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Intrauterine Contraceptive Devices (IUDs) Affect the Whole Body Contrary to Previous Claims, MRI Study Reveals

A recent study using breast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed that intrauterine contraceptive devices (IUDs) appear to affect more than the uterus. Researchers claim that IUDs can have a systemic effect also to the body similar to those of systemic hormonal medication.


Breast MRI

Left image shows breast MRI in 41-year-old patient without IUD. Right image shows increased parenchymal enhancement in the same patient 27-months after IUD placement. (PHOTO: Radiological Society of North America)

How Do IUDs Work?

According to UK’s National Health Services, IUDs are small T-shaped plastic and copper devices put inside the uterus by a doctor or a nurse. It is said that it can prevent pregnancy 99% of the time when inserted correctly. IUDs work as soon as it is inserted and can last for five to 10 years, depending on their type.

IUDs work like the intrauterine system but only release copper into the womb instead of the hormone progesterone. The copper will alter the cervical mucus to prevent the sperm to reach the egg and ultimately prevent pregnancy. More so, it prevents a fertilized egg from being able to implant itself into the uterine lining.

Women aged 40 and up may still use IUDs and can leave them until they reach menopause or no longer need contraception.

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Breast MRI Reveals IUDs Have Systemic Effects on the Body

The study, which will be presented next week during the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), claims that IUDs do not have a purely local effect on the uterus.

As Medical Xpress reported, levonorgestrel-releasing IUDs (LNG-IUDs) used by many women can be associated with systemic side effects to those of systemic hormonal medication.

Leading breast cancer research Dr. Christiane Kuhl said that women with hormonal IUD often show higher background parenchymal enhancement as seen on contrast-enhanced breast MRI. This means that IUDs caused hormonal changes well beyond the uterus.

Nonetheless, the team said that this does not imply that contraceptives are ineffective. Rather, it implies that it has a higher diagnostic accuracy of breast MRI to women with hormonal IUDs.

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