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Can menstrual products mess with your birth control?

Rock an IUD or a NuvaRing and want to use tampons or a menstrual cup? Follow a few tips and you’re good to go.

By Claire Tighe.

Ever since I got my IUD last year, I’ve been pretty much in love, especially when my period comes around. Yes, I just said that. Getting to use my DivaCup with my ParaGard IUD is possibly the best thing ever. So you can only imagine that my world stopped a bit when a few friends told me that there were risks in using my cup with my IUD. And then I heard some other people repeat the rumor. I’d been using both together for a few months now with no problem. Was it really risky to combine my favorite menstrual product with my favorite birth control?

I decided to investigate. Here’s what I found out about using tampons and menstrual cups with both the IUD and the ring.

Using a menstrual cup with an IUD: Totally cool, but here are a few tips

A recent study found that the “use of tampons or menstrual cups does not increase the risk of early expulsion of an IUD.” The packaging information for IUDs can be inconsistent, but women “can use whatever their usual menstrual product is and not increase their risk of expelling the IUD.” Menstrual cup brands are in agreement about this. DivaCup, MoonCup/Keeper, MeLuna, Lunette, and SoftCup say that because of the physical placement of your cup, you should be fine combining one with an IUD. If you can, try to double check with your health care provider first to be on the extra-safe side.

Pro Tips:

1.) It’s a string thing. Knowing where your IUD strings are can help ensure you don’t pull on them by accident. Checking their length regularly can help you become more familiar with them, period or no period. If your strings seem longer than normal, your IUD may have moved. If you are experiencing a lot of pain or cramping, it might have been expelled. You can also ask your health care provider to cut the strings of the IUD short for double precaution. As far as making sure strings fit well with your menstrual cup, IUD strings should sit inside of the cup and not between the cup and the vaginal wall.

2.) Break the seal. Before you pull out your menstrual cup, DivaCup recommends "breaking the seal" (or the suction that the cup creates) by pressing the cup into a c-shape before removing it. If you can avoid pulling it out from the base, this should help to reduce the risk of pulling on your strings.

3.) Size up your cup. Definitely note the unique fitting of the cup that you choose. While some, like the DivaCup, are made to sit lower in the vagina, others, such as Softcup, are meant to be worn a bit higher, near the cervix.

Using tampons with an IUD: All good—just don’t pull your IUD strings

As far as tampons and IUDS go, Planned Parenthood puts it like this: “Tampons and IUDs are kind of like next-door neighbors. They’re close but they live in different parts of the reproductive system. An IUD and a tampon are separated by the cervix, and don’t interfere with each other’s business.”

Pro Tip: Be mindful of your strings. You should be fine as long as you are careful not to pull on the IUD strings, which you shouldn’t need to worry about too much since the string of a tampon are outside of your vagina and the strings of your IUD should be up near your cervix. (If you find that your IUD strings are anywhere near your tampon strings, you should go see your health care provider because your IUD might be expelled.)

Using tampons or a menstrual cup with the ring: No problem

Good news: Tampons and menstrual cups do not interfere with the ring’s effectiveness. (Phew!) Just like with the IUD, using the ring with either tampons or a cup should be fine. If your ring is in when you remove your tampon or cup, you might pull it out a bit, which might be annoying if it happens a lot.

Pro Tip: When inserting your tampon or cup, make sure that your ring is all the way in first, and then position the tampon or cup afterwards. If you do end up pulling the ring out, you can rinse it in warm water and re-insert it right away. NuvaRing’s website has a few more tips in case this does happen.

In a nutshell, don’t believe everything you hear

Using menstrual cups and tampons with either an IUD or the ring is safe and shouldn’t interfere with the effectiveness of your birth control. There is a small risk of expulsion with an IUD, but the rate of this happening to a cup user is no higher than for women who use other menstrual products. As long as you are careful around the strings of the IUD and avoid suction when removing a cup, there should be no problem. As far as the ring goes, if you pull it out, just rinse it and put it back.

When it comes to your perfect birth control and menstrual product combination, you can have whatever you like!


Claire Tighe is a writer whose work has appeared at The Village Voice, Bitch, Rewire, Belt Magazine, and others. She can't help but talk about birth control everywhere she goes. Read more at clairetighe.com or follow her @ecofeminismo.

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