsuits filed

The Mirena IUD was first approved for use by the FDA in 2000. Since that time, thousands of women have filed lawsuits against Bayer, the company that designed and manufactures the IUD. However, the company has been charged with launching a misleading advertising campaign. In 2009, the FDA warned Bayer about the misleading claims in its TV ads, which advised patients that Mirena would not only prevent unwanted pregnancies, but that it might improve intimacy between sexual partners. Furthermore, the FDA warned consumers of the potential for serious side effects from using the IUD. The agency noted that Bayer failed to provide adequate warnings about possible complications.

The allegation of failure to warn of IUD side effects is one that is frequently leveled against Bayer by the thousands of women who have filed Mirena lawsuits. The plaintiffs claim a range of serious complications, including Mirena migration and perforation of the uterus, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancies.