You Might Want To Have Painkillers On Hand For IUD Removal, And Other Things To Expect

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are widely used due to their convenience, offering long-term protection against pregnancy. However, these medical devices have a limited lifespan and should be replaced every three to 10 years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). For example, copper IUDs can last for up to a decade but may worsen menstrual pain. Liletta, a type of IUD released in 2016, has an average lifespan of about six months, whereas Mirena and Kyleena are effective for five years.

Your OB/GYN is the only one who can tell when you should replace your IUD. Even if the device has a 10-year lifespan, you may need to have it removed at an earlier date. Sometimes, IUDs may cause nausea, headaches, increased menstrual bleeding, and other side effects. These issues may subside within months or persist for years, notes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). If the side effects interfere with your daily life, it makes sense to opt for IUD removal. You'll also need to take out your IUD if you get pregnant and choose to keep the baby.

However, IUD removal can be uncomfortable or downright painful, and it's important to know what to expect. Also, note that you may continue to experience pain, vaginal bleeding, and other symptoms for several days after the procedure.

What to expect when having your IUD removed

The use of IUDs among women aged 15 to 44 increased from 1% in 1995 to 14% in 2017, as reported by KFF. Researchers recommend getting an IUD post-pregnancy or after having an abortion or miscarriage. Teens and other groups can use this birth control method, too. The problem is that IUDs can lead to complications and may need to be removed early on, says ACOG. Plus, it's not a good idea to use them for longer than recommended because they may become less effective.

If you decide to have the IUD removed, book an appointment with your OB-GYN. During the appointment, as you recline on your back, the doctor will dilate your vaginal walls with a speculum and then use a forceps to get the IUD out. The procedure is relatively safe and quick, but it may cause some bleeding and cramping, explains Nationwide Children's Hospital. Additionally, your period may take as long as three months to return to normal.

In rare cases, IUD removal may cause an infection and other complications, such as heavy bleeding or severe pain. If that happens, reach out to your doctor immediately. You may also experience pain during sex, a foul odor coming from your vagina, spotting, or pain in the pelvic area. According to Family Planning, these symptoms are not normal and require medical attention. If you only have minor cramping, WebMD recommends taking ibuprofen or other over-the-counter painkillers.

Complications are possible but rare

Sometimes, IUDs can cause complications that make their removal more difficult. For example, the device may pass through the uterine wall and migrate to your internal organs, leading to appendicitis, bowel perforation, fistulas between the uterus and bladder, or tissue death, according to a 2012 case report published in the Canadian Urological Association Journal. In such cases, the IUD must be surgically removed.

There's also a risk of uterine artery rupture, reports a 2022 case study presented in the International Journal of Women's Health. A 47-year-old woman experienced several vaginal bleeding for about four hours after having her IUD removed. Doctors diagnosed her with acute hemorrhagic anemia caused by the rupture of a uterine artery and performed surgery to correct the problem. Researchers warn that IUD removal may also cause tissue damage, abortions, and other complications, but these are rare.

Also, note that each type of IUD carries different risks. For example, it's possible to experience depression, anxiety, fatigue, hair loss, acne, or weight gain after Mirena removal, warns Healthline, and some women may also get severe headaches and neck pain following this procedure. Alternative birth control options, such as the NuvaRing, contraceptive implants, and patches, may be safer than an IUD, so you might want to ask your doctor about them.