Little Risk for Diseases with IUDs

Pelvic inflammatory disease risk very low when using intrauterine device

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Choosing the right birth control method can be tricky. Women opting to use a long-term device without taking the pill were unsure of the risks involved. A new study has found that the chance of developing pelvic problems after starting to use an intrauterine device (IUD) was small.

"These findings have potential to reduce barriers to IUD use for women seeking highly effective, long-term, reversible contraception," researchers said in a press release.

Women are most at risk of getting the disease within the first three weeks of getting the IUD inserted, although the researchers stress that the risk deals with women's sexual behaviors and not with getting the device.

"Get checked for sexually transmitted diseases."

Researchers said IUDs are one of the safest and most effective methods of birth control. When the T-shaped coils made of progesterone or copper are inserted into the vagina, some patients take the time to get screened for sexually transmitted diseases and thus pelvic inflammatory disease.

The study, led by Carolyn Sufrin, MD, assistant professor in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, included almost 60,000 women who were tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, which are risk factors for pelvic inflammatory disease, when getting an intrauterine device.

They ranged between 14 and 49 years of age and were treated at Kaiser Permanente Northern California between January 2005 and August 2009. Women were divided into one of four groups based on when they were screened: on the day of getting the IUD, one day to two months later, two months to a year later, and no screening at all within a year.

A little less than half the patients with IUD insertions were not screened within a year of being inserted. The number of times women got pelvic inflammatory disease, especially within the first three months of getting the IUD, was recorded.

Researchers compared the number of times screened and unscreened women got the disease and found that women overall from both groups had less than 1 percent chance of getting it. Being screened on the same day as receiving the IUD proved no different than getting pre-screened for the disease.

“This study affirms that there is a low risk of pelvic inflammatory disease after IUD insertion, which has the potential to reduce barriers to IUD access, such as making women have a separate screening visit before the IUD insertion,” Dr. Sufrin said in a press release.

The device helps with vaginal bleeding and long-term pelvic pain, as well as endometriosis, which is when cells from the uterus spread into other parts of the body. Across the US, using IUDs for contraception is low compared to other countries.

"Whereas the risk of pregnancy is 9 percent annually with pills, patches and rings, IUDs allow women almost complete control in planning their pregnancies," the authors said.

Like previous research showed, the risk of getting pelvic inflammatory disease was highest among women screened in the first two months. Women's age and race did not affect the risk of developing the disease.

The study will be published in the December 2012 issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 25, 2012
Last Updated:
March 22, 2013