Should you remove your own IUD?

Unless you need it out while stranded during a zombie apocalypse, it’s safer to have a professional do it.

The IUD can last for years—but it doesn’t have to. You can have an IUD removed any time with a quick visit to a health care provider. But what if you want to try taking out that little T on your own? You can certainly find people on forums and YouTube suggesting the DIY approach, but the safest way to remove your IUD is to have a provider do it for you.

Why bother visiting a health care provider?

There are (at least) three very good reasons to see a health care provider if you decide to part ways with your IUD.

1. It’s safer. “The device was meant to be taken out by someone who is trained to understand the specific way the IUD sits in your body and how to remove it,” says Hannah Lakehomer, CNM at Lifecycle WomanCare. “Your provider is trained to understand the potential complications and treat you appropriately should they happen.” While complications are rare for IUD removal, they can happen. There might be excessive pain or bleeding, or the device could become embedded in the lining of the uterus or vagina. The manipulation of the cervix can also cause some people to faint.

2. It’s easier and faster. “The removal process is very simple. Overall, it is a momentary procedure if your provider does it for you,” says Linda Dominguez, CNP, at Southwest Women’s Health. Not only are providers specially trained to remove IUDs, but they’ll have use of two hands and better leverage. If you do decide to go the route of self-removing it, it might take longer. Plus, if there are complications, attempting to DIY could make it more difficult for a provider to remove your IUD later.

3. It’s a 2-for-1! If you want the IUD out but still don’t want to get pregnant, a provider can help you choose another method of birth control and make sure you’re not at risk for pregnancy. If you do want to get pregnant, a provider can counsel you on next steps to start preparing for a healthy pregnancy. If the IUD is causing you pain, you might have a complication or another health concern, like a pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), that your provider can help diagnose.

For more detail on why not to remove your own IUD, check out Dr. Jen Gunter’s blog post on the subject.

What if I want the IUD out ASAP and my provider can’t see me?

“If your provider can’t to see you right away, there are still options,” says Dominguez. If you’re not having complications but just aren’t happy with the IUD and want it out asap, you can try getting in touch with local clinics or urgent care centers to see if there are providers available who can fit you in on short notice for an IUD removal.

If you’re having pain or bleeding, make sure to say so when you get in touch about an appointment. According to Dominguez, “if you are having complications with the IUD and want it taken out right away, a provider at a local clinic will most likely try to get you in immediately, even if you are not their patient.”

What if it’s an emergency?

It’s definitely safer to have a provider remove the IUD for you, but there is one exception when it might be okay for you to go ahead and DIY. “If you can feel the entire device in the vagina, meaning the IUD has completely expelled, take it out,” says Dominguez. “But if it is partially expelled, meaning half in and half out, and you cannot feel the entire device in the vagina, the IUD may be embedded in the cervical canal. In this case, see a provider immediately. If you are experiencing severe pain, cramps, or funky discharge, do not try to remove the IUD. There may be health concerns, such as pregnancy or an STI, that only a provider can diagnose, so schedule a check-up and possibly testing asap.”

What’s the best way to remove my own IUD if I really need to?

Begin lying or sitting down, says Dr. Eve Espey, Associate Dean at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. “With one foot raised, bear down, which will bring your cervix a little closer to your hand. Use your index and middle finger to hold the strings. Wrap them around your fingers and pull. It will be easier to get a grip onto the device if the strings are longer.” Once the IUD is out, look at it to make sure the T is intact. Some light spotting and/or cramping is normal, but if you experience severe pain, cramping, or bleeding, get to a provider as soon as you can.

“If you need to remove the IUD in an emergency situation, it would be best to check in with a provider before and after the removal,” urges Lakehomer.

“If you decide to remove your IUD, make sure you have another form of birth control ready if you do not want to get pregnant,” says Espey. It may be possible to get pregnant as soon as the IUD comes out.

If you’re considering an IUD…

If you don’t have an IUD but are interested in getting one, think about whether you’re comfortable visiting a provider at least a few times. You may need a visit before insertion, though it’s often possible to find providers who do same-day IUD insertion. Once the IUD is in, your provider may recommend a follow-up visit a month or two after insertion to make sure all is well.

“If you are nervous that you might not like the IUD and will want it removed with short notice,” offers Dominguez, “there are ways to be proactive before you have the IUD inserted. Ask your provider if they will see you right away should you want to have it removed. The provider can put this information in your chart, which will be viewed by the office staff when you call. If your provider agrees to see you immediately, you can tell the provider’s staff that this information is in your chart and they can help you make an appointment with short notice.”

If you’re considering a birth control switch…

If you have an IUD but you’re not sure it’s working for you, here are some questions to consider before ditching your method. If you know it’s time for a birth control change, Bedsider’s method explorer can help you explore your options. Depending what method you decide to switch to and where you are in your cycle, you may even want to start using your new method before you get your IUD out.

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