What should I know about ParaGard before using it?

ParaGard (T 380A Intrauterine Copper Contraceptive) is a small T-shaped device that's inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It's one of two intrauterine devices, or IUDs, available in the United States. ParaGard is 99% effective and can safely stay in the body for up to ten years, so it's a very reliable form of birth control. However, there are some instances in which it's not recommended. For example, you shouldn't use ParaGard if you're allergic to any of the materials it's made of or if you have an abnormally shaped uterus (womb). ParaGard isn't advisable for women with certain medical conditions, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), uterine or cervical cancer, vaginal bleeding for an unknown reason, an infection of the cervix or Wilson’s disease (a rare genetic disorder in which the body retains excess copper).

You shouldn't use ParaGard if you have multiple sex partners or if your partner has sex with other women (both of which put you at risk for PID), if you're pregnant or if in the past three months you've developed a uterine infection after having an abortion or miscarriage. You should not use ParaGard if it's possible you're pregnant.

There are some potential side effects of using ParaGard, including heavier periods and menstrual cramps, especially during the first two or three months. ParaGard also may cause persistent mid-cycle spotting and pain. Rare but serious dangers include:
  • PID. If not quickly treated, PID can cause infection, infertility, the need for a hysterectomy (surgery to remove the uterus) and even death. Symptoms usually appear within the first 20 days after the IUD is inserted and include abdominal or pelvic pain, pain during sex, bad smelling vaginal discharge, chills, heavy bleeding or fever. Call your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms: He or she will likely prescribe antibiotics and remove the IUD.
  • pregnancy. If you become pregnant while using ParaGard, your doctor will probably recommend removing it, even though this may cause a miscarriage. Leaving the device in place creates the risk of severe infection, miscarriage, premature labor and even death.
  • ectopic pregnancy. In this condition, a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, usually in one of the tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy can cause infertility and internal bleeding and is potentially fatal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.