A photo is making its rounds on the internet and people are confused: Is that a newborn baby holding an intrauterine device, a well-known contraceptive? Little Tyler Dexter’s mother, Lucy Hellein of Alabama, has since clarified that Tyler wasn’t born holding the IUD, and that the device was instead found behind her placenta during C-section delivery.
Now, the question is: Can you still get pregnant while using an IUD, a long-acting, reversible contraceptive inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy in the first place?
Very Rare Occurrence
Here’s a quick background. Hellein posted the controversial photo of her newborn on Facebook last week, carrying the caption “Mirena fail!” The photo has since been removed.
Hellein told Metro that the object discovered by a surgeon was actually her third Mirena IUD, inserted last summer. In December, though, she found out she was 18 weeks on the way, and her doctors thought the IUD had already fallen out.
Women getting pregnant while on IUDs are very rare, Live Science investigated. The IUD has been hailed as one of the most effective birth control methods, with a failure rate of less than 1 percent in the first year of use. This came from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which likened the rate to sterilization techniques such as “tube tying.”
The brand Mirena itself, a producer of a hormonal kind of IUD, stated that fewer than 8 in 1,000 women, which translates to .8 percent, turn pregnant over a five-year period of using the device.
Not Entirely Impossible
But this doesn’t mean pregnancy while using an IUD won’t occur. The device can get out of the uterus partly or completely, something that ACOG said could happen in the first year of use. This is likely to occur soon after the IUD is inserted.
For its part, Mirena recommends checking once every month the position of the device, which can be done by feeling for threads attached to the IUD extending down from their uterus into the top of their vagina.
Another way that pregnancy can happen is when the IUD moves and becomes embedded in the uterus, or when it pierces the uterus. Removal is necessary in these cases, as it could mean severe infection, miscarriage, and even premature delivery.
Contraception: Effectiveness And Failure
"All methods of contraception have a failure rate," said Dr. Colleen Krajewski, a consultant at nonprofit birth control support network Bedsider, in a Broadly report.
It might surprise one to know, however, that a so-called “Mirena fail!” is rather rare. Krajewski shared, for instance, that 1 in 4 women using condoms gets pregnant, while 1 in 10 using birth control pills also becomes pregnant. Only 2 in 1,000 women become pregnant while on Mirena.
This makes Hellein’s case very rare and puzzling, as her IUD was still inside her when she gave birth. The IUD may likely have been “displaced” by the pregnancy.
But it’s not life-threatening for the fetus, the expert continued, as the hormone found in Mirena is progesterone, which isn’t harmful to a pregnancy.
In the end, Hellein might actually have to thank her lucky stars.
"This woman is very lucky that when the placenta grew over the IUD it did not disrupt the blood flow to the placenta," Laura Ghasseminia, a nurse with Planned Parenthood stated, pertaining to the unplanned pregnancy.