Using a new form of birth control can be nerve-wracking enough, without having the added worry of whether or not you need to switch up your period products. So, if you are new to the world of IUDs, aka an intrauterine device, you may be wondering: can I still use a tampon?

First things first: What is an IUD? 

To understand the combination of tampon and IUD usage, it’s important to have a basic knowledge of how IUDs work

An intrauterine device, or IUD, is exactly what it sounds like — a device placed inside your uterus. It’s a form of birth control consisting of a T-shaped piece of plastic about the size of a quarter, which is then inserted inside the uterus by a healthcare provider to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are long-term (the current FDA-approved brands range from 3-12 years), reversible (meaning they can be taken out by a healthcare professional at any time!), and one of the most effective methods of birth control. Available IUDs are divided into two types: one type is covered with copper, while the other type releases the hormone progestin. 

woman holding an iud

IUD insertion is generally a quick, 5 to 10-minute outpatient procedure that will happen at your healthcare provider's office. When the IUD is placed, it is guided up through your vagina, cervix, and then into your uterus. The T-shaped piece then remains in the uterus. An IUD will also have two plastic strings that hang down from your cervix into the very top of your vaginal canal. These IUD strings are there so that your healthcare provider can pull the IUD out of your uterus when the time comes for removal. IUD strings also allow you to check that your IUD is in place — users should be able to feel the tips of the strings coming out of their cervix when performing a self-check.

But wait — If I have an IUD, can I still use a tampon?

If your preferred period products include tampons, don’t sweat it if you’re considering getting an IUD or have recently had one placed for the first time. People with IUDs can indeed still safely use tampons during their period. When a tampon is inserted, the tampon itself stays inside the vagina while the tampon string extends out of your body for simple removal. In other words, the tampon remains anatomically below the IUD, with no interactions happening between the two.

“Yes, IUDs and tampons can be used together! The IUD remains in the uterus, and the strings will coil around the cervix. The tampon remains only in the vagina, which should not interfere with the IUD” says Dorothy Bestoyong, DO.

tampons and pads

While you can absolutely use tampons during your period with an IUD, it is important to note that you shouldn’t insert a tampon immediately following an IUD placement procedure. 

Dr. Bestoyong advises her patients, “a good rule of thumb is to wait 24 hours after an IUD placement before inserting a tampon.” You may experience spotting or light bleeding after the IUD insertion. If so, pads or period underwear are the preferred products to use for a day or so after your IUD procedure. 

Are all period products safe to use with an IUD?

Tampons? Check! Pads? Check! Period underwear? Check! But what about using menstrual discs or cups with an IUD? 

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Dr. Bestoyong says yes but with a few precautions. “You can still use a menstrual disc or cup, but use caution and be sure to break the seal of the menstrual cup before removal due to suction.” 

hand holding an iud

She also advises, “There are some studies showing an increased expulsion rate (when your IUD falls out of your uterus, either partially or completely) with copper IUD users specifically and menstrual cup use, however that data is still limited.” A 2023 study shows that “there is a possible association between menstrual cup use and increased risk of IUD expulsion and this information should be shared with patients. However, evidence is scarce, and high-quality randomized controlled trials are needed to address this risk and the impact of factors such as age, menstrual cup removal technique, pelvic anatomy, IUD type, and measures such as cutting the IUD strings short or delaying menstrual cup use for a period post-insertion.”

The bottom line: Tampons & IUDs can be used together without concern

If you’ve been thinking about getting an IUD, especially considering that more women are switching to long-term birth control options in a post-Roe world, you can still safely use a tampon as your preferred method of period product. As always, if you have any concerns or if something just feels not quite right, it’s best to have a discussion with your healthcare provider about your birth control and how to safely and effectively use it. The best birth control methods and period products are the ones that work for you.

Lindsey Williams is a library worker and writer who lives in Arizona with her daughter, husband, and their dog, Peaches.