By Claire Tighe.
It’s a question that has come up many times in my conversations, from chats with friends thinking about getting an IUD to fellow IUD users who’ve been able to feel it while getting it on. Ever since I got my ParaGard three years ago, I’ve been curious, too.
The best part about having an IUD is being able to have sex whenever you want without having to worry about pregnancy. (Sexually transmitted infections, a.k.a. STIs, are another story—make sure you use condoms and get tested to prevent them.) While you shouldn’t expect to feel the IUD while you’re getting busy, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you might be able to. If that weirds you out, keep calm and read on.
Here’s the thing: when it comes to being able to feel the IUD, there’s good feels and bad ones. IUD stands for intra-uterine device because the tiny T-shaped device sits inside of the uterus—not in the vagina. Once the IUD is inserted, you shouldn’t be able to feel the T at all. What you should be able to feel is the strings, which is how IUDs operate and is totally normal. The IUD has strings that come through the cervix to ensure that your health care provider can remove it safely when the time comes. It’s totally normal to be able to feel the strings if you reach your fingers toward the top of your vagina—in fact, the strings can help you or your provider tell that your IUD is in place. It’s less common, but still normal, for your partner to feel the strings when you’re getting it on. For some people and their partners, the strings are more noticeable if the IUD has just been inserted and become softer and less noticeable as time goes on.
Note: IUD complications like expulsion or perforation are rare, but they can happen. If you’re having serious, ongoing pain, or you can feel more than just the strings with your fingers, talk with your provider asap about what you’re experiencing.
The IUD can shift slightly in the uterus depending on your cycle, so there may be different times throughout the month where you can feel the IUD strings more or less. Some folks say that with the IUD, certain sex positions and speeds might be more or less pleasurable than others. IUD or no, paying attention to what feels good for your body will help you have a great time while you’re getting it on. Here’s a few ways to make sure you do.
With or without an IUD, some sex positions might feel better than others. Try different ways of doing it and figure out which ones feel the best. By the way, give yourself some time to get going. Foreplay is your friend! The vagina lengthens as you become aroused, which may mean less likelihood of being able to feel the IUD strings as things get hot.
Talk about it
If something during sex is causing you pain, speak up about it. Sex should be fun and feel good, and better communication can even lead to better sex. And you always have the right to say “not right now.”
Give it time
If you’ve just gotten an IUD, it might take a few months for your body to adjust to it. The IUD strings are supposed to soften over time, so even if you or your partner feel them at first, you may not notice them after a while. Asking your provider to cut the strings shorter might make them more uncomfortable, as the strings work best when they are longer and tucked out of the way. If a partner is experiencing discomfort, they can try wearing a condom until the strings soften. If you’re noticing that it’s been a long time and the strings haven’t softened, take some time to warm up before intercourse.
If you’re thinking about getting an IUD
If you’re thinking about getting an IUD, don’t let the possibility of being able to feel the strings during sex stop you. As a birth control method, the IUD works like a charm: once it’s inserted, it takes no work to maintain, offers years of protection against accidental pregnancy, and can be removed any time. As far as being able to feel it, every body is different. Some folks can feel it while getting it on and others can’t. Even if you can feel it, it shouldn’t stop you from having an awesome sex life.
Of course, if you’ve got an IUD and it’s just not working for you, it might be time to consider using a different birth control method. There are so many options to choose from and you deserve to have one you love.
Claire Tighe is a writer whose work has appeared at The Village Voice, Bitch, Rewire, Belt Magazine, and others. She can't help but talk about birth control everywhere she goes. Read more at clairetighe.com or follow her @ecofeminismo.