Gynos Give Straight-Talk on What It Feels Like to Have an IUD Inserted and Removed
Birth control is a great thing. Not only does it help prevent unwanted pregnancies, but depending on what kind you use, it can cut your odds of ovarian and endometrial cancers, clear up acne, and ease super-painful period cramps (to name just a few of the benefits). So in anticipation of Thanks, Birth Control Day on November 10, we partnered with Bedsider.org for a series all about contraception. You can join in on the birth control celebration by using the hashtag .
When it comes to birth control, IUDs are pretty much the gold standard at preventing pregnancy. In fact, they tout a more than 99 percent efficacy rate. Pretty sweet, right? Having one inserted into your vagina can be painful, though. But you shouldn't let that deter you if you’re interested in getting one. Here, six gynos and Bedsider.org advisers share what it really feels like to have an IUD put in and taken out so that you’ll be prepared come insertion and removal time.
“Some women barely feel the entire thing—they might wince a little and then say, ‘That was it?’ Others have severe pain even from a routine speculum exam, so they have a different insertion experience. To generalize, everyone experiences insertion differently, but for the vast majority of patients, whatever sensation they felt—cramping, pressure, pain—passes quickly and they are able to go back right away to their day. For a routine IUD removal, it’s typically very fast and brief. By far the most common thing women tell about getting an IUD is, ‘That’s it? I was expecting much worse after reading about it on the Internet.’”—Colleen Krajewski, M.D., ob-gyn in Pittsburgh
“For women who haven’t had a baby, it usually hurts a lot more but for a short period of time. For women who have had a baby, it’s variable, from no pain to moderate pain to severe pain. It doesn’t hurt much at all to have an IUD removed—the pain is even more brief than with insertion.”—Eve Espey, M.D., head of the ob-gyn department at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine
“Everyone will experience IUD insertion and removal differently. Insertion pain can range from mild discomfort to very intense cramping, and most people fall right in the middle of that range. A few women may also experience symptoms like lightheadedness, feeling extremely hot or cold, or nausea. Removal is typically much quicker, and people don’t feel it nearly as much as the insertion.”—Christine Dehlendorf, M.D., associate professor at the University of California School of Medicine
"It doesn’t hurt much at all to have an IUD removed."
“It’s crampy. I tell my patients there are two big cramps: one when I measure the length of the uterus and the other when I place the IUD. Everyone has different pain tolerance, so I try to manage expectations.”—Leah Torres, M.D., ob-gyn in private practice in Salt Lake City
“Some helpful tips: I always have my patients eat a light meal about an hour before they come in for their appointment and take ibuprofen or whatever painkiller they take for monthly menstrual cramps beforehand. [I also tell them to] dress cozy, don’t be overbooked for the day, don’t plan heavy strenuous exercise for later in the day, and absolutely do not drink caffeine before the appointment—that will push your nerves right over the edge. IUD removal takes less than 30 seconds to grasp the strings, and with a gentle tug, it’s out—voila.” —Linda Dominguez, nurse practitioner in gynecology practice in Albuquerque, New Mexico
"It varies a lot between women. Some feel almost nothing—they lift their heads up, look at me, and say incredulously, 'That's it?' Others have strong cramping that requires pain meds or even report that it feels like labor.
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