Can an IUD break condom? That’s one of the many questions about IUDs that have been popping up lately. IUDs have become increasingly popular over the past few years — and for good reason. They are one of the most effective forms of birth control, with fewer than one pregnancy per 100 women every year. (Seriously — it’s up there with sterilization for effectiveness!) Compare that to the Pill, which has between two and nine pregnancies per 100 women every year. (And that’s when used perfectly — the numbers are higher for imperfect, aka normal use.) They're also relatively "set it and forget it," which means once it's in, all you have to do is check for the strings once in a while and you're protected from pregnancy.
But even though they’re more popular, widespread use of IUDs is still pretty new. So it makes sense that people have a lot of questions! Some people who use IUDs may not be using another form of protection, because they're not concerned about contracting an STI. However, for folks who are trying to reduce their risk of contracting an STI, breaking a condom could be a serious issue. Let’s take a look at why people think IUDs can break condoms — and whether or not it’s true.
Why People Might Think An IUD Can Break A Condom
There are two reasons why people might think an IUD could break a condom: because they don’t have a clear understanding of where in the body it sits, or because they’re worried about the strings. Let’s address the first one first.
IUD stands for Intrauterine Device, which means it sits inside the uterus. When you’re having vaginal intercourse, the penis or toy is inside the vagina. It’s not actually possible for the penis or a toy to fit through the cervix, as it’s a very tiny opening. So during vaginal intercourse, there’s no way for that little t-shaped IUD to touch a condom, much less puncture it.
The other reason people might think an IUD could break a condom is because of the strings that hang outside the cervix. Those strings are there so that a person’s health care provider can easily remove the IUD when the time comes and so that the person with the IUD can make sure it’s in its proper place. For most people, IUD strings are totally unnoticeable, although some people do report that they can feel them during vaginal intercourse.
An inexperienced health care provider might cut IUD strings at an angle, which makes them feel sharp to the touch. If that’s the case, it’s worth getting them re-cut so that they no longer feel sharp. Also, the strings soften over time inside the body, so even if they’re really noticeable at first, that won’t always be the case.
So Can An IUD Break A Condom?
Unfortunately, for this issue (and many issues related to women’s health and sexual health) there are no great scientific studies yet. So we have to go on the advice of medical professionals and anecdotal evidence.
At this point, there is no real evidence that IUD strings could break a condom. The strings of the Mirena, for example, are made of really soft plastic that wouldn’t be able to penetrate the strong latex of a condom. One medically reviewed site, Bedsider, even recommends that people wear condoms if the strings are bothering them before they’ve softened. While there are some anecdotes of people believing that their IUD broke a condom, there’s no way to know for certain that it was the IUD and not one of the other potential ways a condom can puncture that caused those breakages.
With One Exception!
You know how I said that an IUD lives the uterus? Well, there is one exception to that — and it’s kind of scary. The numbers are still a little wonky, but it’s estimated that between 0.5 percent and eight percent of IUDs expel. While an IUD expelling means it moves somewhere than the ideal place in the uterus, it can also mean it actually falls out. It’s most common for an IUD to fall out in the first three months after insertion and during a period.
If an IUD has pushed through the cervix and into the vaginal canal, it could break a condom. But if you’re regularly checking for your IUD strings, you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if you’re one of the fewer than 10 percent of people whose IUDs expel.
So, final answer? Can an IUD break a condom? I’m not going to say “NEVER,” but I will say that it is very, very, very unlikely. Go ahead and protect yourself!