How Painful Is Getting an IUD?

Ask a Doctor

I’m thinking about getting an intrauterine device instead of my current birth control. A friend of mine said she had bad cramps after the doctors inserted hers. How painful is getting an IUD?

Doctor's Response

You may be instructed to take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever an hour before insertion to prevent cramps. Cramps may be uncomfortable during insertion. Sometimes, an anesthetic may be injected into the cervix prior to insertion to reduce pain from cramping.

Before an IUD is placed, a physical examination is important to make sure that your reproductive organs are normal and that you don't have a sexually-transmitted disease (STD). The health-care professional will ask you about your medical and lifestyle. IUDs are not appropriate for every woman.

You should discuss any questions you have with your doctor about IUDs before having it placed.

An IUD can be placed during an office visit and remains in place until a health-care professional removes it. It can be inserted at any phase of the menstrual cycle, but the best time is during the menstrual period because this is when the cervix is softest and when women are least likely to be pregnant. To place the IUD, a speculum is used to hold the vagina open.

  • An instrument is used to steady the cervix and uterus, and a tube is used to place the IUD.
  • The arms of the T shape bend back in the tube and then open once the IUD is in the uterus.
  • Once the IUD is in place, the instruments are withdrawn.
  • The string hangs about an inch out of the cervix but does not hang out of the vagina.

Once the IUD is placed, you can return to normal activities such as sex, exercise, and swimming as soon as you are comfortable. Strenuous physical activity does not affect the position of the IUD. You also can use tampons as soon as you wish after an IUD is placed.

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