Risk for Expulsion Low After Early Postpartum IUD Placement

Intrauterine device (IUD) placement at 2-4 weeks postpartum was noninferior to placement at 6-8 weeks postpartum for complete expulsion, and carried only a slightly higher risk of partial expulsion. A randomized study of expulsion rates reports the risk of expulsion at these points may help patients and clinicians make informed choices about the timing of IUD insertion, wrote the study authors, led by Sarah H. Averbach, MD, MAS, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of California, San Diego. “We found that the risk of complete IUD expulsion was low at 2% after early IUD placement 2-4 weeks after delivery, and was noninferior to interval placement 6-8 weeks after delivery at 0%,” Dr. Averbach said in an interview.

Although the risks of partial expulsion and malposition were modestly greater after early placement, “the possibility of a small increase in the risk of IUD expulsion or malposition with early IUD placement should be weighed against the risk of undesired pregnancy and short-interval pregnancy by delaying placement.”

The timing of IUD placement in the postpartum period should be guided by patients’ goals and preferences, she added. The early postpartum period 2-4 weeks after birth has the advantage of convenience since it coincides with early-postpartum or well-baby visits. The absolute risk differences observed between early and interval placement were small for both complete or partial expulsion at 3.8%, and the rate for complete expulsion after early placement was much lower than historical expulsion rates for immediate postpartum placement within in few days of delivery.

Last year, a large study showed an increase in expulsion risk with IUD insertion within 3 days of delivery. Current guidelines, however, support immediate insertion as a safe practice.

The study

Enrolling 404 participants from diverse settings during the period of 2018 to July 2021, researchers for the noninferiority trial randomly assigned 203 to early IUD placement 14-28 days postpartum and 201 to standard-interval placement at 42-56 days. Patients had a mean age of 29.9 years, 11.4% were Black, 56.4% were White, and 43.3% were Hispanic (some Hispanic participants self-identified as White and some as Black). By 6 months postpartum, 73% of the cohort had received an IUD and completed 6-months of follow-up, while 13% had never received an IUD and 14% were lost to follow-up. Complete expulsion rates were 3 of 149, or 2.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.4-5.8) in the early group and 0 of 145, or 0% (95% CI, 0.0-2.5) in the standard group, for a between-group difference of 2.0 percentage points (95% CI, −0.5 to 5.7, P = .04). Two women chose to replace their IUDs.

Partial expulsion occurred in 14, or 9.4% (95% CI, 5.2-15.3) of patients in the early group and 11, or 7.6% (95% CI, 3.9-13.2) in the standard-interval group, for a between-group difference of 1.8 (95% CI, −4.8 to 8.6) percentage points (P = .22).

The small absolute increase in risk of partial expulsion in the early arm did not meet the prespecified criterion for noninferiority of 6%. Three pelvic infections occurred in the early placement arm.

There were 42 IUD removals: 25 in the early placement group and 17 in the standard interval group. Thirteen participants had their IUDs removed for symptoms such as cramping and bothersome vaginal bleeding.

No perforations were identified in either group at 6 months, suggesting that the rate of uterine perforations is low when IUDs are placed in the early and standard-interval postpartum periods. IUD use at 6 months remained comparable between arms: 69.5% in the early group vs. 67.2% in the standard-interval group.

Commenting on the trial but not involved in it, Maureen K. Baldwin, MD, MPH, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, said it provides further data on the prevalence of expulsion and malposition after placements using ultrasonography as needed. While two failures occurred with asymptomatic malposition, she added, “It should be noted that IUD position can change as a result of pregnancy, so it was not determined that malposition occurred prior to contraceptive failure.”

According to Dr. Baldwin, one strategy to reduce concerns is to use transvaginal ultrasonography at a later time or in the presence of unusual symptoms.

Overall, the study establishes that postpartum placement is an option equivalent to standard timing and it should be incorporated into patient preferences, she said. “Pain may be lowest at early placement compared to other timings, particularly for those who had vaginal birth.”

The study was supported by the Society of Family Planning research fund and the National Institutes of Health — National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Dr. Averbach reported personal fees from Bayer Pharmaceuticals for advice on postpartum IUD placement as well as grants from the NIH outside of the submitted work. Dr. Baldwin disclosed no potential conflicts of interest with regard to her comments.

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

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