Image: getting an iud

After you have thought long and hard about which birth control method to go for, perhaps, by now, you have finally decided to get an IUD.

And I think you’ll agree: getting an IUD is a big and important decision for any woman. As such, you may be wondering what to expect and how it will go for you.

Each woman’s body is unique and different, but there are things that are generally expected when getting an IUD.

In this article, you will learn more about:

  1. Preparing for IUD placement
  2. What happens during an IUD insertion
  3. What it feels like
  4. Taking care of yourself after the procedure
  5. Risks associated with IUDs

Preparing for IUD Insertion

If you have decided to go for an IUD, there are a number of things you can do to help you be more prepared for the procedure.

First, be sure to eat a small snack or a light meal such as crackers so you don’t get dizzy during your IUD insertion. It is also safer to make sure that you get hydrated.

An hour before the appointment, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Ask your doctor about what dosage is right for you, as it may help relieve the cramping you may potentially feel during the procedure.

If you decide to get a hormonal IUD, you may want to consider setting your appointment during your period, as hormonal IUDs are effective immediately if you have them inserted during your menstruation. If you’d rather have them inserted any other time, though, they will not be effective for at least one week.

What to Expect During the Procedure

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a form of contraception that can only be inserted by a doctor or nurse through the uterus. Once in the exam room, your healthcare provider may ask you some questions about your medical history or they may also explain the procedure to you and answer any questions you may have, which can prove helpful in making you more comfortable and relaxed.

Your health care provider may also perform a pregnancy test to make sure you are not pregnant before you get an IUD. They may also test you for STDs, as having an existing infection and getting an IUD implanted could further spread the infection, and may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

To put the IUD in, your healthcare provider will use a speculum to hold open your vagina and possibly look for any problems in your uterus. Then, through a tube or slider containing the IUD, the device will be inserted through the cervix and into your uterus.

The insertion of an IUD may come with some discomfort, but the whole process only takes a few minutes.

How does it feel like?

Many women usually feel some discomfort, cramping, or pain when having an IUD inserted. Some doctors may apply a local numbing medicine around your cervix to reduce discomfort.

Others may also feel dizzy and have reactions such as fainting or vomiting. In this case, you might want someone to accompany you during your appointment to drive you home after the procedure.

Taking Care of Yourself Post-Appointment

Each woman’s body is different, and some people may react differently to having an IUD inside their uterus. Some may feel perfectly fine and can immediately resume activities, while some may need more time to rest.

After the insertion procedure, some cramping and spotting may still be expected. Normally, these are bound to go away in three to six months. However, these symptoms may also depend on the type of IUD that you have.

For instance, with a hormonal IUD like Mirena, you may experience lighter menstrual bleeding and fewer periods. On the other hand, with a copper IUD, your periods may be heavier and crampier. To help ease this discomfort, you might want to take over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

You can also try placing a heating pad or a hot water bottle on your belly to help with the feeling of cramping.

These symptoms should normally go away over time, but if you think your IUD is causing you pain or some side effects you’re not comfortable with, be sure to call your doctor.

Furthermore, if you experience bleeding that is constantly heavy, you might want to check with your health care provider to rule out the possibility of infection.

How soon can I have sex after getting an IUD?

After the doctor has inserted an IUD in your uterus, you should wait for at least 24 hours before having sex. Additionally, you should not insert other objects into your vagina, including a tampon or a douche product, during this 24-hour period.

Protection from pregnancy may also vary depending on which type of IUD you have and when it was inserted.

For instance, the Paragard IUD, which is the only copper IUD available on the market, is effective immediately in preventing pregnancy.

On the other hand, hormonal IUDs including Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and the Skyla IUD are effective immediately only if they’re put in during the first five days of your period.

If you have a Mirena IUD inserted at any other time during your menstrual cycle, consider using another birth control method such as condoms, as pregnancy protection will begin seven days after insertion.

Risks Associated with IUDs

The side effects you may potentially experience can vary greatly depending on the type of IUD you decide to have. Aside from mild side effects, however, the use of IUDs is also associated with a number of risks. These include:

Problems with menstrual cycle. The copper IUD is known to increase cramps or menstrual bleeding, and spotting between periods is also possible with the copper or non hormonal IUD.

On the other hand, its counterpart, the hormonal IUD, may make periods lighter and may reduce menstrual cramps as well.

Uterine Perforation. Uterine perforation is a rare yet potentially serious complication of intrauterine device insertion. This happens when the IUD punctures the walls of the uterus, and can happen both during the insertion procedure and after.

Device Expulsion. Expulsion occurs when the IUD falls out of the uterus, either partially or completely. Expulsion is more likely to happen after the first few months of using an IUD. Some women are also more likely to have their IUD expelled. They include women who had an IUD insertion straight after vaginal birth, and younger women and teenagers.

Aside from these risks, some rare yet more serious side effects are also linked to IUD use.

For instance, rare side effects for Mirena include sepsis, migraine headache, and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, rare but serious side effects from the Paragard IUD include ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine perforation, and difficult removals.

These complications with the copper IUD, however, have been cited in several Paragard lawsuits filed in the United States by women who claim that they suffered injuries due to Paragard being prone to breaking during removal.

Other known disadvantages with IUDs include the device not being able to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the insertion procedure being costly.

The Bottom Line

Does getting an IUD hurt?

Considering the fact that each person is different, it’s likely that experiences following IUD placement may vary from person to person.

A certain amount of cramping and discomfort during the procedure is normal, and some may also experience more significant pain and cramping, which may persist for a few days.

But only you know your body best — and if you are concerned or not comfortable about some side effects or pain you are experiencing, it’s best to talk to your doctor and communicate with them any concerns you have.

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