I had Pelvic Inflammatory Disease many years ago when I was a young wife and mother. It was scary and painful and struck me suddenly and hard. I felt feverish, uncomfortable and strange that day. By the time I got to the hospital emergency room, I couldn’t even walk in the door.
The ER physician said my Lippes Loop, an intrauterine device for birth control, was “drilling a hole in my uterus.” He needed to remove it immediately. Until that day, the IUD had seemed the perfect non-drug birth control solution for a nursing mother.
And by the way
After he removed the IUD, the ER doctor casually mentioned that I would probably never have another child. I remember not caring at the time, because the ache had shifted from local pelvic discomfort to a full body throb. The doctor said it was shock from removing the IUD from my uterine wall. He prescribed a heavy course of antibiotics, recommended I follow up with my own physician and sent me home.
My husband was at work and my baby son was at my mom’s house; but, for once, I didn’t care about life’s little details. I took a taxi home, made it into our apartment somehow; and crawled into bed without making a single phone call. I remember my skin feeling raw and painful to the touch. I was cold and shivering but the weight of sheets and blankets felt like a new kind of pain. I drifted in and out of sleep.
After months of medication I felt like myself again. I even had another child 5 years later.
What I learned about PID
Most current cases of PID are not like mine. According to the CDC PID Fact Sheet, many are caused by untreated STDs like Chlamydia or Gonorrhea. Some have minor symptoms. Others are far more serious and can lead to infertility.
A decade after my illness, I worked as a liability/litigation specialist for an insurance company that was defending IUD manufacturers against PID lawsuits. I learned a lot about the connection between IUDs and PID from investigating those cases.
PID was a big problem in the 70s and early 80s.
There were no government guidelines for IUDs.
IUDs, mostly Dalkon Shields, were a known cause of PID.
Plastic strings extending outside the uterus may have been a means for bacteria to enter.
Women became infertile and some died from IUD related PID.
ER physicians began refusing to remove IUDs because of the risks involved.
IUD manufacturers ran magazine ads to find IUD users.
Courts subpoenaed our original insurance company claim files to see what we knew and when we knew it.
According to the website, pubmed.gov, by 1987, all but one manufacturer had taken IUDs off the market. A H Robins, manufacturer of the Dalkon Shield filed bankruptcy. Ortho’s Lippes Loop, and Searle’s Copper 7 were discontinued.
STDs and PID
The CDC PID Fact Sheet focuses on PID as associated with untreated sexually transmitted diseases. IUDs were off the market for a long time, so STDs are a bigger PID threat these days.
As IUDs have been gradually reintroduced in recent years, it pays to be cautious. The FDA now has an IUD approval program but in it’s consumer update, “FDA Cautions Against Using Unapproved IUDs,” the agency warns against unapproved IUDs available online.