Hormone-releasing IUD (Mirena)
What Is The Hormone-Releasing IUD?
The only hormone-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) available in Australia is called Mirena®. It is a small plastic device in the shape of a 'T' with a hormone called levonorgestrel in its stem. It is placed inside the uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy. The IUD has a fine nylon string attached to it. When the IUD is in place, the string comes out through the cervix (the neck of the uterus) into the top end of the vagina. If you feel high up inside your vagina with your finger, you can check that the string is there and know the IUD is still in place. The string also makes it easy for a doctor to remove the IUD.
The hormone-releasing IUD can stay in place for up to 5 years.
How Does The Hormone-Releasing IUD Work?
The hormone makes the mucus in the cervix thicker so that sperm cannot get into the uterus. It also affects the ability of the sperm and egg to move through the uterus and fallopian tubes, which reduces the chance of an egg being fertilised. It also changes the lining of the uterus, making it less suitable for a pregnancy. It can also sometimes stop your ovaries from releasing an egg.
How Effective Is the Hormone-Releasing IUD?
The hormone-releasing IUD is at least 99% effective. This means that on average, if 100 women use an IUD for one year, it is possible that one of them could become pregnant.
Who Can Use the Hormone-Releasing IUD?
- you could be pregnant
- you have a current pelvic infection – this is called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- you have abnormal bleeding from your vagina, that has not been diagnosed
- you are waiting for treatment for cervical cancer or cervical changes
- you have had a recent sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- you have a congenital heart or valve disease
- you have fibroids or other conditions that change the shape of your uterus or cervix; or your uterus is fairly large or small (the doctor will be able to tell you when you are examined)
- you have already had previous problems with an IUD (for instance the IUD has come out by itself)
- you are unable to have a follow-up check after insertion
- If you haven’t had children or if you have only had caesarean deliveries, the IUD may be more difficult to insert
- Women may have irregular bleeding and spotting in the first few months after the hormone-releasing IUD is inserted. Bleeding usually settles down and periods become shorter and lighter. Up to 65% of women end up with no bleeding at all after 12 months of use
- Some women may experience hormonal side effects, such as bloating or skin changes, but this is uncommon because the dose of hormone is so small
- There is a small chance of getting a pelvic infection (PID) at the time of the IUD insertion. It occurs in about one in every 500 insertions and usually happens in the first 3 weeks after insertion. PID may rarely lead to reduced fertility and problems falling pregnant in some women
- Very rarely the wall of the uterus can be damaged by the process of inserting an IUD, or by the IUD itself, usually at the time of theinsertion. It occurs in about one in every thousand insertions, although the risk of this may be slightly increased in women who are breastfeeding, who have given birth in the past 6 months, or had a previous caesarean section
- The IUD may be pushed out of the uterus into the vagina and can occasionally fall out, without you noticing. This is called ‘expulsion’ and happens in about five out of every 100 women with an IUD. It is most common in the few months after the insertion procedure
- Occasionally a woman becomes pregnant with an IUD in place. This happens in fewer than one in 100 women who have an IUD. The IUD is usually removed although this is associated with a small chance of miscarriage
- If you fall pregnant with an IUD in place there is a small risk that the pregnancy is outside the uterus in the fallopian tubes. This is called an ectopic pregnancy. This is an uncommon complication and less common than amongst women who are not using any contraception
- Learn to check the string each month after your period to make sure the IUD is still in the right place
- If you have any unusual symptoms including a discharge from your vagina, pain low in your abdomen or deep pain during intercourse, see your doctor straight away
- If you are concerned that you could be pregnant, see your doctor or clinic for a pregnancy test. But remember, you can miss periods with the hormone-releasing IUD
- If you, or your partner, ever have casual sex, or if you have a new sexual partner, use a condom every time until you both have been checked for sexually transmissible infections (STIs)
- Keep a record of the date for replacement because an IUD should not stay in for longer than the recommended time
Who Should Not Use This Type of IUD?
You should not use a hormone-releasing IUD if:
Situations That Require Further Consideration Before Choosing an IUD
If any of these apply to you, you will need to talk them over with your doctor before deciding to use a hormone-releasing IUD:
Benefits With Using a Hormone-Releasing IUD
Possible Problems With Using a Hormone-Releasing IUD
How Do You Get the Hormone-Releasing IUD?
Warrandyte Road Clinic is the only general practice clinic in Ringwood that is accredited to perform IUD insertions for women. You are usually asked to make two visits. On the first visit the doctor will ask you questions about your general and reproductive health. You may need to have a vaginal/pelvic examination, and if necessary a Pap test and possibly a test for infections. You will probably also be given a script to get the hormone-releasing IUD from a pharmacy before your insertion visit.
On the second visit you will have the IUD inserted. The procedure takes about 10 minutes and some women may find the experience uncomfortable while others may find it quite painful. It is a good idea to take some analgesia just prior to the procedure. Occasionally, some women feel faint during or after the insertion. You should allow about an hour to be at the clinic.
What to Expect After an IUD Insertion
You may have period-like cramps and bleeding or spotting in the first few days after the IUD is inserted. Taking paracetamol and holding a hot water bottle on your abdomen may help to relieve any discomfort. If cramps, spotting or pain last more than a few days, see your doctor. You should avoid vaginal sex, tampons, swimming and baths for two days, to reduce the risk of infection.
You will need to go back to the doctor for a check-up, four to six weeks after the IUD insertion. After that you will need a check-up every two years with your regular Pap test.
Remember, women may have irregular bleeding and spotting in the first few months after the hormone-releasing IUD is inserted. Bleeding usually settles down and periods become shorter and lighter.
How Is the Hormone-Releasing IUD Taken Out?
The IUD can stay in place for five years. If you want to get pregnant or you decide that you do not want to have the IUD for other reasons, it can be removed earlier. You need to see your doctor to have it taken out. The doctor uses a special instrument to remove the IUD by gently pulling on the string. This only takes a couple of minutes. Some women find it a little uncomfortable and some don't feel much at all.