If you've used a copper or hormone-based intrauterine device (IUD) for the last few years, you may have enjoyed this relatively low-maintenance form of birth control. While IUDs can help regulate menstrual cycles and prevent pregnancies in those who haven't had good success with other methods, even these long-lasting birth control methods aren't meant to be used forever, and at some point, you'll need to have your IUD removed. Read on to learn more about what to expect from the removal process and how your body will adjust to an IUD-free life.
When should you have your IUD removed?
Most copper-based IUDs are designed to last 10 to 12 years before removal, making them one of the most effective long-term birth control methods short of tubal ligation or vasectomy. Hormonal IUDs don't have as long an expected lifespan; the hormones inside many of the most popular brands may begin to decrease in effectiveness every 3 to 5 years. Keeping this IUD in beyond this point shouldn't cause you any harm, but can leave you susceptible to an unplanned pregnancy if you're not using condoms or another birth control method in the meantime.
You may want to have your IUD removed before its "expiration date" if you're planning to begin trying to conceive or if you're dealing with stubborn pelvic infections that don't seem to be responding well to antibiotics. In some cases, bacteria can colonize an IUD and make it tough to get rid of a pesky infection; removing the IUD and replacing it after the infection has been cleared can ensure good reproductive health.
What should you expect after your IUD is removed?
If you haven't replaced your IUD with another form of birth control, you're able to get pregnant just about immediately--it's important to use a backup form of birth control if you're not yet ready to have a baby. This is even more true with copper IUDs, which don't leave any hormones that might interfere with ovulation or your menstrual cycle.
On the day your IUD is removed, you may experience a bit of cramping or discomfort as your uterus adjusts to no longer have to accommodate this small interloper. However, because the flexible arms of the IUD can fold up as it's pulled out by the strings, you shouldn't experience any pain during the actual removal process. Those who found the IUD insertion to be painful may be reluctant to seek removal, expecting more of the same; fortunately, the removal process is a relative breeze.
For more information about contraceptives, contact your gynecologist.