What is an IUD?
An intrauterine device or IUD is a popular birth control device. It is placed inside the uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is a reversible contraceptive. You can remove it anytime if you wish to get pregnant. Modern day IUDs are one of the safest and most effective birth control methods available. IUDs are of two main types: copper and hormonal IUDs. They work in either of the two ways:
- They release a hormone (progesterone) or the copper in them changes the nature of the sticky fluid in the cervix (cervical mucus). This makes the survival of sperm inside the uterus difficult.
- They cause changes in the lining of the uterus that prevents attachment or implantation of a zygote if fertilization occurs.
What does it mean to have a moved IUD?
For effective contraception, IUD must be properly positioned inside the uterus. This is ensured by a healthcare professional when inserting the IUD. An IUD is said to be correctly positioned when it is in the uterine cavity near the fundus (the dome-shaped upper part of the uterus). The stem of the IUD should extend toward the cervix (neck of the uterus). The two arms of the IUD must be fully unfolded (forming a “T” shape with the stem) during insertion, reaching laterally toward the two uterine cornua (the points where the uterus meets the fallopian tubes). An IUD is said to be displaced if any of the following three things occur:
- The IUD moved out of the uterus (expulsion).
- The IUD is not positioned correctly inside the uterus (displacement).
- The IUD got buried or embedded in the walls of the uterus (embedment).
- The IUD pierced through the walls of the uterus and entered inside the abdomen (perforation).
Doctors generally schedule a follow-up visit a month after IUD insertion to make sure the IUD is in its place. IUD movement is rare and if it happens at all, it is usually during the first few months after the IUD insertion.
What are the symptoms of a moved IUD?
A misplaced IUD may not work effectively as a contraceptive. Hence, you must know how to find out if the IUD has moved. IUDs come with a thin string attached at their end which can be felt through the vagina. To feel the string
- Wash your hands well. Make sure your nails are trimmed.
- Sit or squat and insert one finger into the vagina.
- Feel your cervix (It feels firm like the tip of the nose).
- Try to feel the string coming out of the cervix. Do not pull or tug on the string.
You may check this every month after your period. While feeling the string you may notice
- The string length seems the same as before. This may mean that your IUD is in its place.
- The string feels shorter or could not be felt. This may either mean the string has curled up or the IUD has moved. Contact your doctor.
- The string feels longer than usual. This may mean that the IUD has moved. Contact your doctor.
Besides the change in the string length, a moved IUD may cause the following signs and symptoms:
- You can feel the IUD with your fingers (normally only the string is felt).
- Your partner may feel the IUD during sex.
- You have excessive bleeding during your period or bleeding or spotting between periods.
- Painful intercourse.
- Excessive pain or cramps in the abdomen.
- Foul-smelling or unusual vaginal discharge.
If you think your IUD has moved, do not try correcting it yourself. Contact your doctor right away.
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Ultrasonography: "Ultrasonography of Intrauterine Devices." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4484292/