Heavy periods are one of the common side effects of an intrauterine device, or IUD, especially copper IUDs such as ParaGard. However, several other factors can also cause a heavy period. If your heavy periods are caused by an IUD and this is a problem for you, you may like to consider another form of birth control.
How IUDs Cause Heavy Periods
Heavy periods are most commonly experienced by women with copper IUDs. Medical experts are still investigating the reasons why, but increasing evidence suggests prostaglandins may be to blame. Prostaglandins are fats made within the body at the site of infection or tissue damage, which can occur on the insertion of an IUD. These fats cause inflammation and increase blood flow to help the body heal. They also help control your menstrual cycle. So, while your body is healing after getting a copper IUD, periods tend to be heavier.
Women with copper IUDs tend to have periods that are 20 to 50% heavier for the first 12 months after their insertion. However, most women notice their period returns to normal within two years.
The insertion of a hormonal IUD can also cause tissue damage which triggers the production of prostaglandins, but heavy periods are less common with this type of IUD. That’s because the hormones these IUDs emit thin the endometrium which lines the uterus. When the endometrium is thin, it can’t support a fertilized egg. There also isn’t as much lining to shed in menstruation, so periods are lighter. Studies have shown women with heavy periods actually see their periods become 80 to 90% lighter within six months of receiving a hormonal IUD.
This isn’t an automatic process though. It takes time for the body to regulate itself and get used to the hormones in a hormonal IUD. That’s why many women who get a hormonal IUD notice their periods also become heavy within the months after their insertion. Their bodies are producing prostaglandins to cope with damage sustained during insertion, but the hormones from the IUD that offset those heavy periods haven’t yet taken hold.
Women at Greatest Risk of IUDs Causing Heavy Periods
Certain women are at greater risk of developing heavy periods after getting an IUD than others. You may want to consider an alternative birth control choice if you are in one of the following categories.
Copper IUDs aren’t recommended for women with the following conditions:
- Heavy or irregular periods.
- Severe abdominal cramps.
- A copper allergy.
- Blood clotting disorders.
- Heart valve disorders.
Copper and hormonal IUDs aren’t recommended for women with the following conditions:
- Current or previous pelvic inflammatory disease.
- A past abnormal pap smear.
- Unusual cervixes, uteruses, ovaries, or fallopian tubes.
- A history of narcotic use.
If you fall into one of the following categories, discuss your birth control options with one of the friendly Nurx™ medical team. They can provide personalized advice about the best birth control choices for you.
Other Factors That Can Make Periods Heavy
IUDs aren’t the only thing that can trigger heavy periods though. If your heavy periods persist, you may want to speak to a Nurx medical provider to rule out one of the following common causes of heavy periods:
- Hormone imbalances: If the body doesn’t have the right mix of estrogen and progesterone, the endometrium can be very thick. When it’s shed, the period is heavier than normal.
- Anovulation: If your ovary doesn’t release an egg during your menstrual cycle, your progesterone levels will drop and your endometrium will thicken. When you do have a period, it will be heavier. This is usually a temporary problem.
- Fibroids: These noncancerous tumors sometimes form in the uterine walls, especially during the child-bearing years. They create pressure against the uterine walls which can cause bleeding. This makes periods heavier.
- Polyps: These growths, which are usually noncancerous, make their home in the endometrium and cervix, especially when hormone levels are high. It’s unclear why they make periods heavier.
- Endometrial hyperplasia: A medical condition which makes the endometrium thicker than usual.
- Adenomyosis: A medical condition which makes the endometrial glands grow into the uterus’ muscle. This makes the uterus larger than usual, so there is more endometrium to shed.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: A painful infection which may be triggered by chlamydia or gonorrhea. While it is rare, it’s worth investigating if your heavy periods start within the first three weeks of getting an IUD.
A miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy can also cause heavy bleeding which may be mistaken for a heavy period.
Birth Control Options to Make Periods Lighter
If you find the heavy periods associated with an IUD inconvenient or you are concerned about them for a medical reason, such as an iron deficiency, don’t worry. There are several birth control options which can provide the protection against pregnancy you want and reduce those heavy periods by regulating your hormones and reducing the thickness of the endometrium:
- A hormonal IUD such as Skyla, Liletta, Kyleena, or Mirena.
- Birth control pills.
- The patch.
- The depo-shot.
Other Ways to Manage Heavy Periods
Heavy periods can also be managed in many cases using medications or natural remedies. Good options for managing heavy periods include:
- Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
- Taking turmeric supplements or foods rich in this spice.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in vitamins.
- Reducing stress levels.
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Getting enough sleep.