Since the development of the birth control pill in 1960, women have had a growing number of options for hormonal contraception. One of the more recent innovations is the development of intrauterine devices, or IUDs, which are designed to offer women long term control over their fertility. Instead of having to remember to take a pill each day, remember to buy and use condoms, or regularly replace patches or rings, women can choose to have an IUD placed in their uterus and receive contraceptive protection that is more than 99 percent effective. Hormonal IUDs like Kyleena can effectively prevent pregnancy for up to five years, but they may also cause unpleasant side effects that can be difficult to manage. Fortunately, it may be possible to avoid the side effects of Kyleena or get rid of them entirely.
What is Kyleena?
Kyleena is a brand name IUD that releases a type of progestin hormone called levonorgestrel. Similar to other IUDs, Kyleena is shaped like a T and is a small, flexible device that can be placed inside the uterus for the prevention of pregnancy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Kyleena for use in the United States in 2000, and it has grown in popularity over the past two decades. Kyleena is put in place by a trained medical professional during an office visit, and no surgery is required for placement. Kyleena can prevent pregnancy for up to five years, but there are other reasons why women use Kyleena.
Why do women use Kyleena?
Although Kyleena is first and foremost a type of hormonal contraceptive, there are other reasons why women use Kyleena. Kyleena can be used for the long term prevention of pregnancy (up to five years), but it can also help women with heavy periods reduce the flow and pain associated with menstruation. Some women who use Kyleena eventually stop having periods at all during the time that the IUD is in place. Kyleena is one of the most effective forms of birth control; like other IUDs, it is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. Kyleena does not function as an emergency contraceptive and cannot prevent against infection of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
How does Kyleena work?
Kyleena is a hormonal IUD that works by releasing small amounts of levonorgestrel, a type of progestin hormone, into the uterus. Unlike combination birth control, which includes both progestin and estrogen hormones, Kyleena does not contain any form of estrogen. While the device releases progestin locally with the intent of impacting the female reproductive system, the effects on the body are systemic. This is because the hormones released by Kyleena interact with estrogen, androgen, glucocorticoid, and mineralocorticoid receptors in the brain. Each of these receptors plays an important role in a number of processes occurring within the body, including mood, immune function, and cognition. It is because of the impact of these hormones on the body’s processes that long term use of hormonal contraceptives is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease. Devices like Kyleena are believed to work in three ways to prevent pregnancy:
- Inhibits sperm from reaching or fertilizing the egg
- Thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus
- Thins the uterine lining to prevent implantation
Kyleena is more than 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and for some women, it can also help to reduce the flow of heavy menstrual periods by thinning the lining of the uterus. However, while there are many benefits to taking Kyleena, some women experience unpleasant symptoms while using the device. The hormones contained in Kyleena impact the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays an important role in the body’s response to stressful life events. When the HPA axis becomes dysregulated, women are more likely to experience immune system disorders, memory impairment, obesity, and cardiometabolic disorders.
What side effects are associated with Kyleena?
Hormonal IUDs like Kyleena do have some side effects, including both common and serious side effects. Some women may find certain side effects, such as reduced pain during menstrual periods, beneficial depending on how their body responds to the medication, while others do not. Common side effects associated with Kyleena include:
- Yeast infection of the vagina and vulva
- Bacterial vaginosis, an infection of the vagina
- Vulvovaginitis, an inflammation or infection of the vagina or vulva
- Abnormally long or heavy periods (can be severe)
- Bleeding not related to menstrual period (can be severe)
- Absence of menstrual periods (can be prolonged)
Other side effects are experienced less frequently and may require medical attention, depending on their severity and the length of time for which they are experienced:
- Decrease in the frequency of menstruation
- Change in libido
- Hormone-induced hot flashes
- Inflammation of the cervix
- Pelvic pain
- Weight gain
- Eczema, a skin condition associated with itching and redness
- Ovarian cysts
- Breast pain or tenderness
- Hair loss
- Hair growth on parts of the body that normally do not have hair
- Intense abdominal pain
- Mood changes
- Pain with menstruation
- Vaginal discharge
- Skin rash
- Enlargement of the ovaries
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Uterine cramps
- Visible water retention
- Decrease in the production of breast milk
- Darkening of the skin
- Pain with sexual intercourse
Other side effects of Kyleena are more serious and require immediate medical attention. If you experience any of the following issues, seek medical attention right away:
- Blood clot in an artery
- Blood clot in the lung
- Angioedema, a type of allergic reaction
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, an infection of the female reproductive organs
- Blood clot in a deep vein of the extremities
- Expulsion of the IUD
- Pregnancy occurring outside of the womb
- Blood infection of Group A streptococcus bacteria
- Migraine headache
- Sepsis caused by a bacterial infection
- Infection by actinomyces bacteria
- Blood clot in the veins
- Breast cancer
- High blood pressure
- Puncture of the uterus by the IUD
How can you get rid of the side effects associated with Kyleena?
While some women using Kyleena will experience very few side effects, others may experience a variety of unpleasant symptoms that make the device nearly intolerable. It is believed that hormonal forms of contraception like the Kyleena IUD cause certain side effects because of interactions between the hormones and nutrients in the body, which cause a shift in biochemistry. As nutrients are depleted, women experience imbalances in the body and undesirable symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) has established that hormonal contraceptives like Kyleena can cause depletions of vitamins and minerals like folic acid, vitamins B2, B6, B12, C, and E, as well as magnesium, selenium, and zinc.
Fortunately, it is possible to avoid certain side effects of Kyleena with nutrient support. Managing your unique biochemistry is a balancing act, and women have different nutritional needs while using hormonal contraceptives like Kyleena. When provided with therapeutic doses of certain vitamins, minerals, and mitochondrial antioxidants, side effects including low sex drive, weight gain, mood swings, headaches, and fatigue are less likely to occur. Dietary supplements that address these unique needs, such as Even, can provide nutritional support and minimize the potential side effects associated with Kyleena.