If you recently got an intrauterine device (IUD), you may be wondering how it affects your ability to have sex.

The little T-shaped birth control buddy is inserted into your uterus and hangs around for the long haul. And once it’s in, you don’t have to worry about bringing a baby on board for 3 to 10 years.

But because an IUD is kind of in the sex zone, should you be worried about losing or even poking it? We have the answers to your IUD sex questions.

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Illustration by Alexis Lira

Even though IUDs are really popular globally — an estimated 168 million women have one — they’ve only recently become popular in the United States. There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and copper.

Hormonal IUD

The hormonal IUD releases the hormone progestin, which helps prevent fertilization and implantation. It also inconsistently stops ovulation. Hormonal IUDs need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years. The most common U.S. brands are Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena.

You may have some irregularities in your cycle at first, due to the hormones. But your cycle should regulate once your body adjusts to the IUD. Your periods might even get lighter after the first 6 months!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the hormonal IUD is 99.8 percent effective at keeping your eggo from getting preggo.

Copper IUD

The copper IUD is also extremely effective. The failure rate is about 0.1 percent – or, to put it another way, the copper IUD has a 99.99 percent success rate. The only copper IUD brand available in the States is Paragard. It works by destroying sperm and disrupting sperm motility.

Because this type of IUD doesn’t contain hormones, your period should stay on schedule. But there is a downside: You can expect heavier bleeding for 6 months or more after insertion. You may also have worse cramps than usual. These side effects should go away within a year.

A major perk of the copper IUD is that it can last up to 10 years. Some doctors tell people who’ve had a copper IUD they can use it for up to 12 years.

It’s technically possible to have sex right after you get your IUD. But you may not want to.

Insertion pain varies from person to person. The great news is that the procedure is super fast. It usually takes 5 to 15 minutes and you’re good to go. Cramping and discomfort are totally common in the days after insertion. So, if you’re not feeling up to it, avoid sex until you’re ready.

If you do want to have sex right after insertion, be careful about pregnancy. Hormonal IUDs take time to kick in depending on where you are in your cycle. If you haven’t had your period within 7 days of insertion, you should use alternative forms of birth control for the first 7 days after insertion.

The copper IUD is immediately effective — in fact, you can use it as emergency contraception in lieu of Plan B.

Cervical mucus does a good job of masking the feel of the IUD strings, but your partner may still feel them. If your partner has a penis, they probably won’t feel the strings too intensely. The strings are easier to notice during a fingering.

Your IUD strings may soften over time, but if you’re worried about them poking your partner, talk with your doctor about making the strings less noticeable. They may be able to curl the strings back or trim them.

What are IUD strings like?

When you have an IUD, one or two plastic strings (similar to fishing line) hang in your vaginal canal. The strings are usually about 2 inches long, and you can barely feel them with your fingertips if you explore.

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The chance of your IUD actually hurting your partner is really low. If your partner complains of a little tickle, feel free to remind them of the following:

  • It’s your body.
  • You have consciously decided to stay baby-free, which is a personal choice.
  • Their slight tickle is definitely nothing compared to having a device pushed through your cervix and into your womb.

Now, if your partner pulls out and finds that the strings have poked their penis, that’s a different story. But it’s extremely rare and definitely not life threatening.

Sex shouldn’t hurt — during or after. If your IUD is positioned correctly, you shouldn’t be in pain.

If you start experiencing cramping, aching, or a stabbing sensation during or after sex, call your doctor. There’s a chance the IUD has shifted.

Sex is very unlikely to displace an IUD (move it around), and the same applies to it falling out (aka, expulsion). Your IUD is actually tucked away inside your uterus, not in your vagina, so it’s outside the penetration zone.

Your gyno has heard it all, so this really isn’t an awkward question to bring up mid-pap smear. When in doubt about anything sexual health-related, ask away! OB-GYNs are here to help answer all your burning (vaginal or not) questions.

What about perforation?

Perforation is when your IUD pokes through your uterine wall. Rude. According to a 2016 review, perforation is rare, affecting only 1 in 1,000 IUD insertions. It’s unlikely that sex will cause this, and OB-GYNs would see a lot more perforations if sex were solely to blame.

Perforation most likely has something to do with the initial placement of the IUD or the unique characteristics of a person’s uterus.

The aftermath of perforation is serious. You’ll need abdominal surgery to remove the IUD and make sure everything inside your abdomen looks OK.

But again, this is very rare and shouldn’t prevent you from considering an IUD if you think it’s right for you.

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It’s unlikely you’re bleeding after sex just because you have an IUD. Spotting or unscheduled bleeding is common in the months after IUD insertion. But if this spotting pattern sticks around for a long time, there’s a chance the IUD is in the wrong position or has been partially dislodged.

You can check your IUD strings if you’d like reassurance that it’s still in place, but it’s not 100 percent necessary and docs are divided on whether it helps. If you normally can feel the strings and suddenly can’t, call your doctor. They can do an exam to make sure the IUD is still sitting pretty inside your uterus.

What about period sex?

If you and your partner are into it (and you’re both clear of STIs), it’s perfectly safe to have sex while on your period, regardless of an IUD. Boning while surfing the crimson wave is totally your call.

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Your IUD won’t limit your ability to enjoy any sexual position you please.

You know your body best. Call your gyno A-S-A-P if you feel like something is off or if you experience any of these issues:

  • symptoms of a blood clot
  • pain during sex
  • extreme cramping
  • bleeding after sex
  • heavy spotting between periods
  • any changes in your menstrual bleeding
  • inability to find your IUD strings
  • feeling the IUD sticking out of your cervix
  • pregnancy symptoms

Important reminder on STIs

IUDs DO NOT protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as these:

Always use condoms or another barrier method if you’re not 💯 percent sure you’re in the clear.

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IUDs are super effective. Once an IUD is inserted, you don’t have to worry about baking a bun in your oven for years. And if you change your mind, removal is a breeze.

If you want an IUD, don’t worry about the device killing your mojo. It may actually give your love life a beautiful boost. When you know you’re protected, you can enjoy the ride even more.