“Here’s How I Knew I Was Pregnant, on Birth Control”: One Mother’s Story

Updated: Apr. 01, 2024

While the chance of pregnancy on this contraceptive method is low, it remains a possibility. A mother recounts her experience: "I began to embrace the unexpected journey."

pregnancy test o na blue backgroundLonghua Liao/getty images

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) have steadily climbed the ranks to become a favored choice of birth control among American women, with their popularity ranking them just after the decades-trusted tubal ligation and oral contraceptives methods.

With a typical one-year failure rate of less than 1%, as reported by Yale Medicine, IUDs are considered one of the most effective forms of reversible contraception. These small, flexible, T-shaped devices, inserted into the uterus through the vagina, provide long-acting, reversible contraception (LARC) for three to 10 years, depending on which IUD model choice the patient pursues.

Individuals choose IUDs for reasons beyond just reliable birth control. Some may be healing after a recent pregnancy, while others need some time to decide if they want to start a family. Regardless of personal motivation, the decision to use an IUD is typically rooted in the belief of its effectiveness. However, despite the impressive statistics showcasing IUD’s high success rate, the possibility of pregnancy, albeit slim, remains real. As Robyn Horsager-Boehrer, MD, reminds us in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s MedBlog: “[…N]o form of birth control is 100 percent effective.”

For those with an IUD who suspect pregnancy, Dr. Horsager-Boehrer recommends starting with a home pregnancy test. If the result is negative but questions or symptoms linger, seeking professional medical advice is crucial.

In the case of a positive pregnancy test, an immediate consultation with an OBGYN is essential for further evaluation through an ultrasound and examination. Pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding, in particular, warrant urgent attention as they may indicate an ectopic pregnancy—a potentially life-threatening condition where a fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the uterus, requiring prompt emergency care.

Following the confirmation of a pregnancy, medical professionals will check for the presence of the IUD strings as a preliminary step toward possibly removing the device. Dr. Horsager-Boehrer points out that research indicates leaving an IUD in place during pregnancy may elevate the risks of miscarriage, preterm birth, and infections of the amniotic sac, unlike scenarios where the IUD is removed. Although removing the IUD can improve outcomes, pregnancies with a history of IUD use may still face a heightened risk of complications in comparison to those without.

Megan S., a 44-year-old mother of three, faced these decisions when she received a positive pregnancy test while using an IUD. Ahead, she shares the importance of the compassionate support she received from her OBGYN when she found out she was pregnant despite having an IUD.

Here’s how I knew I was pregnant with an IUD

By Megan S., as told to Dr. Patricia Varacallo, DO

Six years ago, I found myself staring at a positive pregnancy test, my mind reeling with disbelief. As a 38-year-old mother of two, I had chosen to get an IUD after my second child, believing it to be a reliable form of birth control. I needed a break, a chance to catch my breath before considering adding to our family, especially after suffering a miscarriage between my first and second children. Little did I know that life had other plans.

When I first suspected I might be pregnant, I tried to brush it off. After all, with an IUD, the odds of conception were supposed to be incredibly low. However, as the days went by and the nagging feeling persisted, I decided to take a home pregnancy test just to put my mind at ease. Imagine my shock when the test came back positive! I took three more tests, all with the same result.

Panic set in. To the best of my knowledge, my IUD was still in place. How could this have happened? Will the IUD harm the pregnancy? Will any of this harm me?

I immediately called my OBGYN, my voice shaking as I explained the situation to her staff. They scheduled me for an appointment the very next day.

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My IUD removal

At the clinic, an ultrasound confirmed that I was indeed pregnant at five weeks gestation. Thankfully, it was an intrauterine pregnancy, meaning the fertilized egg had implanted in my uterus.

This was a relief, as I had been worried about the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. My OBGYN found that the IUD had shifted down my cervix, which could have been the reason for my pregnancy. She guided me through the process and let me know that the IUD would need to be removed immediately. I was worried that it would harm the baby, but she let me know that the chances of that were very slim given the IUD’s position relative to where the fertilized egg had implanted. This brought some relief, though I couldn’t help but muse over the irony of rare possibilities becoming my reality. Fortunately, she was able to locate and gently remove the device.

I remember holding my breath, silently praying that everything would be alright.

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Continuing the pregnancy after I had my IUD removed

The following months were a rollercoaster of emotions. I was grateful for the pregnancy but couldn’t shake the fear of potential complications. Each prenatal visit was met with a mix of anticipation and anxiety. Would the baby be healthy? Was I doing everything I could to ensure a safe pregnancy? Even with reassurance from my OBGYN, the worries kept looping in the back of my mind.

As the pregnancy continued, I slowly began to embrace the unexpected journey. My husband and children were equally surprised but thrilled at the prospect of a new family member. We started preparing for the baby’s arrival, marveling at the unexpected twist in our lives.

When I finally held our daughter in my arms, all the fears and uncertainties melted away. She was perfect, a testament to the resilience of life. Looking back, I realize that while the experience was far from what I had planned, it taught me valuable lessons about adaptability and trust.

Some words of encouragement…

To other women who may find themselves in a similar situation, I offer this advice: Take a deep breath—you will get through this. Seek medical guidance immediately, and trust in the expertise of your healthcare providers. Remember that every pregnancy is unique, and while complications can occur, we can have healthy pregnancies and babies, even with an IUD.

Today, my daughter is a thriving six-year-old, a delightful addition to our family. Her birth story may be unconventional, but it’s a reminder that life often has its own plans. I know that many women do not have the outcome I have, and I, too, have frantically searched the internet for some encouragement. My sincere wish is that my story will help provide comfort during a confusing and unexpected time when you’re just trying to do what’s best for you both.

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