Your gynecologist says they're the safest, most effective form of birth control. Your friends say IUDs hurt. Who's right?
IUD Horror Stories: True or False?
1 of 7All photos
Here at Shape, we hear a lot about IUDs. And we've noticed a strange phenomenon: Whenever we talk to ob-gyns about the birth control method, a small device that's inserted into the uterus and protects you from pregnancy for five to 10 years, they're all for it. "They're effective! They're easy! I love them!" they say. But when we broach the topic with our friends, it's a different story altogether. "My friend's came out." "Her boyfriend said he could feel it during sex." "I know someone who got pregnant on it."
So which is it? Are IUDs the most amazing, effective, set-it-and-forget-it birth control option around, or are they torture devices just waiting to ruin your sex life or leave you knocked up? As you can probably guess, the answer is somewhere in the middle. That's why we asked Linda Dominguez, a nurse practitioner at Southwest Women's Health, a private gynecology practice in Albuquerque, NM, to give us the real talk about our friends' most common IUD fears. (Find out: Is An IUD the Right Birth Control for You?)
"He Could Feel It During Sex"
2 of 7All photos
"If he can feel it with his finger, good for him—he can feel reassured that his beloved is using a top-notch contraception and he's not going to be a surprise daddy!" Dominguez says. "If he feels it on his penis, then the string was maybe trimmed too short and is poking out." If that's the case, you may need a new IUD. Ask your ob-gyn to leave the string about 1 1/2 inches long to allow it to curl back to the cervix.
"I Got Horrible Cramps"
3 of 7All photos
The IUD is usually inserted when you're on your period, since your cervix is already dilated. "You'll have whatever your normal menstrual cramps are, plus a little extra," says Dominguez. (Real talk, though—when it comes to pain, one woman's "a little" could be another woman's "borderline unbearable.") She tells her patients to treat the few days after insertion like a uterus spa day. "Take cramp meds, go easy at the gym, and indulge in your favorite treats," she says. (Learn How Much Pelvic Pain is Normal for Menstrual Cramps.)
"It Made My Periods So Heavy"
4 of 7All photos
This is a common one. And honestly, switching from a hormonal contraceptive (which typically cause very light, short periods) to a nonhormonal IUD can take some adjusting, as you remember what your "real" periods were like. "The copper IUD can also give you heavier periods for the first few months, and can extend your period by a couple days," admits Dominguez. But hormonal IUDs like LILETTA or Mirena may make your periods lighter, just like the Pill. Still, if you're going through a tampon every hour, it's time to high-tail it to your ob-gyn. "Super-heavy bleeding can be a sign of problems like an undetected infection," says Dominguez. (Psst... Iron Supplements May Help Women with Heavy Periods.)
"It Fell Out"
5 of 7All photos
"It's very, very rare for an IUD to wander away. But it can happen," admits Dominguez. That's why you should check to make sure you can feel your string with a finger after each period, to make sure it's still in place. If you feel the firm end of the IUD instead of the strings—or if you feel serious cramping or heavy or abnormal bleeding or discharge—it's a sign that it's become dislodged and you should see your ob-gyn ASAP.
"I Got Pregnant On It"
6 of 7All photos
"IUDs are a near-perfect contraception," says Dominguez. Unlike with the Pill or contraceptives like condoms, there's very little opportunity for user error. Because of that, they're over 99 percent effective. That said, "Mother Nature can be very powerful," and there are cases of women becoming pregnant while on the IUD. For the most part, though, if you're 100 percent certain that you're not pregnant when you get it inserted and you haven't had unprotected sex in the five days before it's put in, you should be fine.
Photo: Corbis Images
"It Makes Me Spot Often"
7 of 7All photos
"That can happen," says Dominguez. But for many women, the upsides to the IUD—no daily pill to remember, near foolproof protection against pregnancy—are more than worth some light spotting.
Photo: Corbis Images