IUD Insertions Can Be Painful. Why Aren't Women Told?



Lying on the examination bed in her gynaecologist’s rooms in 2021, Jaime Criel had little reason to be nervous. She felt at ease with her gynaecologist, who had delivered her son just a year earlier, and she was hopeful that the intrauterine device (IUD) she was about to have inserted would relieve the heavy menstrual bleeding that had left her borderline anaemic.

Jaime didn’t give much thought whether the procedure would be painful. The 34-year-old make-up artist, who has tattoos trailing down both arms and has been inked more times than she can remember, knew she had a high pain threshold. So, she was taken back by the “intense” pain of the insertion, and even more shocked by the fierce cramps that wracked her body afterwards as she returned to her car.

The pain was so severe that when she dropped her car keys, it took her a few moments before she was able to bend down and pick them up. “It was the most amount of pain I’ve ever been in,” says Jaime now. “I was just so shaky. I couldn’t even move. It was just such an obscene amount of pain.” “I can deal with pain,” she repeats now. “But this was just such a different level. I remember thinking, does everyone feel like this? Why is no one talking about it?” Increasingly, they are.

Across social media and on online forums, more and more women are swapping stories about the pain related to insertion of a hormonal IUD, which is a long-acting contraceptive device that is pushed through the cervix into the uterus and releases tiny amounts of the hormone progestin. But, in doctors’ rooms and hospitals around the country, the message isn’t always getting through.

“The vast majority of people who trained in obstetrics and gynaecology were taught that putting an IUD wasn’t really painful procedure. It could be uncomfortable, yes, but for the vast majority of women it would not be painful… just a scratch or cramping”

– Dr Nisha Khot, clinical director of obstetrics and gynaecology at Victoria’s Peninsula Health

It was only when Dr Khot came across an online forum where women were swapping stories about painful IUD insertions that she began to question what she’d been taught. “It was like a wake-up call. These were women who had experienced labour, and said that putting an IUD in was worse than labour pain.” As a result, Peninsula Health recently began offering the “green whistle” inhaler for IUD insertions. Dr Khot says around 25 per cent of women elect to have it.

“The medical community has been dominated by males for such a long time and women’s pain has been dismissed for such a long time that it’s just been ‘women complaining'."

– Dr Jane Chalmers, a senior lecturer in pain at the University of South Australia

Meet The Women Making Thousands From Their Wardrobes



IUDs can be life-changing for many women. But, too often, the pain that can be caused by insertion is dismissed. Read the full article at PRIMER.


Improve your inbox.  Sign up to our free  weekly newsletter.