We’re pretty fortunate to have so many types of contraceptives available. Unlike older generations, we have a method of birth control that fits every body and every lifestyle.
One of the most popular forms of contraception is the intrauterine device, or “IUD.” An IUD is a form of long term birth control, so they’re a great option for people who don’t plan to become pregnant for a long time.
Because an IUD sits inside your uterus, you may wonder if you’ll still be able to use your favorite types of period care items, like tampons. We’ll talk about what period care items are best while using an IUD, and whether or not tampons are safe.
What is an IUD?
An IUD is a small, flexible device, shaped like a “T” that sits inside your uterus. There is a string attached to the bottom of your IUD device, which allows your doctor to remove it when you are ready to take it out.
There are two different types of IUDs available in the U.S.
Copper. This type of IUD is covered with copper coils. These coils alter the chemicals in the fluid in your uterus which causes them to become spermicidal. Copper IUDs also make it harder for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus.
This method of birth control is a great option for people who don’t want to use hormones.
Hormonal. Some IUDs release progestin hormones that cause the lining of the uterus to become thin and watery, which makes it virtually impossible for a fertilized egg to implant.
Hormonal IUDs also cause cervical mucus to thicken, making it difficult for sperm to pass into the uterus. In some instances, a hormonal IUD may also cause the user to stop ovulating.
Both types of IUD devices are considered long term forms of birth control. Hormonal IUDs typically last between three to five years, and a copper IUD can last up to 10 years. Both IUDs need to be inserted and removed by your doctor.
Benefits of an IUD
Both the copper and the hormonal IUD have many benefits.
- Both IUDs begin working as soon as they are inserted. Unlike the pill, you won’t need to use a secondary form of birth control until it becomes effective.
- IUDs are 99% effective when worn correctly.
- Using an IUD allows you the freedom to not worry about contraception for a longer period of time than most other forms of birth control. You won’t have to remember to take a pill every day, and you won’t have to rely on having other contraceptives available when you need them.
- IUDs have very few side effects. In fact, if you use the copper IUD, you won’t be exposed to hormones, which may or may not give you side effects.
IUDs are great options for people not planning to become pregnant for a few years, people who are done having children, or people who simply want a form of birth control that is extremely low maintenance.
What are the Disadvantages of an IUD?
Even though an IUD is a great form of birth control, there are some things to consider before deciding whether or not it is right for you.
- It’s long term. If you are planning to have a baby, or would like to try to have a baby in the next few years, using an IUD may not be the best decision for you. Speak to your healthcare provider about which options are best.
- Hormonal IUDs can have side effects. You may experience side effects from the hormonal IUD similar to the kind you’d have with hormonal birth control pills. Moodiness, bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, headache, and nausea.
- Copper IUDs have side effects, too. While using a copper IUD, you may experience heavier menstrual flow and more intense cramping.
- You may have irregular bleeding the first few months after having your IUD placed. If you experience spotting, it usually disappears once you’ve had your IUD in for a few months.
- Expulsion. There is a chance your IUD could become dislodged, or fall out. This is rare, but if it happens, you could become pregnant. There’s also a chance you may not be aware it has become dislodged.
Expulsion is a very rare event, and almost never associated with tampon usage. In fact, you can safely use a tampon with your IUD.
Using Tampons With an IUD
Your doctor will place your IUD inside your uterus. The strings attached to your IUD will extend just past your cervix.
Tampons are inserted into your vagina, below the cervix. As such, wearing a tampon won’t interfere with your IUD, because the IUD is completely protected inside your uterus.
If you plan to wear tampons or a menstrual cup, let your provider know. They may decide to clip the strings of your IUD a little shorter, so that there’s zero chance your cup or tampon will interfere with them.
Can You Use Tampons Immediately After Getting an IUD?
It’s suggested you use an alternative form of period care for the first 24-48 hours after your IUD is placed. This is because there’s a slightly higher risk of uterine and vaginal infection immediately after your IUD has been placed.
Once your doctor clears you to wear tampons, you can wear them safely without worrying about them interfering with your IUD.
Will a Tampon Cause My IUD to Come Out?
It’s very rare for an IUD to become dislodged or fall out of your uterus, but it can happen. Although there isn’t much research on the topic, at least one study shows that the use of both tampons and menstrual cups has no effect on expulsion rates of IUDs.
You can use tampons with an IUD, and you can also use a menstrual cup with an IUD.
We suggest using a tampon made from 100% organic cotton that contains no chemicals that could interfere with your hormones or irritate your most sensitive areas. Rael’s organic cotton tampons are perfect for IUD users, and even come with plant-based applicators.
What Causes and IUD to Come Out?
There are a few reasons why your IUD may become dislodged or “expelled.”
- Heavy, painful periods;
- Not having a baby vaginally;
- Insertion immediately after vaginal delivery; and
- An IUD that has not been placed correctly.
These are rare instances, but because it is possible for your IUD to come out, it’s a good idea to check to make sure it is in place after each menstrual cycle.
You can easily check to make sure your IUD is in place by following these simple steps:
- Wash and dry your hands.
- Sit on the edge of a bed, on your toilet, or squat down while in the shower.
- Insert your index or middle finger into your vagina until you the ends of the strings that attach to your IUD. When you can feel them, you’ll know your IUD is in place.
You don’t need to be able to feel both strings to know that the IUD is in place; as long as you can feel one string, you can be sure the IUD is still intact.
What to do if Your IUD Comes Out
If you cannot feel the strings of your IUD, you might begin to panic. Don’t worry; more often than not it simply means they are lying flush against your cervix or you simply cannot feel them. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider to get checked.
The worst case scenario is that your IUD would come out without you noticing. This is extremely rare, but it’s still important to check for your IUD every month to make sure it’s in place.
If your IUD does come out, contact your doctor immediately. In the meantime, make sure you use an alternative form of birth control, like a condom, to prevent pregnancy.
Helpful Hints While Using Tampons With IUDs
The only logical way a tampon could interfere with your IUD is if the strings of your IUD were to catch on the tip of your tampon. To prevent this from happening, make sure your provider knows you plan to use tampons so the string can be clipped accordingly.
Also, you should never wear a tampon with a higher absorbency than you need. Wearing a tampon with a higher absorbency places you at a higher risk of developing an infection, and encourages you to keep them in longer than you should.
The Bottom Line
It’s completely safe to use tampons if you have an IUD. The vaginal placement of your tampon will not interfere with the uterine placement of your IUD. IUDs are great methods of birth control, and it’s very rare that they ever become dislodged.
Rael offers plant-based, organic tampons and easy to use menstrual cups that keep you safe from harsh chemicals that could interfere with your hormones or irritate your skin. Using our period products is a great way to compliment your no-nonsense IUD contraceptive.
The IUD (for Teens) | Nemours KidsHealth
Does Using Tampons or Menstrual Cups Increase Early IUD Expulsion Rates? | PubMed
How to Check Your IUD Strings - Birth Control | Very Well Health