No, You Should Absolutely Not Remove Your IUD At Home
There are many reasons you might want to get your intrauterine device removed. Whether you aren't a fan of how your IUD has changed your period or you want to have a baby soon, sometimes it's time to evict the little T-shaped tool from your uterus. More power to you, but you've got to loop in a medical professional. IUD removal is not a DIY task, although the internet might have you thinking otherwise.
When you Google "remove IUD at home," almost 3 million search results populate. They include women on message boards asking how to pull out their IUDs, sometimes because they don't want to or can't afford to pay for the procedure, the cost of which can vary based on your health insurance and doctor's office. Other times, they want to be rid of hormones or have a baby ASAP, and it'll take too long to get an appointment, or the insertion was so uncomfortable they only trust themselves for the removal. There are testimonials from women talking about exactly how they did it, blog posts from ob/gyns imploring women not to try this, and at least one YouTube video of a woman capturing her reaction as she took out her own IUD. There was even a June 2016 Harper's Bazaar piece in which the writer, who was at a women's retreat, overheard that "15 women [had] removed their IUDs together in a yurt." What a time to be alive.
It's true that IUDs are one of the best contraceptives options out there. Hormonal IUDs—Mirena, which last for five years, and Skyla and Liletta, which last for three—thicken cervical mucus, making it tough for sperm to reach an egg. They also thin the uterine lining so a fertilized egg would have trouble latching on to the uterus. The non-hormonal IUD, ParaGard, uses copper to create a toxic environment for sperm and can do its job for up to for 10 years. And with over 99 percent efficacy, IUDs are great.
But sometimes they've got to go. All the online chatter about people who get rid of their IUDs at home may make it seem like a swell idea, but doctors really don't want you to do this. "I wouldn’t advise it," Jacques Moritz, M.D., an ob/gyn at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine, tells us. "It's not a tampon or diaphragm—that baby's in there." IUDs are inserted through the cervix and into the uterus, where its T-shaped wings open up, lodging it pretty firmly in place.
Little strings hang down through the cervix into the vagina, which is a helpful way to check that your IUD's not falling out, but they also make it quite easy to take out—for a medical professional. That's the only person who should be taking out your IUD, Sherry Ross, M.D., ob/gyn and women's health expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells. "I would discourage self-removal of IUDs for safety reasons," she says, citing possible pain or infection if you cut or scratch your vagina in the process of grabbing on to the IUD or yanking it out. "It’s a little Cirque de Soleil if you're doing it yourself."
Moritz sees potential pain or infection as more theoretical concerns, but he notes that removing an IUD requires pulling in a precise direction. For it to get past the cervix, its wings have to collapse in so it goes from looking like a T to looking like an I. "We have to really grab those strings. We use a clamp, and we pull straight and down," Moritz says. Ross adds that in some cases doctors need to use ultrasound for guidance. Using your fingers to latch on to the strings—which can curl up around the cervix, making them harder to reach— would be pretty tough. Plus, Moritz says that doctors are often cutting strings a little shorter these days for comfort reasons, which would make an IUD even harder to pull out on your own.
Even if you do get ahold of the strings, your efforts could go awry. "My concern would be you get the strings, you start pulling, you feel something [strange], and now the IUD is half-in and half-out," says Moritz. In that case, you'd have to go see a doctor anyway.
And if you did, you'd likely realize how simple the procedure is when done at the hands of a medical professional. "It's very quick, and it’s a lot less painful removing than inserting," Ross says. Moritz concurs. "You shouldn't be scared at all," Moritz says. "If the strings are there, it's so easy—I've done two today!"
And if cost or long waiting times for an appointment are the reasons you're Googling "remove IUD at home," Ross suggests going to a Planned Parenthood or similar clinic near you. Depending on your financial and health insurance situations, they may discount the removal price or be able to work out a payment plan you find doable (or even offer it for free!). Either way, it's always best to leave this kind of thing to the pros. "It was put in by with someone with expertise," Ross says. "Someone taking it out should have the same expertise."