health care

Does it hurt to get an IUD? —Concerned

AA: We are so glad you asked, Concerned. For today’s post I’ll be writing as the content expert regarding intrauterine devices (IUDs). TL;DR: While level of pain varies from person to person, yes. There are a number of factors that inform the physical experience of getting an IUD.

SM: I’ll be the context expert for today. Some factors that can play a role include where you are in your cycle, whether or not you’ve ever given vaginal birth, your personal anatomy (i.e. the shape of your uterus, thickness of your cervix), and pain tolerance.

AA: Some of these factors you may not be able to control but there are some things that you can do to manage the pain. Pain that is experienced during IUD insertion comes from a speculum specially designed for dilating your cervix. If you have flexibility with when you are able to schedule your IUD appointment, try to aim for near the tail end of your period. During this time, your cervix is more open than at other times of your cycle.

SM: Another way to manage pain during an IUD insertion is to take ibuprofen or another NSAID approximately 20-30 minutes before your appointment. This can help reduce the pain from cramping during and after the insertion. If you do choose to take ibuprofen, be sure to not do so on an empty stomach.

AA: Studies have shown that expectations of pain can influence experience of pain. Talking with your clinician about your concerns and what to expect may have a positive impact on your experience. Here are some talking points to possibly bring up with your clinician:

  • Do you prefer to have a step by step explanation of what is happening in the moment or would you prefer less verbal information?

  • Do you have any diagnoses that may have an impact?

  • Have you experienced interpersonal harm, which may inform how much or little information is helpful, the pace at which the procedure goes, and other coping strategies?

SM: There are other things that people have found really helpful during the procedure itself, including bringing a book, listening to a relaxing playlist, bringing a friend or loved one into the appointment, practicing breathing exercises, or zoning out on your phone. After the procedure, some people find snacks, tea, a hot water bottle, or just taking time to relax can help.

AA: If you have any questions, concerns, or pain after your procedure don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider. Thanks again for your question!


I’m about to graduate! There’s been a ton of free resources available while I’m at Harvard. Do you have any tips about how to find things once I’m out of the college bubble?

RC:  That’s a great and complicated question!  For anyone who has been in a workshop with me, y’all will know that my whole way of thinking is organized around access to resources and this is a shining example of that.  Depending on employment status, access to health insurance, income level, geographical location, and a number of other contextual factors, a person’s access to free and/or reduced-cost health and wellness resources will likely vary.

AG: A benefit to being employed in some organizations is access to employee assistance programs. These are programs that can “offer free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems.” This can include things like childcare access, mental health counseling, interpersonal violence resources, substance use resources and more. If you are employed, it is worth checking in with someone from Human Resources to see if you have access to a program like this.  

RC: Building off that, some health insurance providers offer incentives for preventative health initiatives, which might include things like defraying the cost of a gym membership, supporting exercise classes and/or weight-management programs, or subsidizing the cost of massage, acupuncture, etc…  

AG: Again, check in with your insurance provider to see what kinds of incentives you may have access to. We recognize that these types of programs are not common across all sectors and regions; in addition, if you are not employed they are inaccessible. However, there are often still community-based resources that may be available to you. Some examples of these may be: Planned Parenthood, community health clinics, and other mobile clinics.

RC: In many smaller towns, the Chamber of Commerce maintains a list of (generally) reduced-cost health resources that may be useful.  It’s really important to reiterate here that the availability of resources is very much based on the the community in which you find yourself.  It can feel onerous to navigate when moving to a new community; often people find that word-of-mouth and/or connecting with trusted resources for recommendations.  Finally, it may be worth googling and then following up to vet free health resources in your community.

AG: Next week we will give an overview of some national resources and will focus on post-grad interpersonal health! Congrats on graduation!!