KEY POINTS

  • A number of women have been removing their IUDs at home and posting self-removal videos on YouTube and TikTok
  • Bleeding and cramping, doctors refusing removal and high fees were some of the reasons indicated in the self-removal trend
  • Doctors urged people to seek a medical professional's help for IUD removal

A new social media trend involving women pulling out their intrauterine device (IUD) at home has some doctors concerned.

Some of the women who removed their IUD and posted a video of it on YouTube and TikTok said in the clips that they wanted the birth control device removed because they experienced bleeding and cramping, Today reported. Others claimed they had no choice but to remove their IUDs themselves because their doctors refused to do it without them choosing another birth control or they could not afford the removal fee.

At clinics without a sliding scale for IUD removal, fees ranged from $50 to over $1,000, Insider reported, citing a 2019 study. Additionally, insurance plans did not always cover the procedure.

Some doctors claimed that self-removal is generally safe and straightforward as it does not require special instruments or skills. Dr. Gloria Bachmann, an OB-GYN, told Today that a do-it-yourself removal was "probably ... more safe than not safe."

However, she would still recommend that people have their IUDs removed "in a controlled environment."

"When we take it out in the office, everything is visualized as you are doing it more or less blindly (at home)," explained Bachmann, who is also the director of the Women’s Health Institute at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Doctors are also better equipped to handle any sort of bleeding or complications that might arise when an IUD is removed, according to Bachmann.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anar Yukhayev insisted that removing one's own IUD is unsafe and urged people to seek the help of a medical professional for the procedure, which normally takes less than 10 minutes in an office.

"When [a doctor's] grasping the string and you're using forceps most of the time, the IUD pops right out. Sometimes you have to use a little bit of force. The thing is, you have to know exactly how much force to use," Yukhayev, who is an OB-GYN at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, told Today.

According to Yukhayev, using too much force could mean that the IUD might be stuck, and pulling it could "lodge it in a different part of the uterus and make the embedding of the IUD even worse." He said this was the reason why he believes people doing the removal themselves was "dangerous."

Yukhayev also suggested that the IUDs of women who experience bleeding and cramping may be in the wrong position already. "When a woman has these symptoms with an IUD in place that might be because the IUD is mispositioned already. So if it’s positioned in the wrong way that can cause cramps, it can be painful, sometimes the bleeding is a little bit off," the doctor explained.

"If you’re already starting off in a place where it's not positioned [properly], trying to then pull it out yourself … you can make a bad matter worse," he added.

As for claims of some doctors refusing to remove IUDs, Bachmann said she was "not sure why a provider wouldn't do it." 

"Unless a string cannot be found or unless the provider did not do that procedure or there were concerns there might be excessive bleeding," Bachmann said. "It may not be done that exact same day sometimes. But it will be done."

Yukhayev said ideally, patients should be engaged in shared decision-making with their doctor where the doctor listens to their patients’ concerns and finds a solution that works for the patient.

tiktok-5064078_1920 Representation. A new trend on TikTok and YouTube showed women removing their IUDs (intrauterine device) at home. Photo: Pixabay