Debunking The IUD Insertion Pain Myth

IUD Insertion Pain Myth

Debunking The IUD Insertion Pain Myth

November 24, 2023
Know the real truth about IUD insertion, learn the truth about IUD placement discomfort and discover tips for a comfortable experience. Read more now!

Know the real truth about IUD insertion before visiting a birth control clinic

The Intrauterine Device (IUD) has been around since the early 1900s and has grown in popularity as a trusted method of birth control since then. In fact, it is now one of the most sought-after forms of contraception available - thanks to its 99% rate of effectiveness. 

This style of reversible contraception is placed inside the uterus, is typically T-shaped and small. Some IUDs are hormonal and contain progestin - lasting up to five years, while others are non-hormonal (containing copper) and are effective against pregnancy for up to 5-7-10 years depending on the style.

Regardless of IUD type - plenty of misinformation has spread on social media about pain related to IUD insertion that's simply not true.  

Rather than believe the false claims made, it’s important to know the truth behind this method of birth control and learn about how to minimise IUD insertion discomfort when visiting your birth control clinic. 

One of the most prominent claims about discomfort during IUD insertion is that the procedure itself is similar to childbirth. Though the process might sound scary, the pain isn’t as bad as you may be led to believe.

The IUD insertion procedure typically lasts between 5 and 15 minutes with possible additional time if pain management is required.

Anxiety (both anticipated and the actual pain related to the procedure) are often barriers to the use of IUDs. We encourage you to read the full blog  to see how we can help reduce your anxiety .

Some patients may experience more pain or discomfort than others including those who have a history of trauma, chronic pelvic pain, sexual pain , or painful periods, as well as those who are post-partum , have or had difficulty with or have never had speculum ( instrument used inside the vagina to visualise the cervix.) However, even though some patients have a higher risk of pain, it does not mean they are not a good candidate for an IUD.

We are committed to making the IUD insertion experience comfortable for you.

Will I feel pain during & after?

Yes, you will feel some slight discomfort during the IUD insertion process, but the degree of discomfort varies, and it often doesn’t last long, and it also depends on important factors such as an individual's level of pain tolerance. If you have ever experienced the dull ache of period pain, IUD cramping can feel very similar… and entirely different than childbirth.

What can I do to help with IUD insertion?

There are a few simple things you can do when preparing for your IUD clinic appointment that will help prevent discomfort during the insertion process. 

When setting up an appointment with your healthcare provider, ask if the doctor who will be doing your insertion does the procedure frequently. Experienced inserters tend to have patients that report less pain with IUD placement.

Before your appointment at your birth control clinic , consider taking an anti-inflammatory pill such as Advil 400 -800 mg or Tylenol 500mg 1 hour before your appointment. It will help alleviate any feeling of pain after IUD insertion and help keep you comfortable. 

For patients with a history of anxiety , a mild prescription strength sedative can be prescribed . However, you will not be permitted to drive , operate heavy equipment for 24 hours and will need a ride home from your appointment .

Prepare a few things to keep you comfortable during and post-procedure such as eating a light snack one hour before, otherwise blood sugar levels drop, placing stress on your body.

Bring a heating pad, some music, or meditation to help you stay focused and relaxed before, during, and after insertion. Ask your doctor their permission beforehand as some physicians want to talk to their patient during the procedure.

Be positive and motivated - Studies have shown that women who are motivated experience less discomfort than those that are apprehensive. 

If you’re anxious - focus on the positives of having an IUD (mistake proof , convenient and no estrogen) and

pros outweighing the cons for the  temporary discomfort.

Think about the timing of when your IUD clinic appointment will take place.  

The two best times for IUD insertion are thought to be either toward the end of your period, or within a window of a few days as it will hurt less - or during ovulation. This is because your cervix is softer and more open during these times, making the procedure more comfortable. At The IUD Women's Clinic , your IUD can be inserted at any time of your menstrual cycle.

If your periods are irregular, it’s important not to delay your insertion waiting for it to start - many women get iuds when they are not on their period without difficulty.

Say no to Misoprostol

Various studies have shown that Misoprostol causes more discomfort and cramping during IUD insertions. This drug is best used if you've had a failed attempt at a previous IUD placement.

Numbing/ Freezing ( Cervical Block)

Unfortunately, social media accounts of IUD insertion " nightmares" likely reflect a minority of patients and lead to many women who avoid getting an IUD in fear of pain / discomfort of an IUD insertion.

Cervical block is a local anesthetic injected into the cervix before the IUD placement - this feels more like pressure and is unlike the pain of a needle given in the skin of the arm or buttock muscle.

This type of freezing helps to numb the cervix and reduce pain when the tenaculum ( clamp ) is used to grasp the cervix making the procedure more comfortable. It also helps to reduce pain when the sound ( instrument used to measure the depth of the uterine cavity) enters the cervix.

Freezing does not reach the the inside or the top of the uterus and one will feel menstrual like cramps during this part of the procedure .

Not everyone needs a cervical block including women who have had multiple natural deliveries.

Will my IUD hurt my partner (and cause me pain, as a result?)

No - it shouldn’t. Because an IUD is placed in the uterus, not in the vagina, your partner should not feel your IUD during sexual intercourse. There have been cases where a partner has reported that they’ve felt the threads of an IUD. This has not caused any sensation of pain. If this is a concern, it is important to talk to your doctor to check on the IUD position and length of string.  

What most of my patients report

With the above measures in place,  asking feedback from my pateient's about their experience of pain and cramping, most of my patients experience 1-3 minute period of a intense uterine pain, when the uterus length is being measured and the IUD is actually being inserted. This pain generally diminishes within minutes to a moderate menstrual cramp intensity, often before the vaginal speculum is even removed. The vast majority of my patients report that the pain has further decreased before they even sit up on the table. Some patients tell me that the pain is no more intense than their typical menstrual cramps. From time to time, some patients tell me they didn’t feel anything at all.

Most of my patients walk or drive themselves to the appointment, feel well to do so on their journey home, and go back to their usual activities of the day. If you are having your first IUD placed, however, it’s a good idea to allow for the possibility that you might feel a little more cramping, and plan the rest of your day accordingly.

Even if you don’t have your IUD placed at The IUD Women's Clinic you should expect to have a comprehensive consultation to answer your questions and prepare you for the procedure. Advocate for yourself: ask how many insertions they do per week or month, about pain management strategies, and after-care.  

Interested in learning more about using an IUD as a method of contraception, or would you like a consultation with Dr. Michelle Gerber to answer any additional questions? Contact our office for more information and assistance.