Pregnancy Risk Is Low With Negative Test at
IUD Placement

Heidi Splete

July 01, 2021

Frequency or timing of unprotected intercourse within 14 days before IUD placement had no impact on pregnancy if a preplacement pregnancy test was negative, based on data from 655 women who received IUDs.

Many women present for emergency contraception with a history of unprotected intercourse, often beyond the 5-day guidelines for emergency contraception recommended by the World Health Organization, wrote Abena BakenRa, MD, of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues. "As such, we lack data on situations in which multiple episodes of unprotected intercourse occurred in the same menstrual cycle of use, especially episodes occurring more than 5 days before emergency contraception use," the researchers said.

To determine pregnancy risk during a longer period before IUD placement, the researchers reviewed secondary data from a randomized trial of 655 women who received the copper T380A IUD or levonorgestrel 52-mg intrauterine system for emergency contraception. The women were aged 18-35 years and were enrolled at one of six family planning clinics in Utah between August 2016 and December 2019.

In a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the researchers assessed pregnancies at 1 month after IUD placement. All of the women had a confirmed negative urine pregnancy test result immediately before IUD placement.

Overall, 286 women (43.7%) reported multiple episodes of unprotected intercourse, with a median of three episodes. A total of 95 women (14.4%) reported at least one unprotected intercourse episode at 6 days or more prior to IUD placement. No pregnancies were reported among women in either of these categories (0.0% for both). Pregnancy risk was 0.2% among those who reported unprotected intercourse within 5 days of IUD placement.

No pregnancies occurred in those who reported additional episodes of unprotected intercourse at 6-7 days, 6-10 days, or 6-14 days before IUD placement (0% for all).

In both the copper IUD and levonorgestrel groups, 68% and 74%, respectively, of the women reported that all fertile-window unprotected intercourse events occurred in the 5 days prior to IUD placement.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the lack of power for analysis of certain categories of assessment, such as pregnancy rates by timing or frequency, the inclusion of patients only from the state of Utah, and the potential underreporting of unprotected intercourse, the researchers noted. However, the findings were strengthened by the relatively large sample size, and by data on unprotected intercourse before IUD placement in a randomized, controlled trial that included two types of IUDs, they said.

"For these situations with multiple unprotected intercourse episodes and extended time between unprotected intercourse and emergency contraception request, potential users should be informed of the evidence of IUD emergency contraception efficacy, compared with the current state of uncertain data for oral emergency contraception methods," the researchers said.

"Given the multitude of barriers that may impede timely presentation to care (insurance and cost concerns, difficulty finding a capable health care professional, or sexual assault trauma), these data are critical to patient-centered family planning care," they concluded.

Data Support IUD Placement in Practice

"Understanding potential barriers to placement of long-acting reversible contraception such as IUDs is essential to expanding access to contraception," Iris Krishna, MD, of Emory University, Atlanta, said in an interview.

"This study is a secondary analysis of a randomized trial that compared copper versus levonorgestrel IUD placement for emergency contraception. Investigators were able to evaluate frequency and timing of unprotected intercourse up to 14 days prior to IUD placement and prospectively collect data assessing pregnancy risk 1 month after IUD placement," she said.

The study findings suggest that the risk of pregnancy with unprotected intercourse within 14 days of IUD placement is low overall, and that this risk does not appear to increase with multiple episodes of unprotected intercourse during this time period, Krishna said. "In general, insertion of an IUD may occur at any time during the menstrual cycle as long as pregnancy may be reasonably excluded and clinicians are encouraged to initiate and place long-acting reversible contraceptives in a single visit, if possible," she noted. However, "there is a paucity of data on risk of pregnancy when assessing efficacy of IUDs as emergency contraception with episodes of unprotected intercourse more than 5 days prior to IUD placement," she added.

The study results also suggest that pregnancy risk is similar between women who reported unprotected intercourse within 5 days prior to IUD placement and those who reported unprotected intercourse up to 14 days prior to IUD placement, said Krishna. "These findings are clinically significant, as they add to our understanding of risk of pregnancy with unprotected intercourse up to 14 days prior to placement of an IUD," she emphasized.

In practice, the study results "will help clinicians counsel patients on risk of pregnancy after IUD placement for emergency contraception," said Krishna. "More studies evaluating risk of pregnancy after IUD placement for emergency contraception with episodes of unprotected intercourse more than 5 days prior to placement are needed to further assess the potential to expand the time frame for IUD use as emergency contraception," she said. "Reducing barriers to IUD access, especially in setting of emergency contraception, is essential to lowering unintended pregnancy rates in the United States."

The study was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, as well as the University of Utah Population Health Research Foundation, the National Center for Research Resources, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. Several coauthors disclosed grant support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Research on Women's Health of the National Institutes of Health. The researchers, as well as Krishna, had no financial conflicts to disclose.

This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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