Signs Your IUD Is Out of Place

This article looks at signs of a displaced IUD, how to check, and what to do if an IUD has come out of place.

How to know if your IUD is out of place and what to do next

An IUD may sometimes shift out of place and dislodge partially or fully from the uterus. IUD displacement may be more likely in the first 3 months after getting one.

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) are a long lasting form of birth control. An IUD is a small device that sits in the uterus to prevent sperm from fertilizing with an egg.

People may have the copper IUD, a nonhormonal form of birth control, or the hormonal IUD which contains the hormone progestin.

This article looks at signs of a displaced IUD, how to check, and what to do if an IUD has come out of place.

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People may not experience any symptoms if an IUD is out of place, but signs may include:

  • not being able to feel the string of the IUD in the vagina
  • the string feeling shorter or longer than usual
  • feeling the IUD during sex
  • feeling the bottom of the IUD, which can feel like hard plastic, coming out of the cervix
  • abdominal cramping, pain, or discomfort
  • unusual vaginal discharge
  • heavier or atypical vaginal bleeding
  • fever or chills

An IUD will have a thin string that hangs down from the uterus and cervix into the top of the vagina, usually around 1–2 inches long.

People will be able to feel for these strings to check that the IUD is still in place.

To do this, people should first clean their hands. They should then sit or squat and insert the index finger or middle finger into the vagina until they touch the cervix. The cervix feels firm, similar to the tip of the nose.

A person should be able to feel the strings. It is important to avoid pulling on the strings, as this could move the IUD out of place.

If people are on their period and cannot feel the string, they may want to check any period products for the IUD.

People may want to check their IUD is still in place a few times throughout the first month of getting an IUD, and then after every period after that.

An IUD may have fallen out of place if a person cannot feel the strings, or if the strings feel longer or shorter than usual.

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If an IUD has fallen out of place, a person no longer has protection against becoming pregnant. People may need to use a different type of birth control or seek emergency birth control if they think they could be pregnant.

If people have located a displaced IUD, it is important they do not try to replace it themselves. People will need to contact a doctor as soon as possible if an IUD has fallen out of place. A doctor will be able to check if the IUD is displaced.

If an IUD falls out of place, it most commonly happens during the first 3 months after insertion, although it may happen at any time. It is also more likely to fall out during a period.

Risk factors that may make IUD displacement more likely include:

  • insertion of IUD straight after giving birth
  • breastfeeding
  • abnormal uterus position
  • incorrect fitting and insertion of an IUD
  • using a menstrual cup
  • IUD does not fit the shape or size of the uterus

Every method of contraception has pros and cons. A person may wish to speak with a doctor about the best form of contraception for them.

Pros

  • are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy
  • do not require a person to remember to take medication
  • are easily reversible if people wish to conceive
  • improve heavy periods and cramping with the use of the hormonal IUD
  • are an effective hormone-free form of birth control, with the use of the copper IUD
  • are an effective method of emergency contraception, if inserted within 5 days after sex without contraception or a barrier method
  • are long lasting

Cons

  • painful insertion
  • a change in bleeding patterns during a period
  • irregular bleeding or spotting in between periods
  • perforation of the uterus, which can lead to bleeding or infection
  • falling out of place, which may result in an unintended pregnancy
  • an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy or septic abortion if a person conceives with an IUD in place

Speaking with a doctor about birth control options

People can speak with a doctor about which option of birth control may be best for them. They may want to ask a doctor questions such as :

  • Does this type of birth control affect hormones?
  • Are there any side effects or risks?
  • Will this type of birth control also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
  • How effective is this birth control in preventing pregnancy?
  • How easy is it to use?
  • Will it interact with any other health conditions, medications, or supplements?

IUDs do not protect against STIs, so people will need to use additional protection, such as condoms or another barrier method, to reduce the risk of STIs.

The following are frequently asked questions about the IUD.

Can a person get hurt if the IUD is out of place?

In rare cases, an IUD may move out of place and cause damage to the uterus through perforation. If an IUD passes through the outer lining of the uterus, it may cause damage to surrounding blood vessels or affect nearby organs.

Is it possible for the IUD to fall out?

It is possible for an IUD to fall out, which healthcare professionals call expulsion. It is more likely for an IUD to fall out during the first 3 months after insertion.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the rate of expulsion for IUDs in the first year is 2–10%.

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What does it feel like when the IUD falls out?

People may feel anything if an IUD falls out. However, physical symptoms of IUD displacement include abdominal pain or discomfort, severe cramping, and pain or bleeding during sex.

Sometimes an IUD may fall out of place. This may be more likely to occur in the first few months after insertion.

After IUD insertion, people can make sure to attend a follow-up appointment to that the device is still in the correct place.

If people think an IUD has fallen out of place, it is important they use a backup method of contraception and see a doctor as soon as possible.

