Birth control must be used consistently and according to instructions in order to attain maximum effectiveness. In order to lower your chances of IUD failure, it is essential that you check your IUD strings.
If you have any questions about your IUD (a Mirena IUD or ParaGard IUD), please contact your healthcare provider. You will lower your chances for birth control failure if you have a proper and thorough understanding of how your IUD works as well as what you need to do to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Checking Your IUD Strings:
- Wash your hands.
- Then either sit or squat.
- Put your index or middle finger up into your vagina until you touch the cervix (it should feel firm and somewhat rubbery... like the tip of your nose).
- Feel for the string ends that should be coming through your cervix.
- If you find the IUD strings, then your IUD is in place and working.
- If the string ends feel longer or shorter than before, or if you feel the hard part of the IUD against your cervix, the IUD may have moved and needs to be put back in place by your doctor. Don’t try to push the IUD back (and make sure to use another contraceptive, like a condom, female condom, Today Sponge or spermicide until it's put back in place).
- Never pull on your IUD string ends as this might make it move out of place or even come out.
- If an IUD is going to slip out of place, it will most likely happen in the first few months of use or during your period. So, it is especially important to check your IUD for the first few weeks after an IUD insertion to make sure that it is still properly in place. You can do this by feeling for the IUD strings every few days and to feel for the string ends between periods. You should also schedule a checkup with your doctor after your first period (and no longer than 3 months after the insertion) to make sure that the IUD is still where it is supposed to be.
- Make sure to check the strings each month to ensure that the IUD is still in place. Given that if your IUD is going to move out of place, it will more than likely happen during your period, check your pads or tampons to make sure that your IUD has not fallen out. If it has, call your doctor and use another birth control method.
- You must schedule an IUD removal if your IUD becomes partially expelled. Most unplanned pregnancies happen to Mirena or ParaGard IUD users when their IUDs slide out without them realizing it. Even though the chance of pregnancy while an IUD is in place is extremely low, if it does happen, you should have the IUD removed as soon as you are aware that you're pregnant.
Women who choose to continue a pregnancy with an IUD in place must have close medical supervision throughout their pregnancy as there is an increased risk of pelvic infection, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and early labor and delivery.
- If you cannot feel the strings, make sure to use an alternative, back-up contraceptive method, and call your healthcare provider to make sure that the IUD has not moved out of place.
- You may choose to have the IUD strings cut shorter if they are felt by your sexual partner. When this is the case, sometimes the strings are cut so short that you may not be able to actually check for them. So, make sure to have regular IUD checkups at the same time as your periodic gynecological exam.
Some women have been left to believe that they have to have their Mirena or Paragard removed if they switch sexual partners. This is a myth as the IUD will continue to work just as effectively regardless to how many sexual partners you have.