It Happened To Me: I Got Toxic Shock From An IUD

Within a few days I started really feeling like crap. Like sick in bed and exhausted by breathing kind of crap. I called the advice nurse several times. On each of these calls I made a point of telling the nurse that I had just gotten an IUD and asked if it could be related.
Publish date:
May 21, 2013
birth control, scary, IUD, toxic shock syndrome

If you are a woman of a certain age (ahem) and especially if you’ve had a baby, chances are that your OB has suggested an IUD as a form of birth control. Heck, they practically give them out like candy. My conversation with the OB about it went something like this:

Me: I’m thinking about the IUD for birth control.

Doc: OK. Let me go get one now. Do you want the Mirena or a copper one? Read this brochure while I go in back and get one and we can pop it in today.

Me: Uh…

Doc: Oh, and great news! Since you are in your 40s and the copper IUD lasts up to 10 years, this may be the last birth control you ever need!

Gee, thanks. Now I don’t just feel pressured into making a decision without much information but also like an old lady. I did end up getting the IUD inserted about a week later. It’s not a complicated procedure but you do feel a weird pinch inside when they clamp it to your uterine wall. Not a great feeling, but not horribly painful, especially if you’ve 2 babies with no drugs like I have.

I spent the rest of the day doing gentle things like hanging around on my porch wondering if anyone walking by could tell I had this foreign object inside me.

Within a few days I started really feeling like crap. Like sick-in-bed and exhausted-by-breathing kind of crap. I called the advice nurse several times. On each of these calls I made a point of telling the nurse that I had just gotten an IUD and asked if it could be related.

The responses I got were consistently along the lines of “Oh honey, there’s a bad flu going around. Just get some rest and you’ll get better soon.” Was she ever wrong! I had started having chills and sweats with my body shaking when the fever was going up. Make note dear reader, if you ever have a fever combined with body shakes, you have a bacterial infection and you should go see the doctor stat!

A few bed-ridden days later, I woke up with a red spot on my lower leg and it felt like I had run a one-legged marathon on that leg. I couldn’t walk without a limp and when I stood up I had an overwhelming pins and needles feeling in my calf. I called the advice nurse again who finally woke up out of her flu-fog and immediately scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that same morning. She was concerned that the red spot was a blood clot.

Prior to this, I had agreed with my boss to pull myself together enough to go into the office to fire someone. He insisted that this firing could no longer be put off no matter that I was sick. Neither of us had a clue as to how I sick I really was.

I went in for my doctor’s appointment and the doc jumped into action right away. He called the ultrasound department and told them that I was coming and that they should not let me leave. He also said that after the ultrasound, I should be sent directly to the emergency room where they could run some blood tests and get results right away rather than having to wait for the weekend (it was a Friday).

So, my husband drove me, sweaty and barely able to think, to my office where I snuck in a back door, had someone bring the poor woman I had to fire into a back office where I was wiping sweat off my face and trying to sit upright. I gave the firee the bad news and told her sorry I couldn’t stay, went back out to the car where my darling husband was waiting and then he drove me to the hospital.

Within an hour the emergency room docs were removing the IUD and shortly thereafter a cocktail of antibiotics was being pumped into me intravenously. I had sepsis, better known as Toxic Shock. The first night in the hospital was surreal. I had doctor after doctor introduce him or herself to me and then ask me all kinds of strange questions ranging from “Did you cut yourself with a razor or walk through some prickly bushes recently?” to “Have you been sleeping with someone other than your husband?” as they tried to understand how I could have gotten sepsis.

I insisted that it had to be from the IUD but of course they didn’t like that answer. There’s culpability in that answer, among other things. At one point, the head of infectious diseases came to see me and told me that with my C-Reactive protein count was so high (I had 57 mg and the norm is less than 10 mg), it’s a wonder I didn’t end up in ICU. She told me that I was very lucky and very strong.

The next 7 days in the hospital were hard. My husband brought my children to see me every day. He brought me my favorite salted caramel ice cream, lots of Gatorade and a fragrant jasmine plant to mask the hospital-y smells. The office sent me flowers, and another friend brought me movies to watch while I was laid up.

The OB that gave me the IUD visited and said that she was so sorry that this happened. My brother visited me and although he’s generally a serious guy, he seemed even more serious than usual while he tried to make me understand how serious what I had was. In spite of all this, I don’t think I ever truly understood the severity of the situation. All I could do was focus on getting better.

What was really killing me (no pun intended) was that my 1-year old daughter, who was still nursing, would not even come into my arms and my 5-year old daughter was clearly freaked out. This was huge motivation for me to get the hell out of the hospital, aside from the fact that it’s germ-ridden, filled with sick people and they don’t let you sleep properly.

I kept asking the doctors what I could do to get out. The results of my blood tests were improving but I still needed copious amounts of antibiotics. Finally the doctor agreed that if they could put a port in my arm, just like chemo-therapy patients get, so that I could give myself intravenous antibiotics they’d let me go home.

The port thing is freaky. They cut a small hole inside your upper arm and push a long narrow tube in until it goes into your chest and close to your heart. This allows the antibiotics to do their job quickly. You have to be a maniac about keeping the port clean so that you don’t introduce any other bad germs. Of course I promised to take hella good care of my port.

The rest of the story is luckily happy. My children were fine once I got home. I got better. They took the port and long tube out of my arm (I made a crazy video of this which only a couple people would watch) and now I just have a little white scar on the inside of my left arm. I do understand how lucky I am though. The mortality rate for sepsis is 25-50%. I read an article in a women’s magazine a year ago or so about another mother who got sepsis and is now blind and had to have limbs amputated. So, my takeaways from this:

1. IUDs ain’t all that. You should ask your doctor to make sure that you don’t have any strep B strains in the area of your lady parts before getting one.

2. I am one tough bitch. I kicked sepsis in the ass!

3. Of the remaining years I spend on this earth, may none of them suck like 2010 did.

Live long and prosper ladies!