Last medically reviewed on February 8, 2023

  • Birth Control / Contraception
  • Women’s Health / Gynecology

How we reviewed this article:

Medical News Today has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. We link primary sources — including studies, scientific references, and statistics — within each article and also list them in the resources section at the bottom of our articles. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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  • Sun, X., et al. (2018). Clinical characteristic and intraoperative findings of uterine perforation patients in using of intrauterine devices (IUDs).
    https://gynecolsurg.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s10397-017-1032-2

Signs Your IUD Is Out of Place

It’s uncommon, but if you have an IUD, it could move out of place.

“This can mean several things,” says Peace Nwegbo-Banks, MD, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Serenity Women’s Health and Med Spa in Houston:

  • Your IUD may have come out of your uterus.
  • Your IUD may not be positioned correctly, or it could be embedded in the walls of your uterus.
  • Your IUD may have cut your uterus and traveled through it into your abdomen or peritoneal cavity.

Your doctor will schedule a checkup about a month after you get your IUD to make sure it’s still in the right place. When an IUD moves, it usually happens within the first few months after you get it.

If your IUD isn’t in the right place, you could get pregnant, so it’s important to know what to look for.

First, Get to Know Your IUD Strings

Your IUD comes with strings. They’re thin and light, like fishing line or a lightweight plastic thread. They hang about 2 inches down from your uterus into your vagina. Your doctor will cut them to the right length for your body.

The best way to know if your IUD is out of place is to check the strings regularly. Do it once a month, at the end of your period, or if you feel strange cramping during your period.

First wash your hands. Then sit or squat, and put one finger into your vagina. Feel for your cervix, which is hard and rubbery, like the tip of your nose. The strings should come through your cervix. Feel for the strings, but don’t pull them.

If they feel the same every month, your IUD is likely in place.

Signs Your IUD Is Out of Place

Call your doctor and use a backup form of birth control if you notice any of these signs:

  • You can’t feel the strings. If you check but can’t find them, they could be up inside your uterus.
  • Your strings are shorter or longer than usual. If they’re a different length, the IUD could have shifted. Checking your strings regularly makes it easier to notice changes.
  • You feel the IUD itself. When your IUD is in the right place, you should only feel the strings. You shouldn’t feel the hard, plastic part of the IUD poking out.
  • Your partner feels the IUD. When the IUD is in place, you and your partner shouldn’t feel it. You may feel the strings but not the plastic part. If you have sex and your partner feels the hard, plastic part, it may have moved.
  • You feelpain. If you have pain that persists, is extreme, or gets worse, the IUD may be out of place. If you have pain and NSAIDs like ibuprofen or naproxen don’t help, call your doctor.
  • You have heavy orabnormal bleeding. Spotting and bleeding are common after you get an IUD, but heavy or abnormal bleeding could mean it’s in the wrong spot. “Heavy vaginal bleeding may accompany a uterine perforation,” Nwegbo-Banks says.
  • You have severe cramping, abnormal discharge, orfever. These are other signs that your IUD has moved. They may also be signs of an infection. Talk to your doctor to find out what’s causing these symptoms.
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It’s possible for an IUD to come out of place without any signs. “Some women may be asymptomatic and not feel anything even if the IUD is out of place,” Nwegbo-Banks says. Check your strings on a regular basis can help you figure out if it’s in a different place.

Can You Get Hurt if It’s Out of Place?

It’s rare, but you may have complications if your IUD moves.

If the IUD cuts your uterus near important blood vessels, you may have bleeding and problems with blood flow to your organs, Nwegbo-Banks says. If it cuts your uterus and moves through it into your abdominal cavity, it can cause localized inflammatory reactions, bowel adhesions, or bowel perforations.

What to Do if You Think Your IUD Is Out of Place

First, call your doctor. Start using your backup birth control method. If you’re in pain, it may be best to wait to have sex until after you see the doctor. You might need emergency contraception if you had sex recently.

What Will Your Doctor Do?

They’ll check to see if your IUD is where it should be. If it isn’t, they’ll remove it or replace it.

If your IUD moved but the doctor isn’t sure exactly where it is, they’ll give you a full exam and workup that includes an ultrasound and other tests to find it.

The doctor will talk to you about replacing the IUD or changing to a different form of birth control.

Show Sources

Mayo Clinic Health System: “Troubleshooting Your IUD.”

Peace Nwegbo-Banks, MD, FACOG, Serenity Women’s Health & Med Spa.

Center for Young Women’s Health: “Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs).”

University of Washington Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology: “IUD Aftercare Instructions.”

Bedsider: “IUD Expulsion: Is it as scary as it sounds?”

NHS: “Intrauterine Device (IUD).”

AAFP: “Intrauterine Device (IUD).”

Nemours Teen Health: “The IUD.”