Friday, January 17, 2014

the IUD: let me say it again

A few years ago I wrote a post about the moral and ethical questions that need be addressed when women, especially Christians, are considering the birth control pill.

Many Christian women use the birth control pill or another form of hormonal contraception. For a long time, I was one of those women! And that is why it was so important for me to write that post. But I've noticed something else that is becoming more and more common among young Christian women, mostly mothers who have a few children and either want to wait for more or want a more "permanent" solution without stepping into the world of sterilization. And that something is the IUD (short for intrauterine device). And I fear that the IUD is far more dangerous and deadly than most realize or want to admit.

So, as I did in my post about the birth control pill, I would like to review how the IUD works and then talk about why that is so concerning and potentially unethical, especially for the Christian. I know I'm going to step on some toes here and that's perfectly okay with me. Ignorance is no excuse before a holy and just God. We all need to know exactly what we're getting ourselves into or what we've gotten ourselves into so that we have an opportunity to repent and change direction. I only write this to inform, never to judge. It's the Holy Spirit's job to convict hearts, not mine.

uterine armor[source]

What kind of IUDs are on the market and how does each work?
There are currently 2 types of IUDs available. Let's look at each individually and how each works, because they work in similar, but different ways.

1. ParaGard- This is a copper IUD that is non-hormonal. Birth control pills work by releasing hormones into the body that stop ovulation, thicken mucus and prevent implantation of an embryo. With a copper IUD, there are no hormones released. To be honest, they don't fully understand why the copper IUD works, but it does. The information insert says this about how ParaGard works:

Ideas about how ParaGard works include... 

Did you catch that? Ideas about how it works. Not "Paragard has been scientificaly proven to work by..." So let's take a look at how they think this particular IUD works:

...preventing sperm from reaching the egg, 
preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg, 

In other words, "Ongoing use of the copper IUD prevents fertilization by releasing copper, which alters fluids in the uterus and fallopian tubes to act as spermicide." The primary way in which Paragard works is more as a spermicide to kill off sperm on it's way to the egg. This prevents both the sperm from reaching the egg and also from fertilizing the egg (which are basically 2 different ways to say the same exact thing). There is nothing morally questionable about this function. Using spermicide in itself as birth control is a simple barrier method and is considered perfectly acceptable for Christians.

It's the third way mentioned in the ParaGard insert that is concerning:

and possibly preventing the egg from attaching (implanting) in the uterus.

First of all, that sentence is a bit misleading. When it says "the egg," what they are referring to is a fertilized egg, not just an egg. Those are two very different things. An egg in itself does not implant into the uterus. That's not how pregnancy works. It must first be fertilized. What they really mean is a newly formed embryo is prevented from attaching to the uterus. In essence, this is an abortion.

They say "possibly" in this sentence because, as with the birth control pill, there is no way to actually know how often this method is happening. But, you can be sure, that at all times while the IUD is inserted, it is creating a hostile environment in the uterus that any embryo, if he/she is formed, will not be able to survive in. Planned Parenthood, a huge supporter of birth control, especially the copper IUD, admits it this way:

In theory, ongoing use of the copper IUD may prevent implantation by thinning the endometrial lining of the uterus, but there is no scientific evidence that this actually happens. 

They use the phrase "in theory" here because again, we cannot know exactly how often this happens. But we know it does. It's one of the ways that ParaGard works, as we just saw. They can say there is no scientific evidence, but that is because, again, there is know way to know exactly. It would be incredibly difficult to replicate this in a scientific study. But, no one is denying that the copper IUD does work in this way.

Now that we know how the copper IUD works, let's look at the second type of IUD:

2. Mirena- Mirena is a hormonal IUD. Because of this, it works more similarly to a birth control pill than the copper IUD. However, the difference between Mirena and most pills is that is is estrogen-free (some pills called "mini-pills" are also estrogen-free and work in the exact same way as Mirena). We'll get to why that's important in a minute, but first let's take a look at what the information insert says about how this IUD works:

contraceptive effectiveness of Mirena has not been conclusively demonstrated. Studies of Mirena prototypes have suggested several mechanisms that prevent pregnancy: 

Again, similar to the copper IUD, the studies about how exactly this birth control method work are not conclusive. There is no way to know exactly how it works or how often each speculated method works. They are only suggestions. Let's look at the ways they believe Mirena to work:

...thickening of cervical mucus preventing passage of sperm into the uterus, 
inhibition of sperm capacitation or survival...

In layman's terms, Mirena works in the same ways that ParaGard works except that instead of copper, it uses a type of progesterin (a synthetic progesterone). The sperm is kept from entering the uterus or the fallopian tubes by thickening a type of cervical mucus that is hostile toward sperm. The idea here is that the sperm will be killed off before it can reach the egg. But, as with the copper IUD, there is a third method in action here:

...and alteration of the endometrium. 

