IUD String Checking and Maintenance Tips

Prevent IUD Failure

IUD Strings
Checking Your IUD Strings. Eduardo Luzzatti BuyA/E+/Getty Images

Why Should I Check My IUD Strings?

In order to be most effective, you need to make sure you are using your birth control the correct way. If you want to lower our chances of IUD failure, it super important that you remember to check your IUD strings. If you have any questions about your IUD (Mirena IUDParaGard IUD or Skyla), you should call your doctor.  Make sure that completely understand how your IUD works as well as what you need to do to help increase your success with this birth control method.

What Are The IUD Strings For?

There are two IUD strings attached to the bottom of the IUD. After your IUD is inserted, the IUD strings will come down the uterus and out of the cervix. They usually end somewhere high up in the vaginal canal.  One of the reasons why your IUD may not work is because it may have partially or completely slipped out of the uterus. This is called expulsion. Many women don't have any symptoms of IUD expulsion or even realize that their IUD has come out. Checking your IUD strings may be the only way to tell for sure if your IUD has moved out of its place. Your doctor will also use your IUD strings when it's time to have your IUD removed.

Checking Your IUD Strings:

Time Required: Less than 10 Minutes

Here's How:

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Then either sit or squat.
  3. Put your index or middle finger up into your vagina until you touch the cervix (it should feel firm and somewhat rubbery... like the tip of your nose).
  1. Feel for the IUD string ends that should be coming through your cervix.
  2. If you feel the IUD strings, then your IUD is in place and working.
  3. If the IUD strings feel longer or shorter than the last time you checked them, or if you feel the hard part of the IUD against your cervix, your IUD may have moved. It will need to be put back in place by your doctor. Don’t try to push the IUD back. Until you can get to your doctor, make sure to use a back-up birth control method, like a condom, female condom, Today Sponge or spermicide.
  1. Never pull on your IUD strings -- this might make it move out of place or even come out.

How Often Should I Check For My IUD Strings?

If your IUD is going to move out of place, it will most likely happen in the first few months after your IUD is inserted or during your period. So, it is especially important to check your IUD strings a few times a week for the first few months after you get your IUD. It is also recommended that you have a check-up at your doctor's once you have your first period after your IUD insertion -- this is to make sure that your IUD is still in place.

You should then check for your IUD strings, once a month, between periods. Because there is a greater chance that your IUD can slip out during your period, check your pads or tampons just to  make sure that your IUD hasn't come out. 

IUD String Checking and Maintenance Tips:

  • If your IUD becomes partially expelled, you need to schedule an appointment to have it removed. Most unplanned pregnancies happen to Mirena, Skyla, or ParaGard IUD users when their IUDs slide out without them realizing it.
  • Even though the chance of pregnancy while an IUD is in place is extremely low, if it does happen, you should have the IUD removed as soon as you are aware that you're pregnant. Women who choose to be pregnant with an IUD in place must have close medical supervision throughout their pregnancy. This is because there is an increased risk of pelvic infection, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and early labor and delivery.
  • If you cannot feel your IUD strings, make sure to use an alternative, back-up contraceptive method, and call your doctor to make sure that your IUD has not moved out of place.
  • You may choose to have the IUD strings cut shorter if they are felt by your sexual partner. Keep in mind that, sometimes, the IUD strings are cut so short that you may not be able to actually check for them. Make sure to have regular IUD checkups at the same time as your periodic gynecological exam.
  • Some women mistakenly believe that they need to have their Mirena, Paragard, or Skyla removed if they switch sexual partners. This is a myth! Your IUD will continue to work just as effectively regardless of how many sexual partners you have.

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