This birth control method is becoming more popular, but many misconceptions about IUDs still persist.
The use of IUDs has exploded recently, increasing from 2 percent of contraceptive users in 2002 to 10.3 percent in 2012 . It’s clear that many women appreciate its high rate of effectiveness (99 percent!) and convenience. Once the IUD is in, it’s good for years—until it expires or is removed.
But many women still hesitate to consider the IUD because maybe they’ve heard it can cause pelvic infections, or that it’s not the best choice for women who haven’t yet had kids. False, and false. Here are five common myths about the IUD that you can safely ignore, according to ob-gyn Kecia Gaither, MD.
MYTH: The IUD hurts your fertility
REALITY: The IUD is a reversible form of birth control, and it’s possible to get pregnant right after removing the IUD. “Women who use an IUD can get pregnant later just as quickly as women who use other methods,” says Dr. Gaither, “and they are safe for women of any age.” (Find out more myths about birth control pills here.)
MYTH: IUDs cause infections in your uterus
REALITY: Modern IUDs do not cause pelvic infection, but this myth ties back to the 1970s, when one specific IUD, the Dalkon Shield, entered the market without being thoroughly tested for safety and effectiveness. This poorly designed IUD not only failed to prevent pregnancy for many women, but it also caused pelvic inflammatory disease. These days, IUDs and other methods of birth control undergo extensive testing before they’re FDA approved, and both the CDC and the World Health Organization state that modern IUDs are 99 percent effective and do not cause pelvic infections.
MYTH: You shouldn’t get an IUD until you’ve had kids
REALITY: IUDs do not affect your fertility, so there’s really no reason to wait until you’ve brought your kiddo (or kiddos!) into the world. If or when you choose to try to conceive, your doc can remove your IUD at any time.
MYTH: Getting an IUD is very painful
REALITY: It depends on the person you ask. Pain is subjective, and everyone’s experience with IUD insertion varies widely. Some describe it as just a little discomfort, while others describe it as an intense pain. The feeling is similar-ish to cramps, and OTC painkillers can help ease the pain during and after the IUD insertion. Scheduling the IUD insertion during the first or second day of your period—when your cervix is naturally open—can also help reduce pain. (Some ob-gyns actually require this.) Learn more about what to expect at an IUD insertion here.
MYTH: Your partner will feel the IUD during sex
REALITY: The IUD sits entirely in the uterus, not the cervix. The only part your partner may feel is the string that hangs from the IUD, but doctors trim this down to make it as unobtrusive as possible. If your partner is feeling those strings, you can ask your doctor to have them shortened (it’s pretty common and not a big deal). If your partner feels the actual IUD, it’s not positioned correctly, and it’s not going to effectively prevent pregnancy—so schedule an appointment ASAP and use other forms of birth control (like condoms) until then.
Dr. Gaither, an ob-gyn and maternal fetal medicine specialist, is director of perinatal services at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center, a member of NYC Health + Hospitals System in Bronx, New York.
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IUD stands for intrauterine device.
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It's a tiny T-shape device that
the doctor inserts into your uterus to
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There are a feud myth
you need to be aware of.
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It's a myth that IUDs
can hurt your fertility.
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Countless studies have disapproved this
myth, and the data is totally conclusive.
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Women using an IUD have no increased
risk of pelvic infection or
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infertility compared with women who
use other types of birth control.
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Women who use an IUD can get
pregnant later just as quickly
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as women who use other methods, and
they are safe for women of any age.
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It's a myth that IUD's can cause
infections in your uterus.
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IUDs got a bad rap back in the 1970s.
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This is because of one specific
brand that was poorly designed.
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These days, the IUDs available
have been studied extensively and
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have definitively proven that modern
IUDs do not cause pelvic infection.
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It's a myth you shouldn't get
an IUD until after you have kids.
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IUDs don't affect your fertility, so
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there is no reason to wait to get
one until after you've had children.
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There's no minimum requirement for
how long it has to stay in.
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If you decide you wanna
try to get pregnant,
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you can have an IUD removed at any time.
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It's a myth that getting
an IUD is very painful.
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Pain is subjective, and IUD insertion
pain varies a lot from person to person.
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especially if they've had a baby,
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find IUD insertion no more
uncomfortable than a pap smear.
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Others, especially if they haven't been
pregnant or have a history of very painful
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periods, can have very strong cramps
during and after the insertion.
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Part of what can make an IUD insertion
uncomfortable is opening the cervix
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when it is closed.
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It can feel a lot like
a strong menstrual cramp.
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Schedule the IUD insertion when your
cervix is naturally a little open.
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This happens twice during each menstrual
cycle, during your period, and
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It's a myth that your partner will
be able to feel the IUD during sex.
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The IUD is a T-shaped device that
sits entirely in the uterus.
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If any part of the IUD itself can be felt,
then it is not in correctly,
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and should be removed as soon as possible.
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If it's not in correctly, it's not
preventing you from getting pregnant.
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The only part that exits through
the cervix is the string.
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The string is there for two reasons.
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A, to make removal a cinch,
and B, to let you and
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your gynecologist know it's
still in the right spot.
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- Sufrin CB, Postlethwaite D, Armstrong MA, Merchant M, Wendt JM, Steinauer JE. Neisseria gonorrhea and Chlamydia trachomatis screening at intrauterine device insertion and pelvic inflammatory disease. Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Dec;120(6):1314-21
- El Ayadi AM, Rocca CH, Averbach SH, Goodman S, Darney PD, Patel A, Harper CC. Intrauterine Devices and Sexually Transmitted Infection among Older Adolescents and Young Adults in a Cluster Randomized Trial. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2021 Jun;34(3):355-361
IUD. New York, NY: Planned Parenthood. (Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/iud.)
IUDs, STIs, and PID: What’s the deal? Washington, D.C.: Bedsider, 2015. (Accessed on September 26, 2017 at https://www.bedsider.org/features/272-iuds-stis-and-pid-what-s-the-deal.)
Use of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods continues to increase in the United States. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute, 2015. (Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.guttmacher.org/news-release/2015/use-long-acting-reversible-contraceptive-methods-continues-increase-united-states.)
What happens during an IUD insertion? New York, NY: Planned Parenthood. (Accessed on May 12, 2021 at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/iud/what-happens-during-an-iud-insertion.)