Getting an IUD: What to Expect
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There are a lot of different forms of birth control to choose from. For many women, an intrauterine device (IUD) is a popular and effective choice. Once inserted, these tiny devices protect you against pregnancy for up to 10 years, and for many women, they make their periods lighter or eliminate them altogether.
If you have decided that this form of birth control is right for you, you likely have some questions regarding what to expect. IUD insertion can seem a bit scary, but it is a very quick and easy process. While you may feel a degree of discomfort during the procedure, there is no need to be afraid. Keep reading to learn what to expect.
Is an IUD Right for You?
There is no single form of birth control that is right for everyone. IUDs are ideal solutions for some women, but they are not always the best option. Before deciding whether getting one is the right choice for you, it’s important to talk to your doctor and understand both the pros and the cons.
One important negative aspect to consider is that IUDs do not protect against STDs. Some women may also experience side effects, such as spotting between periods, irregular periods, or backaches or cramping for a few days after the device is inserted. While serious side effects are rare, the risk is always present. If you do choose to get an IUD, be sure to talk to your doctor about any side effects you experience.
Preparing for an IUD Insertion
Getting an IUD isn’t quite as simple as picking up a prescription from your pharmacy. If you and your doctor have decided that an IUD is the right option for you, you will have to make an appointment to have the device inserted. Your healthcare provider may give you instructions regarding how to prepare for your IUD insertion. Follow these instructions carefully as they will likely make the procedure as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
If you haven’t been given instructions, consider taking an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as Motrin or Advil, about an hour before your appointment. Doing so can help ease the discomfort and cramps that may occur during and after the insertion.
Be sure to bring a sanitary pad with you to your appointment, too. You may experience some bleeding, and you shouldn’t use a tampon or menstrual cup for at least 48 hours after having an IUD inserted. Wear comfy clothes. Since cramping can occur after IUD insertion, you don’t want to wear anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable wearing during your period.
When You Arrive at the Doctor’s Office
When you arrive at your doctor’s office, you will likely need to fill out some paperwork prior to being sent back to the exam room. Once you are there, your doctor will already have everything ready to insert the IUD. If you are not within the first few days of your menstrual cycle, a pregnancy test may be performed. A nurse will likely check your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, etc.) then ask you to undress and wait for the doctor.
Prior to inserting an IUD, doctors typically perform bimanual examinations. He or she will carefully insert two fingers into your vagina and place their other hand on your abdomen to feel your internal pelvic organs. This allows your healthcare provider to determine the position, size, consistency, and mobility of your uterus. This also provides an opportunity for him or her to identify any potential signs of infection or other problems.
Preparing for Insertion
After performing a bimanual exam, your doctor will use a speculum to hold your vagina open. Your cervix and vaginal canal will be cleansed using an antiseptic solution to create a sterile environment and lower the change of infection. Your doctor may also apply a local anesthetic to ease discomfort. Then, he or she will use an instrument known as a tenaculum to steady and stabilize your cervix and uterus.
Next, a sound will be used to measure the length of your cervical canal and your uterus. It also measures the direction. This step reduces the risk of puncturing the uterus during IUD insertion. Some doctors use endometrial aspirators inside of sounds. Both devices do the same thing.
After removing the sound or endometrial aspirator, your doctor will remove the IUD from its sterile packaging. The arms of the IUD are bent backward, and then the device is placed inside a tool for inserting it. The tool is inserted into the vagina and through the cervical opening. Then, a plunger is depressed to release the IUD. Once it is out of the tool, the arms open up to form a “T” shape.
During the insertion, many women report feeling pressure or a pinching sensation. You may also experience mild cramping. While a bit of discomfort is common during IUD insertion, very few women experience moderate to severe pain. If you notice any major pain or discomfort, let your doctor know right away.
Once the IUD is in place, everything else is removed from the vagina. The IUD has strings that the doctor will trim so that they extend an inch or two into your vagina but cannot be seen from the outside. Your doctor will teach you how to feel for the strings to ensure that the IUD is still in place.
After the Device Has Been Inserted
Typically, patients can leave and resume their normal activities immediately after the IUD is inserted. As your uterus gets used to the IUD, you may feel some cramping. You may also experience some spotting or bleeding in the days following your IUD insertion. As long as the bleeding is not heavy or constant, this is normal and not a cause for concern. If you experience severe pain or heavy bleeding, however, be sure to contact your healthcare provider.
You can have sexual intercourse as soon as you feel comfortable enough to do so. If you have the ParaGard IUD, you are protected against pregnancy as soon as it is inserted. If you have a Mirena IUD or another intrauterine device, however, they are only effective immediately when inserted within five days of the first day of your period. If the IUD is inserted at any other time during your cycle, you’ll need to use another method of birth control for seven days. During the first month, you may want to use a condom during intercourse to reduce the risk of infection.
That’s it! Getting an IUD may sound scary, but the process is quite simple. Keep in mind, though, that this type of birth control isn’t right for everyone. It has both positive and negative aspects, and it’s important to discuss both with your healthcare provider prior to making a decision.
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