Woman holding an IUD that is T-shaped and small. Photo: Image Point Fr (Shutterstock)

With the news that Britney Spears’ Conservatory team refused to allow her to have her IUD removed, several people have advised that it is possible to remove your own IUD – you just grab the strings and pull. If this sounds like a tempting option to the rest of us, know that doctors say it is safest to have the procedure in your office whenever possible.

An IUD or intrauterine device, is a T-shaped piece of plastic or metal that sits inside your uterus. It works as a birth control and will keep your uterine baby free for between three and 12 years (depending on which type you get) with 99% effectiveness. Insertion can be painful, but removal is usually quick and painless.

The removal procedure is simple: there are strings on an IUD that are not unlike a tampon string; Although the IUD is in the uterus, the threads hang through the cervix into the vagina. You can feel it by inserting your fingers deep enough into your vagina, and many providers advise you to Check the strings monthly to make sure they’re still in place. When you have an IUD removed, your provider simply pulls the strings, just like removing a tampon. The IUD should come out immediately.

That usually happens. But if not, what then? How Gynecologist Jen Gunter writesYou want to see a professional for IUD removal because the professional knows how hard to draw, what to expect, and what to do when things don’t go according to plan:

Pulling out a simple IUD doesn’t require 4 years of medical studies and then another 4 or 5 years of assistantship. If an IUD has lodged in the uterine wall or cervix, there is no way to tell before you pull. We pull very gently because an IUD should only pop out. If there is resistance, we don’t know whether one of the IUD arms just won’t collapse or whether the IUD is embedded in the uterus or cervix.

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Gunter had her colleague removed and found that she was stuck. “I’m a gynecologist and I couldn’t say that there was something wrong with my IUD removal until it was over,” she said.

While doctors agree that professional removal is better than do-it-yourself, they disagree on how bad an idea is. Gunter says please don’t try to remove your home; others like those cited in this Healthline article, don’t seem to think it’s too dangerous if you are well informed and proceed carefully.

Gynecologist Ashley Brant writes that trying to remove your IUD at home is unlikely to be seriously harmful, but the main risk is that it simply won’t work. The IUD can end half in, half out of your cervix, which is not dangerous but can be extremely uncomfortable. So you’ll have to go to the emergency room to take care of it anyway.

Bedsider recommends If you’d like to have your IUD removed but are having trouble getting an appointment, look for a doctor who can get the job done sooner than your regular gyn. (If cost is an issue, check out clinics like Planned Parenthood, which offer sliding care.)

Professional removal is not only safer, but faster, with the advantage that you can speak to a provider about what to do next – whether you are getting a new IUD, switching to a different birth control option, or planning for pregnancy.