Trigger warning: Miscarriage. This is the story of how I got pregnant with a Paragard IUD: my miscarriage at six weeks gestation on February 24, 2018.
I am a certified nurse-midwife with 13 years of nursing experience, but this is not medical advice. Please consult your medical professional if you’re concerned that you’re pregnant with an IUD or experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
When you are graduating college or celebrating the birth of your baby, you shout it from the mountaintops. We live in a world where we publicly discuss every aspect of our life on social media. But when I miscarried, I was alone despite an incredibly supportive network. I walked with my partner, parent, or friend quietly. I couldn’t be pregnant without fear, and I couldn’t have fun without guilt.
A miscarriage is a painful phenomenon, but then grief always is. Your job doesn’t permit you twelve weeks of leave for a miscarriage. There is no public funeral to say goodbye to that tiny soul. Going through a miscarriage feels like walking in a fog, alone, without shoes on. However, moving on is complicated and painful, and it alters your outlook permanently because from now on, worry taints pregnancy.
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Our Miscarriage Story
That night, my husband and I were going out to celebrate, and my best friend agreed to watch our baby. I never worried about the fallibility of birth control because I had a copper Paragard IUD.
Seriously- the Paragard has a very low failure rate of less than one percent (an average of 0.18% per year per the CDC). This failure rate is as low as female sterilization rates, also known as getting your tubes tied. In other words, getting pregnant with a Paragard correctly in place is VERY rare.
However, my period has lasted twelve days so far. I had lots of brown bleeding and odd lower pelvic cramping. Intrinsically, I knew something was wrong and took the remaining digital pregnancy test from our last baby.
Pregnant with a Paragard IUD
The timer slowly rotated, and I assumed it was taking so long because it was negative. My toddler ran out of the bathroom, so I hurriedly chased her. My husband went to the bathroom a few minutes later and didn’t mention the test results, so I figured all was well.
I still needed to shower, so I turned on the water. Before hopping in the tub, I glanced at the laminate countertop, which shouted in clear black letters: PREGNANT.
I turned off the faucets, pulled on my clothes, and sat on the floor in shock. In a few minutes, I had to find the strength to stand up and walk out to the kitchen and tell my husband.
I don’t care who you are: bleeding for twelve days does not instill positive feelings in anyone! I knew that the cramping and IUD set me up for failure. We dropped our toddler off with my best friend to depart for the emergency department. This night had taken a terrible turn.
The Emergency Department
Upon arriving at the department, I carefully recited the early miscarriage IUD symptoms. I had an IUD, light to moderate brown bleeding for twelve days, developed foreign cramping in my left lower pelvis, and tested positive on a home pregnancy test. They quickly escorted us to a private bay in the emergency room.
The lab technician cracked jokes and drew my blood in a rainbow of tubes to assess my situation. Her cheerful demeanor contrasted drastically with the mood in our room. Next, transportation wheeled me down the cold hallway to my ultrasound.
The ultrasound technician repeatedly jammed the transvaginal ultrasound into my cervix. The discomfort is tolerable when you eagerly await seeing your baby’s tiny heartbeat and little wiggling limbs. When they avert their eyes and quietly tap on the keys of the ultrasound machine, you know that there is no good news.
After arriving back in my room, the ER physician told me they believed they saw something growing on my left fallopian tube. When a pregnancy implants outside the uterus, it is an ectopic pregnancy. The most common place for an ectopic pregnancy is in the fallopian tubes, between the ovaries and the uterus.
The amount of pregnancy hormone (hCG) in my blood showed that I was pregnant. Still, we would expectantly manage the situation, and I should visit my healthcare provider the following Monday.
Pregnant with a Paragard: Holding Out Hope
We visited the obstetrician two days later, on a Monday, and had my copper IUD removed. Based on my last menstrual period, I was six (6) weeks and three (3) days pregnant, but the pregnancy hormone level was too low to see anything conclusive on ultrasound.
This means there was no definitive answer whether it was ectopic (outside the uterus) or an intrauterine pregnancy. My husband and I left hoping for a viable intrauterine pregnancy, but reasonably sure it would be a tubal pregnancy. However, we received the call the next day that my hCG was dropping by several points from our weekend ER visit. There was no way this could be a “normal” pregnancy.
For the next ten days, the hCG levels dropped appropriately. No one prepared me for the pain, and I am a healthcare professional. I was on my hands and knees, screaming on the floor as the pain came and went. It was a Wednesday night, and I did not want to leave the comfort of my house. However, I was terrified that I would wake my children or, worse yet, would not wake up the following day. I went back to the emergency department with my mother.
My hCG had dropped, and a 4 cm area on my left tube appeared to be where an ectopic pregnancy had grown. The ER doctor and my OB were pretty sure I was having a tubal miscarriage, meaning my body passed the ectopic pregnancy without medical assistance. It was 5 am and time to face my small children and miscarriage head-on with only a mild pain pill.
That Friday, I had another blood draw. Shockingly, the hCG went up 9 points. It’s been nine weeks after my last menstrual period, and I was still in an ectopic pregnancy limbo. If it trended up again, I needed to receive an injection of methotrexate, a chemo drug that makes you feel terrible but will prevent the growth of the ectopic pregnancy.
Twice a week, I experience the painful stab of the needle entering my arm in a sterile, cold space as we follow the pregnancy hormone down to zero. I see glowing pregnant women everywhere- something that has never bothered me.
The lab technician told me about his wife entering the second trimester as he saw that my only order was for hCG. Pregnant women sit in the lab, taking glucose tests with their big glorious bellies. A girl from high school shares the due date that I should have had. The grief strikes unexpectedly.
How do you move on from the miscarriage of an unplanned pregnancy?
I’m one of the “lucky” ones. Usually, doctors find an ectopic when a woman is being wheeled back for surgery, about to lose a tube. But I don’t feel lucky. I have a lot of guilt for losing this pregnancy. Between the IUD and the unplanned fourth baby, I don’t even feel like my friends suffering a miscarriage can relate to me. However, they are phenomenal, and I know they absolutely support me.
I cry at the most inopportune times and don’t know how to get past this. Presently, I have to have faith that the universe will provide. People say, “you could always try again,” or “you have enough kids anyway,” but I don’t want to try again. I want that baby.
Being pregnant when you were actively trying to prevent pregnancy with a copper IUD is confusing. I was so conflicted by my grief. While my baby did not leave a deep impression on this earth, the impact left on my heart is significant.
I am blessed with a lovely family and four children despite this experience. However, the grief took a long time to get past. Even now, it strikes me at random times.
I got pregnant with an IUD.
What does a miscarriage with IUD look like?
There are some early symptoms that you are pregnant with an IUD that you should know about. If you are experiencing these copper IUD pregnancy symptoms, you may be pregnant with a Paragard:
- Check for the presence of an IUD still in place. You should be able to feel the strings.
- Irregular bleeding, light to moderate brown bleeding for twelve days
- Foreign cramping in one side of the lower pelvis
- Positive on a home pregnancy test
These Paragard copper IUD pregnancy symptoms may not mean miscarrying, and you should seek medical care IMMEDIATELY.
Have you ever experienced a miscarriage with an IUD? Help me fight the lonely stigma attached to miscarriage. Please share your IUD pregnancy stories below.