IUDs, or intrauterine devices, are long-term birth control options for women who would like to prevent childbearing for an extended period of time. A small, T-shaped IUD is inserted into the woman's uterus through the vagina during a short doctor's visit. Depending on the type of IUD, they can be worn for five or 10 years. For a small percentage of women, IUDs can lead to serious complications. Many of these complications could cause sharp abdominal pain and should be immediately evaluated by your health care provider.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
IUDs carry a risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. PID can cause infertility, and if untreated long enough, it can lead to death. According to Planned Parenthood, women who may have or who have recently had a sexually transmitted infection should hold off on getting an IUD until they've been completely cleared of infection. PID often has no symptoms until it's in its advanced stage where sharp abdominal pains can occur. Regular gynecological exams and STI checks can help prevent PID.
In very rare cases, IUDs can embed themselves in the surrounding tissue of the uterus. When this happens, they no longer protect against pregnancy and can lead to abdominal pain, depending on where and how deeply they're embedded. In many cases, surgery is needed to remove the IUD.
Another IUD complication that could lead to abdominal pain is perforation. This occurs when one or more sides of the IUD pokes through the uterus or surrounding tissue. This can lead to perforation of nearby organs as well. While occurring in less than 1 percent of IUD users, perforation could be to blame for sharp abdominal pain. This condition is repaired with surgery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 20 percent of women with IUDs develop benign ovarian cysts. Doctors and scientists don't know exactly why this happens. Most women will never know they have these cysts and they don't cause any threat to future fertility. Even though they usually cause no symptoms and go away on their own, for some women, these cysts can lead to abdominal pain. Doctors can treat these cysts, and in extreme cases, surgically remove them.
There's currently research that supports both that IUDs are linked to an increase in ectopic pregnancy and that they are not linked. Sources at Planned Parenthood point to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, while researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center cite that IUDs actually lower your chances of this condition. Either way, ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition upon which a fertilized egg grows in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus. Sharp abdominal pains are one of the symptoms, and if untreated, the fallopian tube can rupture, leading to internal bleeding, infection and death.