The Mirena insert speaks in much fancier terms than the ParaGard insert, that's for sure. Alteration of the endometrium means this: the lining of the uterus that a newly formed embryo would attach to is altered, meaning it's so thin that the embryo cannot implant and will die. 

How are ParaGard and Mirena similar?
Now that we have a basic understanding of how the IUD works, whether copper or hormonal, we need to consider how they are the same and why women, especially Christians, must be very careful about whether or not they decide to use this type of birth control method.

If you have an understanding of the birth control pill, you know that most contain both estrogen and progesterin, as I stated above and in my original post. Notice that both the copper and the hormonal IUD contain no estrogen. This is the important part so stay with me. Estrogen is the hormone in birth control pills that is responsible for inhibiting ovulation. In fact, when you read an insert about how the pill works, the number one way in which the pill stops pregnancy is by stopping ovulation. If the ovary doesn't release an egg, there is no egg to fertilize and the sperm that reach the fallopian tube simply die off.

So, if the IUD doesn't contain estrogen what does that mean? Simply this:

Every women using an IUD still continues to ovulate every single month, just as she did before the IUD was inserted.

This means that there is always an egg released, when the time comes for ovulation, that has the potential to be fertilized, in turn, becoming a newly formed human being, from the moment of conception.

So, if the initial method of preventing pregnancy fails, which in the case with IUDs is stopping sperm, there are now no more barriers in place to prevent conception. The only thing you have left now is that the lining in your uterus is so thin that it will cause the baby to be aborted. This is how both Mirena and ParaGard work.

Why should this matter to the Christian woman?
The thing is, I'm not making this up. I'm not trying to be scary or contentious. I am simply following the line of reasoning based on scientific information printed in the inserts for each type of IUD. It doesn't take a PhD to come to the logical conclusion that an abortion is possible when using the IUD. Every single month, this could be taking place.

But like I said before, we don't know for sure. We can't know for sure. And that's why all the dissension on this topic. We only know that the stakes are far higher with the IUD than with other forms of hormonal birth control.

One thing, however, is crystal clear: when an egg is always present during ovulation, and the uterus is always hostile to an embryo, if that first method doesn't work, we know what will. And that is why the IUD is so effective. It almost always prevents implantation. But I would venture to guess that in many instances, it isn't preventing conception. (I need to stop here and note that conception and pregnancy are the same thing. Once the baby is conceived, you are pregnant. Some like to say that you aren't technically pregnant until the embryo attaches in the uterus, but based on science and embryology, that simply isn't the case).

As Christians, we believe that once life is created, once it begins in the womb, at conception, it's alive. The baby, whether we want to call it an embryo or a blastocyst or a fetus, is still a living, separate, newly created human person. There is no denying that.

If we ignore the fact that with certain birth control methods, there is always a chance that a newly created human baby could be destroyed, at your hands, there will be consequences. And with the IUD, there's always a chance. When you play with fire, you're bound to get burned. Taking a risk means there's always a chance of losing or getting it wrong. And my fear is that too many of us are claiming ignorance or saying, "that wouldn't happen in my case" or "my doctor told me otherwise" (placing the blame elsewhere), will save us from the justice of God. But the truth is, none of those worked for Adam or Eve. They tried them all! And yet, they were still held accountable for their own decisions and actions.

We are too.

So please, Christian, hear me out. Is the convenience of an IUD worth the risk of ending the life of your own baby? Knowingly or not? 

Get on your knees, take that question before God, but I guarantee you already know the answer. I'm not going to decide for you, but you have to make a decision either way.

For further consideration:
The insertion of an IUD is incredibly painful because the cervix must be dilated first. Also, any manipulation to the cervix always carries with it the risk of damage.

The Mirena insert states an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy while on the IUD. 1/2 of women who became pregnant while using Mirena had ectopic pregnancies. Such pregnancies are potentially deadly to women and always deadly for the baby.

Both IUDs lead to an increased risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease which is an infection of the uterus that can cause irreversible damage. Risk is highest just after the IUD is inserted.

For alternatives to the IUD and other hormonal contraception, you can read this post.

Further reading:
Christian Birth Control Options from Mars Hill Church
Can birth control cause abortion?
New study on IUD used as emergency contraception causes abortion


  1. Hi Jessie,
    Thanks for doing all this important research. We need people like you who care deeply enough about potential abortions to read about IUDs. God bless. Pete

  2. Hi there,
    I'm a Christian and had the paraguard inserted after my son was born and was not told any of this. I had 2 months were my periods were incredibly late but eventually came and now after reading this I'm convinced I was pregnant. I am having this removed ASAP! I hope God forgives me seeing as I didn't honestly know and blessed me with another child some day. Please pray for me.

