With its 99 percent efficacy and duration that can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years, it’s no wonder intrauterine devices (IUDs) are surging in popularity as a birth control option among women.
But even though the IUD has been proven to be generally safe and effective in preventing pregnancy, you cannot have the hype without hearing some rumors surrounding it.
IUDs can also be shrouded in mysteries, especially with ongoing talks on how painful the insertion process really is.
In this article, you are going to be part of the discussion that many women have been talking about for some time now: which one is more painful, an IUD insertion or giving birth?
But before we get to that, let’s refresh your knowledge about IUDs first.
The IUD as a Birth Control Method
Along with implants, IUDs are also known as long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), and they are classified as such because they are birth control methods that remain effective for a longer period of time even without user compliance.
In fact, according to a 2015 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the failure rate for LARCs is just around 0.5 to 0.8 percent.
The two main types of intrauterine device are hormonal IUDs and copper IUDs.
The hormonal IUD is sold under the brand names Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena, while the Paragard brand is a copper IUD.
These two mainly differ in the way they prevent pregnancy.
A hormonal IUD makes use of hormones and releases them into your body. It stops the sperm from being able to reach the egg by thickening the mucus in your cervical canal.
This kind of intrauterine device can last anywhere between 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand.
Meanwhile, unlike its hormonal counterpart, a copper IUD does not make use of hormones. It keeps you from being pregnant by releasing copper ions which are toxic to the sperm and deactivates it.
But even though they can stay for up to 10 years, this type of IUD has been making the rounds lately.
Why, you ask?
It’s because of the lawsuit named after the copper IUD’s sole brand, Paragard.
According to complaints filed by plaintiffs, Paragard is prone to breaking inside the body of the woman who had it inserted.
This may lead to the device becoming embedded inside the uterus, perforating or piercing its walls, which can cause serious injuries to the woman due to fragment migration.
And despite the still increasing number of lawsuits filed against its manufacturer, Paragard continues to be available on the market.
In 2014, Teva Pharmaceuticals, the company behind the medical device, initiated a Paragard recall, affecting two lots of the product due to lack of assurance of sterility, according to an archived FDA report.
But the medical device has not been recalled for breakage issues and has no other recalls up to this day.
What Getting An IUD Feels Like
This question has been scaring women for a long time now.
But what does getting an IUD feel like, exactly?
According to Planned Parenthood, you can think of it as a series of pain or cramps, which can possibly be worse for some.
Meanwhile, in a report from Cosmopolitan, some women felt like “the insertion was just a pinch,” while others say, “the actual insertion was about five seconds of the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”
So which one do we believe?
If anything, we do not have to choose.
Those statements from brave women who spoke from their experiences of having an IUD inserted just prove to us that each person’s experience with the device is different.
At the end of the day, what’s important is to be prepared for the procedure.
It’s also worth noting that everyone has a different pain tolerance.
How Long Does Pain after IUD Insertion Last?
It’s totally normal to have cramps after getting an IUD.
However, the duration of cramps may differ from person to person. The type of intrauterine device (IUD) you had inserted might also be a factor that can affect how long you may experience cramping.
For instance, hormonal types like Mirena, Skyla, Kyleena, and Liletta might cause less pain, while with a non hormonal one, women may experience more cramping.
Usually, women tend to feel better after a couple of months once their uterus gets used to it.
But everyone’s experience is different. For some women, cramping may last up to 2 days after IUD insertion by your doctor. For others, it may last a few weeks. It could also last from 3 to 6 months before the cramping completely subsides.
After getting an IUD, it is also okay to notice some irregular spotting with some blood clots.
In some cases, women experience irregular spotting and bleeding for up to six months after the device is implanted.
However, if you are still experiencing these complications beyond the first six months, you should see the doctor who implanted your IUD.
So Which One Hurts More: Having an IUD Inserted or Childbirth?
Before we get into a heated debate here, let’s take a closer look first at what really happens when one decides to get an IUD.
During the procedure, your doctor will put a speculum into your vagina. Then, your doctor will clean it along with your cervix using an antiseptic solution.
Then, they might use a special instrument to put the device in through the cervix opening and into your uterus.
Next, your doctor will fold down the IUD’s horizontal arms and then place the device in an applicator tube.
This tube is then inserted into your cervical canal in order to carefully place the device inside your uterus.
The whole procedure of insertion usually takes less than five minutes.
