If all birth control methods were cars and the hormonal pill was a standard Honda sedan, the IUD would be a Cadillac. It's a vehicular analogy many ob-gyns have made themselves. IUDs are considered the "gold standard for modern contraception." They're so good, someone who has an IUD ideally forgets they have one at all. An IUD requires essentially zero maintenance and is literally tucked away in the safest of spots—the uterus. By design, it's incredibly non-noticeable. Yet if you're a woman who has an IUD and has sex, you've probably heard some version of the following: Hey, I, um, I think I can feel your IUD.
I've had a IUD for over three years. Just purely anecdotally, I've only had a partner mention that he could "feel the IUD" after I told him I had one. In my mind, a man's ability to "feel" an IUD has always been placebo effect and nothing more—dicks are sensitive, but the owners of said dicks are much more so. In those blissful postcoital moments, the last thing I (and, I would guess, most women?) want to hear is that the tiny copper device I had forcefully and very painfully pushed into my uterus might've tickled a dude's penis a little bit.
(For reference: I asked one partner to describe what, exactly, he felt, and he described "a tiny piece of metal." Unless he was actually penetrating my literal uterus, he did not feel any metal. Placebo effect.)
Still, I'm no doctor. I'm just a proactive woman who had a piece of copper put in her uterus to remain consciously baby-free for 12 years. So maybe — as much as it makes me want to projectile-vomit onto every man who's complained to a woman that he could feel her IUD—it is possible for a dude's dick to feel the device's strings.
If you ask guys about the experience, the answers are varied—though most say they can't feel anything at all. Marshall, 24, has had sex with a few women who have IUDs. He said he thought he felt something once, and went home and Googled something along the lines of "is it possible for man to feel IUD????" He summarized his research results: "It said there were stringy things that come down into the cervix for the removal of the IUD, and it said it's possible to feel those." Marshall added, "Although it was really inconsequential, it was a barely a sensation."
Other guys say they've never felt a thing. Aidan, 26, said his girlfriend had an IUD inserted while they were dating. They had sex both pre- and post-IUD insertion, and nothing about their sex life feels any different to him now than it did before. "It feels like a regular situation down there," he said. "I was told that I wouldn't [feel the IUD]... It's up in there, so I didn't really think there was any chance I could ever feel it."
Aidan is correct. The IUD is up in there. According to Rachna Vanjani, an ob-gyn in the Bay Area, the average woman's vaginal length is about 10 centimeters. The cervix—the opening to the uterus—sits at the tippy-top of the vagina. Vanjani said most physicians will cut IUD strings to be about 3 to 4 centimeters long, with the assumption that the strings will either soften and curl around the cervix, or can be physically tucked behind the cervix so they don't hang into the vagina. If the strings are tucked behind the cervix, it would be very hard for a guy to feel them during sex.
"It's incredibly rare that your partner would ever feel the IUD strings," Vanjani said. "I've been putting IUDs in for six years. I've put in hundreds of IUDs, maybe even thousands. Very rarely do I have complaints—maybe one to two patients in my career."
Dan, 33, is the rare dude who'd be the source of one of the complaints Vanjani almost never hears. His girlfriend of over a year and a half got an IUD several months into their relationship, and he said he could "definitely tell the difference." His girlfriend's ob-gyn said Dan shouldn't be able to feel it, to which he said au contraire. "It basically feels like something kind of pokey," Dan said. "Like if you take something thin and just, like, slightly touch your penis with it."
What Dan was feeling were the IUD strings. To solve their issue, his girlfriend went back to her physician, who trimmed the strings shorter. Though, again, it's very rare that Vanjani fields similar complaints from her patients, she said this is a typical course of action for such a problem. It's unclear how long Dan's partner's IUD strings were, but in a case where the strings were initially cut too short to be able to wrap around the cervix, Vanjani said they can be cut even shorter to be almost flush with the cervix. But, she added, that may make it more difficult or more uncomfortable to have the IUD removed.
Vanjani clarified that the type of IUD a woman has may increase the odds of a partner being able to feel the strings. Three common IUDs,—the Paragard, Mirena, and Liletta—all mention on their websites that strings soften and partners should not be able to feel them. So Vanjani's first recommendation to any woman who says her partner can feel the strings is to wait a few months for them to soften. If, after a few months, the strings are still an issue, they can be trimmed or possibly tucked around the cervix.
"The last resort, if someone doesn't want to cut the strings super short, is you can replace the IUD and cut the strings longer," Vanjani said. "I've never, ever had to do that before. That would be a totally last-resort thing to do."
If IUD strings are truly an issue in your sex life, it doesn't hurt to visit your ob-gyn just to be sure the IUD is in place and the strings were cut well. If all is well with the device in your uterus, you're happy with the IUD, and your partner still complains that something is poking his dick, perhaps you could remind him that having sex with you is a privilege that can be revoked at any moment? If the thing keeping you baby-free is giving your partner's dick occasional butterfly kisses, my recommendation to him would be to get over it and enjoy fucking someone who's got a Cadillac parked in her uterus.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.