Why IUD Removal at Home Is a Bad Idea

Removing your IUD at home can increase the risk of the device breaking or tearing your uterus, cervix, or vaginal canal.

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a popular method of birth control. This plastic, T-shaped device is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider to prevent pregnancy, according to MedlinePlus. This is an effective form of birth control—the failure rate is about 0.1%, according to a 2019 review from the International Journal of Women's Health.

There are two different types of IUDs, based on what they are coated with. A copper-coated IUD prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg by using copper ions, which are toxic to sperm. Cooper IUDs can last up to 10 years, according to MedlinePlus. A progestin-releasing IUD thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus. It also partly suppresses ovulation and thins the uterine lining which prevent implantation. This kind of IUD can last from three to eight years.

IUDs can be removed at any time, and there are quite a few reasons you may have yours removed. IUDs should be removed by a healthcare provider and should not be removed at home. Find out why you would get an IUD removed and why the procedure should be done by a healthcare provider.

Why You Would Get Your IUD Removed

Even though IUDs can last for years, there may come a time when you need to have them removed.

For instance, if you are interested in pursuing pregnancy, then you have to take out your birth control method in order to do that. And if you should become pregnant while using an IUD, you will also need to have the device removed to lower your risk of miscarriage, according to MedlinePlus.

There are other reasons you might need to have your IUD removed aside from pregnancy.

It Needs To Be Replaced

IUDs only last for so long and eventually, you will need to have them replaced. Different IUDs last for different lengths of time, depending on the brand. For instance, if you have the Paragard IUD, you should replace it every 12 years. But the Skyla IUD should be replaced every three years. Your healthcare provider l will know what brand you have and when it will need to be replaced.

There Are Signs of a Problem

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), if you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have a problem with your IUD and you should contact a healthcare provider to be evaluated.

  • Severe pelvic pain
  • Unexplained fever
  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • If you feel the IUD in the vagina
  • Positive pregnancy test
  • Signs of pregnancy (ie. nausea, breast tenderness)

Why You Shouldn't Remove Your IUD at Home

If you have an IUD, it's understandable to have some questions about whether it's safe to try to remove it yourself at home. Perhaps you don't want to wait for an appointment, or you don't have health insurance and don't want to pay out-of-pocket medical costs. But this is a really bad idea for more reasons than one.

Pieces Can Break Off

Sometimes an IUD can slip out of place. This may be due to pregnancy, according to MedlinePlus. If your IUD has slipped out of your uterus, do not try to fix it on your own. You should contact a healthcare provider immediately.

"Taking out your own IUD is not safe," Jessica Shepherd, MD, an OB-GYN in Texas and founder of Sanctum Med Wellness, told Health. Dr. Shepherd said there are a few possible issues that could crop up. During any IUD removal, there are risks for complications. "The IUD will hopefully come out completely intact, but there are cases where it can break off and you still have pieces in there," Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies, told Health. "It's rare, but I've seen it."

An IUD can become stuck in the uterus, or pieces of it can break off, according to MedlinePlus. If any of these events happen, you'll want help from a healthcare provider.

"It might not come out intact, and some portion can be left inside the uterus," said Dr. Shepherd.

Risk of Bleeding

If you happen to tear something in the process, you could end up with bleeding that needs immediate attention, said Dr. Shepherd. "It can be painful if not done correctly."

One more thing to consider, according to Dr. Greves: "You could break the string and your IUD could get lodged in your cervix. That hurts so bad."

How To Get Your IUD Removed Safely

Ultimately, said Dr. Shepherd, IUD removal "is for a healthcare provider to do."

Dr. Greves agreed: "It's really best to see a doctor for this."

If any complications arise—such as if the IUD gets stuck in the uterus—then a healthcare provider will know what to do.

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of IUD removal because of the Affordable Care Act, according to the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And, if you don't have health insurance and are concerned about the cost, call your local Planned Parenthood to see what options are available to you. You may be eligible for Medicaid or income-based financing.

You should be able to get your IUD removed at the same place where you had it inserted. This may be a family planning clinic, gynecologist office, Planned Parenthood facility, or any other health center.

A Quick Review

IUDs are effective at preventing pregnancy and are a safe method of birth control. But, they don't last forever. Eventually, your IUD will be removed. This may be because it's time for it to be replaced, you're experiencing complications, or you are pregnant or pursuing pregnancy. Whatever the reason, do not try to remove your IUD at home since there can be complications. If you would like to remove your IUD, contact your healthcare provider to have the procedure done safely.

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