Clinical Review

Overcoming LARC complications: 7 case challenges

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CHALLENGE 5: Pregnancy in an IUD user

CASE 3-year copper IUD user with positive pregnancy test

A 25-year-old woman (G3P2) presents to your office because of missed menses and a positive home pregnancy test. Her last menstrual period was 6 weeks ago. She has had a copper IUD in place for 3 years and can feel the strings herself. She has experienced light cramping but no bleeding. Office examination is notable for the IUD stem present at the external cervical os. While the pregnancy is unplanned, the patient desires that it continue.

Should you remove the IUD?

The pregnancy rate among IUD users is less than 1%—a rate that is equivalent to that experienced by women undergoing tubal sterilization. Although there is an overall low risk of pregnancy, a higher proportion of pregnancies among IUD users compared with nonusers are ectopic. Therefore, subsequent management of pregnancy in an IUD user needs to be determined by, using ultrasound, both the location of the pregnancy and whether the IUD is in place.

If an ectopic pregnancy is found, it may be managed medically or surgically with the IUD left in place if desired. If you find an intrauterine pregnancy that is undesired, the IUD can be removed at the time of a surgical abortion or before the initiation of a medical abortion.

If you fail to locate the IUD either before or after the abortion procedure, use an AP x-ray of the entire abdomen and pelvis to determine whether the IUD is in the peritoneal cavity or whether it was likely expelled prior to the pregnancy.

Related article:
In which clinical situations can the use of the 52-mg levonorgestrel-releasing IUD (Mirena) and the TCu380A copper-IUD (ParaGard) be extended?

With a desired pregnancy, if the strings are visible, remove the IUD with gentle traction. If the IUD is left in place, the risk of spontaneous abortion is significantly increased. If the strings are not seen, but the device was noted to be in the cervix by ultrasound, remove the device if the stem is below the internal cervical os. For IUDs that are located above the cervix, removal should not be attempted; counsel the patient about the increased risk of spontaneous abortion, infection, and preterm delivery.

Read CHALLENGE 6: Pregnancy in an implant user

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