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Yes, most women experience cramping during and after having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted or removed. The cramps might continue periodically for a few days. They might even last a few weeks to a few months as your body adjusts to the IUD.
Having an IUD Inserted
An IUD is a highly effective and long-term type of birth control that prevents sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg. Having an IUD inserted is a quick and easy process your local healthcare provider can perform at a clinic. It typically only takes five minutes. During this procedure, your provider will:
- Place a speculum in the vagina to see inside and access the cervix.
- Clean the cervix with an antiseptic.
- Insert a slender tube that contains the IUD through the vagina and cervix.
- Use a plunger at the end of the tube to push the IUD into the uterus.
- Pull the tube back out.
Most women describe some pain and cramping during this process.
Afterward, two strings attached to the end of the IUD should be hanging in your vagina. These indicate that the IUD is in the right place. They’re also what your healthcare provider will use to remove the IUD when you decide it’s time.
Having an IUD Removed
Most IUDs are effective for and can remain in your body for three to 10 years. When you’re ready to have your IUD removed, don’t try to pull it out yourself; schedule an appointment with your medical provider. During the removal process, he or she will:
- Place a speculum in the vagina.
- Use an instrument called a ring forceps to grasp the IUD threads hanging in your vagina.
- Gently pull and slide the IUD out of your cervix and body.
Typically, the IUD comes out easily, and the process takes less than five minutes. If it doesn’t, however, your medical provider might need to use ultrasound to find the string and guide the process. Or, he or she might have to perform a hysteroscopy, which involves passing a thin, lighted tube through the cervix and into the uterus. If this occurs, your provider will likely provide you with some form of pain relief to make the procedure more comfortable.
What Causes Cramping?
The reason you might feel cramping when having your IUD inserted is because that’s how your body reacts to the cervix opening. It’s similar to the cramps you might experience when you’re on your period. They can be mild or severe, depending on the person. Cramping often lasts longer after getting a copper IUD than a hormonal IUD.
Women who usually have mild cramping when they’re on their periods and women who have had babies tend to have less severe cramping during the IUD insertion process. On the other hand, women who get severe cramps during their periods and women who haven’t had babies tend to experience stronger cramps. You might be able to reduce the amount of pain and cramping associated with this procedure by scheduling it during your period, when the cervix is more relaxed, open, and sitting lower in your body.
You’ll also experience cramping during the IUD removal process, as your body again reacts to the cervix opening, but it shouldn’t be as strong as during insertion. If the IUD strings are up in the uterus or the device has become stuck, however, you might experience more pain and cramping as your healthcare provider tries to remove it.
If you’re concerned about pain and cramping during IUD insertion or removal, ask your medical provider about pain relief or numbing options.
Relief for Cramping
For many women, their cramps will go away as soon as or shortly after the IUD insertion or removal process. It’s common, however, to experience continued, occasional cramping for days to weeks after. Some women get cramps months later, but these should decrease in severity over time. During this period, you can take steps to ease the discomfort associated with cramping, including:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Applying a hot water bottle or heating pad to your abdomen.
- Soaking in a hot bath.
- Going for a walk or being active, which increases blood circulation in the area.
- Doing exercises to relax your abdomen and loosen the muscles in that area. These might include stretches or yoga poses such as pigeon, cobra, camel, cat, and cow, among others.
- Applying acupressure with your finger to certain acupoints on your body, such as the arch of your foot.
- Seeing an acupuncturist, who can place needles strategically on points shown to provide pain relief.
- Taking daily supplements containing vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and other nutrients that potentially affect muscle function.
Talk to your healthcare provider immediately if:
- You’re still having cramps three or more months after IUD insertion or removal.
- Your cramping is severe.
- You have heavy bleeding.
- You have a fever or chills.
- You notice abnormal vaginal discharge.
- You have irregular periods.
- You feel like the IUD is coming out or its string length or location changes suddenly.
These symptoms might mean you have an infection, the IUD is not in the right place, or your body is trying to expel the device.
Some women’s bodies simply don’t adapt to having an IUD in the uterus. In this case, cramping might continue and you might choose to have the device removed. Your healthcare provider can recommend alternative birth control options, such as the pill, patch, ring, shot, or barrier methods such as condoms.