It was just supposed to be a routine x-ray to see how big my kidney stone was. My mind just kept repeating that thought over and over as I sat at the hospital waiting to have a CT scan done. The events of the past hour didn’t make sense to me. I just kept waiting for someone to jump out and tell me I was being pranked for some bad reality TV show.

At my primary care physician’s office, when he came in the room to review the x-ray with me, I was expecting him to show me what the kidney stone that had been causing me so much excruciating pain looked like. Instead, he started asking me weird questions.

“Do you have an IUD?” he asked.

“No, I haven’t had one in like nine years,” I replied.

“That is what I thought,” he said. “When was the last time you had surgery?”

“When Cullin (my youngest son) was born a little over nine years ago.”

He took a deep breath and then turned his computer screen so I could see it. “Do you see this triangle here in your abdomen?” 

“Yes, what is that?” I asked.

My doctor looked me in the eyes, shook his head, and admitted to me that he honestly didn’t know what it was—all he knew was that it should not be there. He told me it looked like an IUD, but he didn’t know how it got there because my IUD had been removed nine years ago. He told me the only other thing it could possibly be was a medical device left inside me by accident during my last C-section, but if he had to make a bet, he would guess that a mistake was made and my IUD was never removed. I just couldn’t see how that was possible because I had watched the doctor who removed it set the IUD on his little silver tray after he was finished.

My doctor told me he was sending me to the hospital for some additional testing, that he would alert the general surgeon he liked to work with about my situation, and then he said that he would pray for me.

Pray for me.

Those words felt like a punch to my gut. I entered my doctor’s office because of a tiny kidney stone. Now, I was leaving to go to the hospital and my doctor was promising to pray for me. It felt like I was trapped in a bad dream.

After my CT scan was completed, the radiology tech sent me to the emergency room. He wouldn’t tell me what he saw and would only tell me that the general surgeon was on his way to meet me. The nurse in the emergency room was very sweet, and she did her best to make my husband and me comfortable. For the next few hours, emergency room doctors, nurses, residents, and medical students floated in and out of my room. Each one would ask me questions about the IUD I believed had been removed nine years ago. I answered the same questions so many times I lost count.

My mind raced as I tried to recall the events that transpired nine years ago regarding my IUD. Three months after my youngest son was born, I spoke to my OB/GYN and decided to use an IUD for birth control. She showed me the little white T-shaped piece of plastic and told me she would insert it into my uterus. I remember a slightly uncomfortable feeling when she placed it. Three weeks later, I went back to have the placement checked. My OB/GYN told me the first IUD had fallen out, and she inserted a second device. Three weeks later, correct placement was verified.

In the months that followed, I started having side effects: headaches, anxiety, acne, severe weight gain, and constant mood swings. Six months after the second IUD was inserted, I had it removed. Now, I was sitting in a hospital room watching doctors try to decipher how and why I had been walking around with what appeared to be an IUD inside of me that I didn’t know about for nine years.

The general surgeon finally showed up and explained that after consulting all of the other care providers, it had been determined the first IUD my OB/GYN told me had fallen out had really just migrated deeper into my uterus and at some point during those nine years, had broken through my uterus and into my abdomen. He told me it was a miracle it hadn’t caused hemorrhaging or internal bleeding, and that I would need to have it surgically removed.

I had laparoscopic surgery to remove the mysterious migrated IUD from my abdomen on April 18th. I will never forget the date because it was my oldest sons 14th birthday. I remember asking God as the anesthesiologist put me under to let me survive the surgery because he couldn’t let me die on Cannon’s birthday and ruin such a special day for him forever. The IUD was successfully removed, but recovery was somewhat difficult because I passed my kidney stone the next morning. The only thing more painful than passing a kidney stone is apparently passing a kidney stone the day after abdominal surgery.

The months that followed were difficult. I found myself sinking into depression when I realized the unknown IUD that had been floating around in my uterus could have been the reason I never had a third child. The thought that the reason I never got pregnant again was that a doctor made a mistake—instead of it being God’s plan for my family—made me bitter. The mounting medical debt because of something that never should have happened felt unfair, and each time I received another bill, the anger and bitterness intensified. I would go back and forth between feeling stupid for trusting my OB/GYN when she told me the IUD had fallen out and not questioning her more, and feeling betrayed that she dismissed something that could have killed me so quickly and without even a second thought. Then, six months after my initial surgery, I had to have another emergency surgery because problems with scar tissue had led to a cyst rupturing, dumping two cups of blood into my abdomen and the cycle of recovery started all over again.

Eventually, both my emotional and physical scars healed, but who I am was changed by this experience forever.

All the doctors I met told me they had never heard of an IUD being left in someone for nine years. However, the majority of them did admit that IUD migrations are not uncommon and a quick Google search will produce thousands of stories about IUD migrations and the complications they cause. In 2017 a woman in China had an IUD removed from her bladder that had been inside her body for six years. Until recently her story was the only other long-term IUD migration incidence I could find. However, a recent Facebook post written by Melinda Nichols revealed the Ohio mom had an IUD discovered in her abdomen that she had been told had fallen out 11 years earlier.

I wasn’t surprised to hear that someone else had the same horrifying experience I did. It makes me wonder how many other women are unknowingly walking around with IUDs in their bodies that they were told had fallen out years ago. If you have ever had an IUD and were told it fell out, consider asking your OB/GYN or primary care physician do imaging to make sure it isn’t still there. Melinda Nichols and I were both lucky our IUDs migrations didn’t cause severe long-term complications. Honestly, the only reason our IUDs probably went so long undiscovered was that their migration didn’t cause significant enough symptoms to be detected sooner. Not everyone gets so lucky. There are women who have died from injuries caused by IUDs. I know I am blessed my story didn’t end that way, and my heart breaks for all of the families who have lost loved ones.

If you are reading this and are considering getting an IUD, I urge you to find a different form of birth control. I know thousands of women successfully use IUDs without problem, but after my experience, I feel like the potential risks of having an IUD outweigh the benefits, especially when there are plenty of other options available.

Tiffany O'Connor

Tiffany O'Connor is the originator, author, and co-editor of THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDEBOOK TO SURVIVING series. She is also the writer behind the popular blog #lifewithboys. Tiffany lives in Nebraska with her husband, her two sons, and her two male dogs. She spends her free time watching TV shows about zombies and listening to Taylor Swift songs on repeat.