Clinical Review

Overcoming LARC complications: 7 case challenges

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CHALLENGE 1: Pain with IUD insertion

CASE First-time, nulliparous IUD user apprehensive about insertion pain

A 21-year-old woman (G0) presents for placement of a 52-mg levonorgestrel IUD for contraception and treatment of dysmenorrhea. Her medical and surgical histories are unremarkable. She has heard that IUD insertion “is more painful if you haven’t had a baby yet” and she asks what treatments are available to aid in pain relief.

What can you offer her?

A number of approaches have been used to reduce IUD insertion pain, including:

  • placing lidocaine gel into or on the cervix
  • lidocaine paracervical block
  • preinsertion use of misoprostol or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Authors of a recent Cochrane review2 indicated that none of these approaches were particularly effective at reducing insertion pain for nulliparous women. Naproxen sodium 550 mg or tramadol 50 mg taken 1 hour prior to IUD insertion have been found to decrease IUD insertion pain in multiparous patients.3 Misoprostol, apart from being ineffective in reducing insertion pain, also requires use for a number of hours before insertion and can cause painful uterine cramping, upset stomach, and diarrhea.2 Some studies do suggest that use of a paracervical block does reduce the pain associated with tenaculum placement but not the IUD insertion itself.

Related article:
Benefit of self-administered vaginal lidocaine gel in IUD placement

A reasonable pain management strategy for nulliparous patients. Given these data, there is not an evidence-based IUD insertion pain management strategy that can be used for the nulliparous case patient. A practical approach for nulliparous patients is to offer naproxen sodium or tramadol, which have been found to be beneficial in multiparous patients, to a nulliparous patient. Additionally, lidocaine gel applied to the cervix or tenaculum-site injection can be considered for tenaculum-associated pain, although it does not appear to help significantly with IUD insertion pain. Misoprostol should be avoided as it does not alleviate the pain of insertion and it can cause bothersome adverse effects.

Read CHALLENGE 2: IUD strings not visualized

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