Want a form of birth control that can last you 10 years and you don't have to think twice about it? 'Duh' is the obvious answer for most of us women. Add in the fact that it has no additional hormones, it sounds like the easiest and safest option out there, especially for those that have struggled with other forms of birth control. Well, consider this a part two of my previous blog post, 'Advocating for My Health', because this is the continuation where I share with you how I found out the hard way that copper toxicity is real, and can be fatal.
After numerous unsuccessful pills and other forms of birth control thrown at me, my doctor at the time recommended the ParaGard IUD. For those that are unfamiliar with ParaGard, it is an IUD composed of copper and a small amount of nickel that prevents pregnancy by eliminating the chance of fertilization as both of these elements are toxic to sperm. I was told that it was very low risk but there was a small chance it could penetrate the uterine wall. My doctor assured me however, that if this occurred the pain leading up to it would signal me to schedule a checkup and get it removed. Although hesitant of the idea that something would be floating inside my body for a prolonged period of time, I felt that having a hormone free option would be the best solution as I was continuing my journey to becoming more holistic. Fast forward one year later and my body felt as though it was shutting down. I had extreme headaches, mood swings, hot and cold flashes, muscle and nerve pain, digestive distress, hormone imbalances, low heart rate and blood pressure, acne, nausea and my white blood cells were high.
What is not mentioned about having a piece of copper placed long term in your body, is that a small amount of copper also ends up being released into your bloodstream. Although copper is an essential mineral, there's a delicate balance of zinc to copper that needs to be maintained in your body for the proper functioning of immune health, brain function, hormones, digestion, carbohydrate and protein assimilation, fertility, sleep and some organ functions. Kind of a lot, right? Copper toxicity can be defined by all or some of these starting to go haywire due to the zinc imbalance high copper levels create. A copper allergy can show up in a similar manner as can a nickel allergy. From what I have read, it seems the signs of metal allergies will show up nearly immediately, specifically as skin rashes. Metal toxicities on the other hand can take much longer to show up fully.
When your body starts having an immune response or experiencing copper toxicity or allergy, it can be a terrifying experience. Especially since the risk of copper toxicity and allergies is rarely discussed with patients and many doctors are not trained to look for the signs of it. Many women, like myself, end up going to multiple doctors until they can get an answer. What scares me the most about this is not only the lack of education around it, but the fact that these issues can become fatal. Depending on how far along someone is with their symptoms, they also might not have time, energy or resources to go to multiple doctors and get the help they need. Personally, I am a ton of supplements right now to get my body back on track and make sure that my organs are supported and relearning the proper way to operate. This is not a process that anyone should have to go through.
If you are currently looking at different forms of birth control, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about the risks as well as ask to get tested prior to starting a new regimen. Ask your doctor for a saliva test and be sure the test analyzes the levels of ALL estrogen types so you are supplementing your hormones correctly (Estriol should be the higher of the three estrogens). The number of birth control options can feel overwhelming as they range from implants, to IUDs, to the more traditional pills so narrowing down your options by understanding what your body produces is the most straightforward approach. Some IUDs contain hormones just like other birth controls and any hormones you take in can create an imbalance which can lead to possible tumors, cancers or cysts. Testing can help to prevent these experiences. If your reasons for getting birth control are outside of pregnancy prevention, dietary changes can do a lot more for your health and well-being than any medication or device.
If you think the ParaGard is right for you, consider testing your levels of copper to zinc prior so you do not encourage an over abundance of copper in your system. I would also recommend if you do not already know, checking to see if you have any metal allergies. After my experience, I would say there's no way of knowing how much copper is emitted into your body by the device so avoiding the risk altogether would be the safest approach. It’s also difficult to tell how much dietary copper and zinc the body absorbs which plays a huge role in this balancing act.
Whether you are a woman, or know someone in your life who could potentially use an IUD, I encourage you to spread the word because this could save someone's life. Has anyone had any experiences with IUDs and hormone complications? Comment below!