Getting an intrauterine device—or IUD—is becoming an ever-more popular birth control option. More than six million people in the U.S. use one today. Which makes sense: These small, T-shaped devices placed in the uterus are shown to be 99 percent effective, and many can be left in for up to eight years. No need to take a pill every morning, or interrupt foreplay to roll on a condom.
But friends might tell you that your IUD could fall out during intense exercise, particularly right after it’s put in. Does getting one mean you’ll have to skip your favorite HIIT classes or interval runs? Can exercise dislodge an IUD?
The 411 on exercise immediately after having an IUD put in
The first thing to point out is that it’s extremely unlikely an IUD will accidentally fall out. Rates can vary between 2 and 10 percent, depending on your age, pregnancy history, the heaviness of your periods, how long the IUD’s been in, and how well it was fitted. Exercise is not one of the contributing factors.
“The rate of an IUD falling out is actually very low, but it is higher in the first few months after it’s placed,” says board-certified gynecologist Shaghayegh DeNoble, MD.
That said, it is totally safe to exercise straight after an IUD is inserted. “It’s not going to dislodge,” says Dr. DeNoble. “I know people get very nervous that any little thing is going to move it. But you have to remember that the IUD is inserted inside the uterus. It’s not in the vaginal canal. It’s very difficult to move.” In the same way that exercising during early pregnancy wouldn’t dislodge the embryo, doing physical activity with an IUD won’t push that out, either.
Still, some women may choose to wait a couple of days. “That’s not because it might fall out, but just because they are going to be crampy and have a bit of bleeding—it’s probably going to be uncomfortable to strenuously exercise,” says Dr. DeNoble.
The one caveat: If you’re a swimmer, it’s best to wait 24 to 48 hours before swimming in open water to reduce the risk of infection. Same goes for using a hot tub and having sex.
What should I do if I think my IUD has fallen out?
Heavy or abnormal bleeding and severe pain can be a sign that an IUD is dislodged or come out completely. You can check that it’s still in place by inserting your finger inside your vaginal canal and trying to feel the cervix. “It’ll feel like the tip of your nose and the string will be around there,” says Dr. DeNoble. “Once you learn to feel it, then you can check if you’re ever concerned that it might have fallen out.”
While exercising won’t cause an IUD to dislodge, the suction from menstrual cups can sometimes cause issues. “You want to make sure when you reach in to remove the menstrual cup that you release the suction first, and then pull out the cup, otherwise you could potentially pull out the IUD,” says Dr. DeNoble.
Another rare incident is perforation, when the IUD pierces through the uterus into the pelvic cavity. “It’s less than one percent, one in a 1000 or so. It’s very uncommon, and it’s not going to happen with any kind of exercise, either. But things you can watch out for are severe pain, or very heavy bleeding,” says Dr. DeNoble.
If anything feels off, call the doctor who originally inserted your IUD. Complications are rare—and won’t be caused by your workout. So don’t let anyone scare you from getting your sweat on.