I’m experiencing some negative side effects from my IUD, but my doctor doesn’t want to remove it. What should I do?
An intrauterine device (IUD) is a great birth control option for some women. IUDs are inserted by a provider and can provide up 10 years of contraceptive protection! They are very effective and safe to use for most women and even offer a non-hormonal option. However, some women experience negative side effects while using the device, including abnormal or prolonged bleeding, or pain caused by a malfunction of the device.
Many providers encourage women to use IUDs because they are highly effective for a long period, and have a very low user error rate since the provider inserts them. While IUDs are a great option for women who choose to use them, some women who experience menstrual pain and bleeding may prefer other methods of contraception or none at all. The reproductive health and justice community has become aware of some providers aggressively pushing IUDs over other methods of contraception. While most providers encouraging IUD use have good intentions, the choice about which contraception to use, if any, is ultimately up to the woman.
Providers may be hesitant to remove IUDs for a couple of reasons. Many doctors don’t like to remove the IUD before at least a year because they want patients to see if their symptoms improve so that they don’t regret having it removed too soon. Also, sometimes adverse effects are present for the first few months and then wane off. Some insurance plans cover IUD insertion, but not removal, as seen in the case of this woman from Seattle, Washington who had to file a complaint to get hers removed. There has even been a case where a woman complained that a hospital wouldn’t remove her IUD based on religious principles. Some hospitals are governed by catholic doctrine and are not allowed to take part in anything that they consider to promote or condone contraception, even if a woman’s life is at risk. The National Women’s Health Network adamantly supports the autonomy of women to decide for themselves whether or not to use an IUD or contraception at all. Any attempt to force a woman into using an IUD, or to prevent her from removing it, is an injustice and a violation of your rights.
If you choose to use an IUD and ultimately decide on removal, do not attempt to remove it yourself. While there are some women who report that removing it at home was relatively easy, you don’t want to take that risk. It’s not completely sterile, and if anything happens to go wrong, you don’t have a trained professional there for immediate assistance. If your symptoms are severe, you should head to the emergency room or an urgent care facility. Otherwise, you can make an appointment with a family planning clinic, like Planned Parenthood or your gynecologist, to have the device removed.
The NWHN wants women to be fully informed about Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs) like IUDS so that they can decide if this form of birth control is best for them. Accessible and affordable IUD removal is a critical issue that needs to be addressed in order for them to be a fully accessible, non-coercive option. We partnered with Sister Song to create principles on the provision of LARCs that support women having accurate, balanced information and options.
For more information on our advocacy work surrounding this issue, check out our full statement on LARCs here.
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