IUD String Checking and Maintenance Tips

Why Should I Check My IUD Strings?

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

 

In order for it to be most effective, you need to make sure you are using your birth control the correct way. If you want to lower your chances of IUD failure, it's important that you remember to check your IUD strings every so often. It's not something you need to do every day, but it's good to know what they feel like so if something is amiss, you'll recognize the signs. And of course if you have any questions about your IUD, you should call your healthcare provider.

There are two strings attached to the bottom of the IUD. After your IUD is inserted into your uterus, strings hang out of the cervix, ending up somewhere high in the vaginal canal. Your doctor will use these strings when it's time to have your IUD removed.

But if your IUD slips out of the uterus even partially (referred to as expulsion), obviously it's not going to work. Many women don't have any symptoms of IUD expulsion or even realize that their IUD has come out. Checking the strings may be the only way to tell for sure if your IUD has moved out of place. 

Checking Your IUD Strings

First, wash your hands. Then either sit or squat, and put your index or middle finger into your vagina until you touch the cervix. It should feel firm and somewhat rubbery, like the tip of your nose.

Feel for the IUD string ends that should be coming through your cervix. If you feel the strings, then your IUD is in place and should be working.

If the 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 yourself. Until you can get to your doctor, make sure to use a back-up birth control method if you have intercourse.

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. Check your IUD strings a few times a week for the first few months after you get your IUD. .

You should then check for your 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 IUD users when it slides 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, because there is an increased risk of pelvic infection, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and early labor and delivery.

You may choose to have the IUD strings cut shorter if they can be 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 IU 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.

Sources:

National Institutes of Health "In office retrieval of Intrauterine contraceptive devices."  Sujatha Prabhakaran, M.D., MPH, and Alice Chuang, M.D. Aug. 2010.

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