Widely considered the “gold standard of contraception,” IUDs have become increasingly easier to obtain in recent years.
Such is not the case for removal, however, as proven by a recent social media trend: People are teaching themselves how to discard the contraception and sharing their DIY IUD removal videos to TikTok and Youtube.
The trend may seem shocking, yet unfortunately unsurprising.
While IUD insertion is free, removal is not, costing anywhere from $50 to $,1000 depending on the patient’s insurance — assuming insurance covers it in the first place. What’s more, doctors are actually denying requests to remove them despite side effects, inadvertently prompting patients to do it themselves.
“Clinicians intentionally delay and deny early-removal requests,” Jamie Manzer, a medical sociologist researching IUD access, told Insider, adding that doctors use long wait times as an excuse, often insisting IUDs are not causing patients’ symptoms.
Thus, more and more people are removing IUDs at home, posting self-removal videos that also function as instructional tutorials for others facing similar barriers.
Further, Insider reports that some gynecologists have started encouraging self-removal for patients who can’t afford otherwise, or at least want the option by “leaving their IUD strings long to make it easier.”
Martisha Perry, a student at the University of Georgia, chronicled her Paragard IUD removal on YouTube. “I felt really bad while using it,” she said. “I did not expect the symptoms I experienced.”
After a year and a half of cramps, heavy periods, arthritic-flare ups and “general unwell feeling,” Perry requested removal, only to be informed that the procedure would cost $175 — atop a copay. “I read online about other women removing their own IUDs, so I decided to remove mine as well,” she said. Perry’s video now has over 22 thousand views.
Paige Leann, a YouTuber in Alabama, broadcasted her at-home Mirena IUD removal on YouTube, as well. After two years of experiencing side effects like weight gain, cramping, depression and generally not “feeling like herself,” she said that two doctors and a hospital refused to remove it. “[They] made me seem crazy or like everything I was saying was make-believe,” she said, adding that one provider encouraged her to have her mental health evaluated. “[The doctor] asked me if I had been checked out for anxiety because he had never heard of ‘these symptoms,” she recalled.
While the thought of self-removal might make some people cringe, it’s apparently relatively painless. TikTok user @bri_and_layla, who shared a video of self-removal to the platform, said that removing the divide herself “was so much less painful than having the doctor insert a speculum to remove it. This way, I was able to go at my own pace.”
Similarly, TikTok’s @mikkiegallagher, who also live-streamed her at home-removal, told viewers: “[It was] A lot easier than I thought TBH.”
“CATCH OF THE DAY: MIRENA IUD, 2 INCHES,” she continued. The video now has over 178 thousand views.
Considering the trend — and copious barriers preventing people from having their devices removed by doctors — some gynecologists are instructing patients how to remove the devices themselves. “If patients are concerned about accessing services for removal in the future, I offer information about self-removal,” Dr. Lauren Thaxton, a Texas OB-GYN said.
Dr. Sarah Gutman, an Ob-GYN in Philadelphia, concurred: “Because it can increase an individual’s autonomy over their own contraception, it is absolutely worth offering as a choice.”
At the end of the day, everyone deserves the right to remove a device from their body when they so please — whether it’s at the doctor’s office, or in the comfort in their own home whilst being broadcasted online.
“For some people, an IUD can be really emancipatory,” Emily Mann, a sociologist and associate professor of public health at the University of South Carolina explained. “But for others, particularly for those who are already subject to a lot of stereotyping around their reproductive practices, it can feel really constraining.”
The ongoing issue regarding IUD removal was highlighted earlier this year, when Britney Spears told a judge she was prohibited from removing her device.
For more information on IUD insertion and removal, click here.