Have you considered getting an IUD (Intrauterine Device) but didn’t know enough to make an educated decision about whether or not it is right for you? IUDs are 99% effective, making them one of the most dependable birth control methods. There are two classes of IUDs and a total of five IUDs that are approved by the FDA. But the big question you’re probably asking is “How do they get it in there?” Let’s explore everything about IUDs from IUD insertion, placement, and aftercare so you can determine if an IUD is fit for you.
How is an IUD inserted? The IUD insertion process is performed by a doctor and can usually be completed in 20 minutes or less.
Before IUD Insertion
Before putting in an IUD, a doctor or nurse will go through your medical history. They will usually also test you for pregnancy and/or STIs. They will then perform a medical exam to check your vagina, cervix, and uterus. IUDs can be put in at any time during your cycle so long as you are not pregnant. You can have an IUD put in immediately after giving birth or having an abortion.
Here are a few things you should not do before getting an IUD:
- Have sex during the two weeks leading up to your IUD insertion without a condom.
- Ignore or forget pre-insertion protocols such as abstaining from foods prior or taking medication to dilate the cervix.
- Show up to the appointment dehydrated and unable to give a urine sample for a pregnancy test
IUD insertion doesn’t limit you too much pre-insertion, so be sure to follow your doctor’s specific orders for a successful and safe procedure. In preparation for an IUD insertion, some doctors will recommend taking 800 mg of Advil before coming to their appointment.
IUD Insertion Procedure
Immediately before insertion of the IUD, most doctors will numb your cervix because the procedure can be a little painful. Once the numbing agent is fully activated, your doctor will insert a speculum into the vagina and use a special tool to insert the IUD through the opening of your cervix and into the uterus. The whole process, including the numbing, can take anywhere from five to twenty minutes.
The IUD’s placement is in the uterus and two IUD strings then hang from the cervix into the vaginal canal. They are approximately two inches in length so you should be able to touch the strings with the tip of your finger; this means the IUD has successfully been implanted. The strings can move around, commonly being pulled up into the uterine cavity, so don’t be alarmed if you can’t find them right away. However, if you cannot feel the strings after multiple tries, you should call your doctor.
IUDs can shift or experience displacement, called IUD Expulsion. Expulsions can be full or partial and can affect up to 8% of women. While it sounds scary, expulsion is simply when the IUD is pushed out of its ideal place at the top of the uterus. Expulsion usually happens within the first three months of having the IUD and the likelihood of expulsion is higher during your period during those first three months.
IUD Insertion Aftercare
Most women experience cramping and some pain after an IUD insertion which can often be helped by 600 mgs of Advil or Aleve (or similar) and a heating pad. You may also notice some bleeding or brown discharge after the insertion. The entire healing process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Some people also have other symptoms associated with their IUD insertion including nausea, sweats, vomiting, dizziness, fainting, and backaches.
What not to do after an IUD insertion
Here are a few things not to do after an IUD insertion:
- Do not insert anything into the vagina for at least 7 days, this includes tampons.
- Do not have sexual intercourse for at least 24 hours after insertion.
- Do not exercise for at least 24 hours after insertion.
- Do not stop using an alternate form of protection before your doctor’s advised period.
- Do not miss your follow-up appointment with your doctor 4-6 weeks after the procedure to check the IUD strings and review your bleeding and cramping patterns.
What to expect after an IUD insertion:
Once you’ve healed, it generally takes about 3-6 months for periods to wane or stop completely; however, cramping and spotting can occur within the first-year post-insertion. Your first period after insertion may be the same or spotty and periods can also become irregular as the body gets used to the IUD. Most women find that the bleeding lightens as they progress and cramping also decreases over time.
An IUD shouldn’t affect the sexual enjoyment of you or your partner. You’ll likely forget it’s there. However, if you do feel pain during intercourse, call your doctor immediately. This means that the IUD may have migrated and need to be addressed. If your partner can feel the strings and it’s an unpleasant feeling for either of you, your doctor may be able to trim them back a little.
To learn more about IUDs, other birth control methods, and everything hormone related, visit our website. Hormone University was created as an educational platform with the mission to improve hormone health through accessible knowledge and to advocate for social impact in our communities.
If you’re still on the fence, make an appointment your OB-GYN or an endocrinologist to discuss your IUD options in detail. They should be able to answer any questions and help you determine which IUD birth control method is right for you.