The IUD is an excellent birth control option, particularly if you don’t want to do something every day but you still want to be extremely well-covered against pregnancy. Most people don’t have any trouble with their IUDs after their body gets used to them. However, some IUDs do end up getting displaced (which is when it moves from where it was placed to a different part of your uterus), embedded in the sides of your uterus, or even expelled. This is pretty rare — expulsion happens under 10 percent of the time, IUDs get embedded under one percent of the time, and perforation of the uterus walls due to an embedded IUD is even rarer. But if you think your IUD might have moved, you’ll definitely want to contact your gynecologist right away to check; in rare cases displaced IUDs can puncture your uterus walls and mess with your other internal organs, which is dangerous and must be taken care of.
Here are the ways to know if one of these might be happening to you, so you can go to your gynecologist to get it fixed.
1. Your Strings Are Longer Or Shorter Than Before (Or You Can’t Feel Them At All)
Your IUD has a string attached to the bottom of it, which makes it easy for you to get it taken out when you’re done with it. These strings come out of your uterus, through your cervix, and into your vagina. When your doctor placed your IUD, she cut the strings so you can still feel them, but not so long that they’re annoying (or at least, she should have). It’s good to know how long your strings are because they tell you if your IUD is still where it’s supposed to be. Checking your IUD strings is super simple — with clean hands, put your index or middle finger up into your vagina until you get to your cervix. Your IUD strings should be coming through your cervix and you should be able to feel them there.
If you suddenly notice that your strings are longer than they were before, this is a sign that your IUD might have slipped down from where it was placed. Alternately, if you can’t find your strings, this could mean that your IUD has moved further up into your uterus, dragging the strings along with it. If you notice changes in your strings, go visit your gynecologist so she can check you out. Sometimes the strings get tangled and just feel shorter, but other times you might need to get your IUD placed again.
2. You Can Feel The IUD In Your Cervix
This one’s pretty obvious. Your IUD is supposed to be placed up inside your uterus (here’s a picture of where it goes). Up there, you shouldn’t able to feel it. If you notice your IUD is coming out of your cervix or you feel the bottom of it in your cervix, that means it’s too low and is therefore displaced — and might even be in the process of coming out completely. Feeling an IUD in your cervix could mean literally being able to feel it with your fingers as you do a string check — or it could mean your cervix is starting to feel uncomfortable because there’s a piece of plastic or metal coming out of it that shouldn’t be there.
3. Your Lover Can Feel Something Up There
Sometimes you might not notice that there’s something off with your IUD, but your partner will feel the tip of it when you have sex. If your partner notices something hard coming out of your cervix, go check it out at the doctor to make sure it hasn’t slipped. You can even tell your lovers to look out for this in advance — they may be excited for such a sexy way to help you monitor your own health!
However, it’s good to know that sex itself can’t displace your IUD. The myth that a penis can “knock” your IUD out of place is just that: a myth. Don’t worry!
4. It Hurts When You Have Sex
Some people report that sex changes a bit after you get an IUD, with certain positions feeling a bit more painful. However, if suddenly sex starts hurting, that may be your body telling you that your IUD isn’t where it’s supposed to be. This makes sense — if your IUD has gotten itself displaced, it could have found itself in a place that can make sex more painful, such as poking out of your cervix, which is a tender spot for many folks, even without an IUD.
5. You’re Dealing With Abnormal Vaginal Discharge
Vaginal discharge is your body’s totally normal way of cleaning your vagina. However, abnormal discharge can also be a sign that your IUD has slipped and is irritating your body. If you notice that your discharge is off in color, texture, or smell and it’s not a yeast infection or one of the other reasons your discharge can get messed up, contact your doctor to see if your IUD might be the culprit.
6. You’re Bleeding More Than Usual
Your period will most likely change after you start your IUD — if you have the hormonal version, you’ll probably start experiencing lighter (or even no) periods once your body gets used to it. In contrast, the non-hormonal copper IUD often makes periods heavier, and lots of people experience some spotting for the first couple months after they get their IUDs. However, if you notice that your bleeding is more intense than usual or you’re spotting heavily between periods, that might be because your IUD is displaced.
7. You’re Suddenly Getting Really Intense Cramps
Menstrual cramps are a normal part of having a period for many people. Many people experience cramps right after they get their IUD placed, and if you choose to get the copper (non-hormonal) IUD, this form of birth control can make your cramps more intense. However, unusual cramps and pain can be a sign that your IUD is being expelled — if you notice that your cramps are way stronger all of a sudden or are lasting a lot longer, go visit your doctor to make sure that your IUD isn’t the problem. Expulsion happens most often during the first year you have an IUD, so pay particular attention to your cramping pain levels during this time.
8. You Feel Like You Might Be Pregnant
If you have an IUD, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll get pregnant. However, while an IUD definitely protects you from pregnancy (it’s over 99 percent effective) it also raises your risk of getting an ectopic pregnancy, if indeed you are the unlucky less-than-one-percent who does get pregnant.
An ectopic pregnancy is extremely dangerous. In an ectopic pregnancy, your fertilized egg doesn’t implant in your uterus where it’s supposed to so it can be nourished and have room to grow into a full-blown tiny human. Instead, it gets waylaid in other parts of your body, like one of your fallopian tubes or ovaries, which have neither the food nor the space to grow a baby. Ectopic pregnancies won’t make it to term — the egg won’t be able to survive. This means you need to get medical treatment to get the fertilized egg removed.
How do you know if you have this rare but serious situation on your hands? At first, your symptoms may be identical to the early signs of pregnancy — you might miss your period, you could start feeling nauseated, your breasts might start feeling tender. But then, you’ll probably start to notice some spotting and pain in your pelvis or abdomen. Your pain can also end up in your shoulder if your baby is growing in one of your fallopian tubes (which are not in your shoulders but the pain gets referred there). If your fallopian tube ruptures because the egg is too large for it, this will be very painful and will come with heavy abdominal bleeding and lightheadedness or fainting. If you feel any of these symptoms, go to the clinic immediately to get the help you need.
The Bottom Line
Most people who get IUDs have no challenges. However, if you’re one of the unlucky few who does, don’t worry. Your doctor will help you out, moving your IUD back into place or giving you a new one if the first one is ejected. And then you can go back to living your life — however you choose to live it!