Yet, a number of women still ask: Why is IUD insertion so painful?
An amount of discomfort is to be expected when you have the device inserted.
Women tend to feel the most discomfort during the actual procedure of having an IUD inserted. Luckily for you, it only takes less than 30 seconds.
Usually, this pain does not last very long, and less than 20 percent of women will need treatment following the procedure.
In fact, when asked to rate the pain on a scale of 0 to 10 — with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest — most women generally place the sensation in the range of 3 to 6 out of 10.
Doctors commonly say that there are three major cramps that patients will experience throughout the procedure.
Women will feel the first major cramp when the doctor places an instrument on the cervix to stabilize it, while the second big cramp is felt during the measurement of the depth of the uterus.
Lastly, cramp number three is felt when the IUD itself is inserted.
True enough, most women describe the pain they feel as cramping. But by the time the insertion is done, the reported pain score range drops to 0.
Women also tend to compare the experience of getting an intrauterine device with a pap smear. And also descriptions slightly differ, the majority of them seem to agree that IUD insertion is slightly more painful and more concentrated compared to a pap smear.
However, this is not the only thing in a woman’s life where this procedure is being compared to: some women also talk about the pain of getting an intrauterine device vs. the pain of giving birth to a baby.
We have all heard them: stories of women who gave birth to their little bundle of joy without feeling that much pain, thanks to epidurals.
There are also women who say getting an IUD was less painful than what they expected.
Then comes the horror stories.
The pain during hours of labor or complications that come after giving birth, and pain and side effects following an IUD insertion.
Some women thank the heavens for epidurals, going as far as saying that they feel that the so-called cramps they had when they decided to get an IUD actually felt like the pain they experienced during labor.
But some were much luckier, calling the insertion of the device as just a little pinch and telling stories of how they were able to get back to their daily routine just hours after the procedure.
These varied experiences are just proof that each person deals with pain a bit differently, and pain threshold and tolerance is different for each woman.
If you have concerns or worries on getting an IUD, it is important to address whatever questions you have with your doctor beforehand.
Does Getting an IUD Hurt Less After Having a Baby?
Turns out, there is another factor that plays a role in the degree of pain one experiences when they decide to get an IUD.
Now, this might sound unfair but…
Women who have given birth to their baby actually have a slight advantage as compared to women who have never given birth before.
The thing is, women who have given birth vaginally tend to experience less pain than those women who have never been pregnant.
For instance, someone who has given birth through vaginal delivery may describe that the pain has a score of 3 out of 10, while a woman who has never given birth before might describe the pain with a score of 5 t 6 out of 10.
Aside from this factor, stress, anxiety, and fear may also affect how pain feels like for us.
So before making the decision of choosing this birth control method, be sure that you are well-rounded about the whole procedure and what to expect from it.
After all, an open communication with your doctor is one important aspect of a positive IUD insertion experience.
Is IUD Removal as Painful as Insertion?
At some point, you might need to have your intrauterine device removed, or you might want to have it removed at an earlier time because you have made up your mind and decided you want to get pregnant.
Luckily, with an IUD, you do not have to worry about wanting to have it removed and getting pregnant after.
Another good news?
You do not have to be scared because an IUD removal is often less painful and hassle-free compared to your IUD insertion.
And even though at times, it may be tempting, never try to remove the device on your own, as this could cause serious injuries or damage.
An IUD can only be removed at your health care provider’s office.
Studies have shown that it is easier to have the removal procedure when you are on your period, because your cervix is naturally softened during this time.
For most women, an IUD removal is an uncomplicated procedure.
In some cases, however, doctors find it hard to locate the IUD strings. If this happens, it’s either because they have slipped up into your cervical canal or they have gone up into the uterus.
Either way, your health care provider will find a way to locate the strings with the help of some medical instruments.
Let your health care provider know if you experience symptoms like severe pain or cramp, heavy vaginal bleeding, fever or chills, and foul-smelling vaginal discharge right after you had your IUD removed.
Thinking About Getting an IUD?
If you are considering getting an IUD but you are having doubts because you have fears of how much it will hurt, most doctors will be more than happy to give you an advice on how you can lessen or better manage the pain during the process.
Some doctors will advise patients to take a medication like ibuprofen beforehand or even administer an anesthesia in rare circumstances.
But above all, nothing beats being well-informed and having an open communication with your provider for a hassle-free experience on your birth control choice.