Yes, an IUD Can Move – Here’s How to Tell If Yours Is Out of Place

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IUDs have slowly become more popular over the last few years, with doctors and users giving these birth control devices a thumbs up for their set-it-and-forget-it style. But with all that growing popularity comes questions about how IUDs work and what potential complications can come with them. In the mix: Can an IUD fall out? After all, if you’ve gone through the serious discomfort that can be IUD insertion, it makes sense that you’d want it to stay in place.

But in order to understand whether an IUD can fall out, it’s important to establish how an IUD works in the first place. An IUD is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic that’s used for birth control. It’s inserted into your uterus as part of a medical procedure and stays there anywhere from three to 10 years, depending on the type you get. IUDs have strings that hang down into the vaginal canal that are there to make it easier to remove them when it’s time.

IUDs are eventually removed, usually when someone wants to get pregnant, it’s time for the IUD to be replaced, or they’re just over it, says Christine Greves, MD, a board-certified ob-gyn at the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies. But IUDs don’t always stay where they should.

Can an IUD Fall Out?

Yep, an IUD can fall out. “The fancy word for this is ‘expulsion,'” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. While Minkin stresses that it’s rare for an IUD to fall out, it can and does happen. (Data suggests that the risk of IUD insertion is up to 10% over 3 years.)

So why does it happen? “The reasons are often unknown,” says women’s health expert Jennifer Wider, MD. However, she says it’s more likely that your IUD will fall out if you meet any of the following criteria:

  • You’re under 20
  • You’ve never been pregnant
  • You have heavy periods

Research has also found that women are more likely to have an IUD fall out if it was placed too soon after they gave birth.

Signs Your IUD Is Out of Place

There are a few potential tip-offs that your IUD isn’t where it should be. “You can have cramping and pain,” Dr. Greves says. “Sometimes if it’s just starting to fall out, your partner may feel it poking them. I had where scenario where the partner thought they felt the string, but it was the IUD itself.” You may even experience heavy bleeding if your IUD is out of place, Dr. Wider says.

“Many of us do recommend that women periodically check to see if they can feel their strings,” Dr. Minkin tells POPSUGAR. (To do this, you’ll want to stick a finger or two into your vaginal canal.) If you don’t feel yours during a check, it could be a sign that your IUD isn’t in the right spot.

What to Do If Your IUD Falls Out

If your IUD falls out, Dr. Wider says it’s important to call your doctor. Do not try to put it back into place, she warns. For the record, your doctor can’t reinsert an IUD after it fell out – so don’t try this at home.

Instead, you’ll want to talk to your healthcare provider about why your IUD might have fallen out and whether you should consider inserting a new one or switch to a different birth control method, Dr. Greves says. In the meantime, if you’re sexually active and your IUD falls out, you’ll also want to use a backup method of birth control, she adds.

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