Beyond Superstition: How IUDs Moved

October 19, 2021

BY Nana Abuelsoud

Image of Dalkon Shield
Image of Dalkon Shield | Source: Wired

This is an excerpt from RESURJ’s Blog, “Beyond Superstition: How IUDs Moved”. To read the full post on the RESURJ Blogs page, please visit the original link here.

If I ever decide to celebrate Halloween, I’ll stick it on my cheek — that small device, unfamiliar to many — to evoke its magical powers of moving upward with a fluidity unseen by others. The IUD is a medically tested device with proven efficiency, but still, I’ve long had an inexplicable fear of it. Its reputation has improved in recent years, but the IUD is still surrounded by myth and superstition. As one strand of the myth goes, “it can wander up to the heart and the brain.” There are a few other rumors about it, of varying details but equal horror. Where does this bad reputation come from? 

In 1974, after two unplanned pregnancies, Loretta decided to insert a type of IUD called the Dalkon Shield. For six months, Loretta suffered from severe pain. Her doctor attributed the infection causing pain to her sexual relations with American soldiers returning from Vietnam. Loretta did not correct his false, racist assumption, and she could not turn to another doctor because the healthcare arrangements available to her were so limited.

After sticking to the doctor’s prescription and lying to herself, Loretta could not withstand the pain anymore. On the eve of another consultation, she lost consciousness at home and woke up in the hospital to find out that doctors had performed a hysterectomy. She would no longer be able to plan a pregnancy after completing her studies, as she had wished. Loretta managed to pull her medical file and headed to another doctor. He confirmed that the Dalkon Shield could have been removed when her pain intensified. Thousands of women other than Loretta paid the price of racist and misogynist doctor biases, and suffered from fatigue, fainting and pain caused by the Dalkon Shield, with many similarly losing the ability to conceive or living unforeseen complications.


This article was originally written in Arabic and published on Mada Masr.