    1. He most certainly will forgive you; He already has :) I am so encouraged by people like you who heed God's voice and do the right thing. It gives me strength to do it too.

  3. Hi Jessi- I just wanted to thank you for being so outspoken about your faith, and for being an educated, relatable, Christian voice out there on the internet! My husband and I have a precious 5 month old son (our first), and before we started trying I was on hormonal birth control. I had originally been put on it (even before I was married) to regulated my cycle, so I just stayed on. I truly believed that all it did was inhibit ovulation...and I work in healthcare! Today as I was holding my baby while he napped, I was thinking about birth control methods for the future (I knew I didn't want to be on the pill because I'm nursing, and always hated how it made me feel) so I considered an IUD. And as I was reading about how the paragard works, that one fineprint line about "preventing the egg from implantation" shocked me. I realized immediately what that meant, but only because I was digging deep into how they really worked. I then googled "IUE, ethical" and your article came up. I'm so glad I read it (and your other posts about birth control). I knew after reading what I read on the paragard website that I would never use an IUD, but I didn't know that the pill functioned essentially the same way. I know now that I will not go back to hormonal birth control of any kind...and I just wanted to thank you for what you do! The fact that you educated yourself, and make what you learned accessible and relatable to other women out there is a huge blessing. Thanks so much and keep up the good work! -Victoria

  4. You are severely misinformed. There is nothing abortive about using an IUD, it prevents conception which all birth control does. You have left out a new form of IUD, that is not copper or Mirena.It's called Skyla. Copper may be dangerous in accumulating in your body, so me personally would stay away from that. There is in fact much scientific research that describes how an IUD prevents an egg from attaching to the uterus. It thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder to prevent attachment--just like the mini pill. It is not 1970, but these myths that you are spewing are no longer fact and the IUD has since evolved.

    Check out this website, by the American Reproductive Health Professionals. It clearly states that the IUD is not an abortive and other scientific facts.

    It also states cold hard facts, and you are continuing to spread misinformation with your opposition to birth control. Doctors and scientists do in fact know EXACTLY how IUDs work. They are not a medical mystery.

    As well as insertion, some women have pain, others don't. To say it is excruciating is only your experience and should not be valued as scientific fact or a sure occurence in a woman who has one inserted.

    For the record, God wants us to be able to care for our existing chidren--not produce more because we choose to be irresponsible. He wants us to be able to give them the world, not take it away. If that means a woman has to choose birth control to ensure that she can provide for her children, I say there is nothing unethical about it.

    You are not educated on the subject.

    1. Cassidy, while I appreciate your comment, I have to say that I'm a bit confused about it.

      But before I get to that, Skyla, which you mention, works no different than Mirena. It's actually just a lower dose and used for a shorter amount of time (by the same makers as Mirena). As stated on it's website, it works by thickening "cervical mucus, inhibits sperm movement, reduces sperm survival and thins the lining of your uterus." (emphasis mine) That is precisely what I explained in this post about both Mirena and Paragaurd.

      Now, as far as birth control goes, I'm more than okay with BC that does the first 3 things listed above because none of those things end the life of an already formed human being. However, the last one: thinning the lining of the uterus is where my problem lies. Now it would seem that you are confused about how that works or what the repercussions are of that? You state that "It thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder to prevent attachment--just like the mini pill." You seem to be confusing two functions of the IUD. Yes, it thickens the mucus but that doesn't prevent attachment. That prevents the sperm from getting to the egg, preventing fertilization. However, if fertilization occurs, then a brand new human life has formed (conception) and now the egg must attach. Mirena, Paragaurd and Skyla all prevent that embryo from attaching by thinning the lining. That is an abortion. Therefore all IUDs are potentially abortificient in nature. To say that none of them are abortive is disingenuous and misguided. And since that is how mini pills work, they too are an abortificient. But I address pills in a different post.

      For the record, in order to write this post I simply read the inserts from each IUD. My information (as linked in the post) is straight from the manufacturers themselves. I suggest you go to the source for the facts. The page you referred me to doesn't include all the methods by which IUDs work that the inserts clearly state occur.

      To your last comment, I agree that there is nothing unethical about birth control that inhibits fertilization. Those are called barrier methods: condoms, diaphragms, spermicide, vaginal condoms. But, if a birth control method works by inhibiting an already formed human being from attaching to the uterus, then it is the same as an abortion. It ends a life that has already begun. And that is an affront to the Creator God who is actively in the process of creating that life. That, He condemns and will judge. I also have to say, the argument that children living in poverty isn't a life worth living is offensive. The real poverty, as Mother Theresa says, is that "a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

  5. Thank you for enlightening me on this important topic, God Bless you.

  6. IUD is a good way to stop pregnancy but I have heard so many bad news regarding it that is the side effects of IUD and those were not good at all. This is a very good post and the information is really very helpful.