I don't know if anyone noticed, but I really don't blog much anymore. I'm working on a new blog at another site and when it's ready I'll link it back over here. It's a much more focused blog and addresses human rights around the world- things that make me really angry and tend to get ignored. But it's not ready yet!
I am jumping back over here today to write about my experience getting an IUD. I am doing this because before I had mine "installed" I googled a lot and read everything I could get my hands on about it and what to expect and the pain levels involved. My sister had a not-too-lovely month of bleeding after she got hers, and my best friend couldn't get through the procedure (she described pain, sweating, nausea, and near-fainting, and then after all that the IUD came right back out and she couldn't bring herself to go through it again). I feel like it is important to share what I felt for anyone else making these choices.
I'm not going to gloss over anything. So if you get grossed out just stop reading and rest assured that it was FINE. Nothing like the horror stories I read or heard about. But if you want more detail, here it is!
Here's a brief history of my birth control (yes, let's share this with the world!):
I started taking various BC (birth control) pills on and off when I was probably about 17 for really irregular periods and acne. Good old Aunt Flo has never been what you might call predictable. Back in the 90s I started with Ortho-Cyclen. It was fine. At some point my blood pressure got kind of high so I was switched to Mircette. Still high. There might have been another BC pill in there, but then eventually I was switched to Yasmin. About 2 1/2 weeks after I started taking it my heart started skipping beats about every 10 seconds. The nurse at the student health clinic didn't believe me until she heard it. Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Thumpthump. Thump_______. Thumpthump. Woooo did I get a look. That was a very scary day when I had to go get checked out for a pulmonary embolism. Everything was ok, I stopped the pills and my heart was back to normal within 48 hours.
It was determined that the pill was probably not my bestest bet.
So then I took a break from BC, but once I really needed full-time reliable birth control again I tried the NuvaRing, and I was extremely happy with that for 8 YEARS. I can't believe it has been that long! It's easy to use, pretty much foolproof, the timing is fairly flexible, and (for me) it didn't seem to have many, if any, side effects after the first few months. But I was getting sick of remembering to take it out and put a new one in. I know, how lazy can I get? I knew that the IUD was a better choice because you don't have to remember to use it, it has a lower dose of hormones, and is even more effective, so I decided to investigate further.
There are a lot of lingering horror stories from the 1970s about punctured uteruses (uteri?), pelvic inflammatory disease, and women being made barren (I'm using that word for dramatic effect. BARREN!) from screwed up insertions and products. And there are myths that IUDs are only suitable for women who have already had children. Or that they're only suitable for women who are married. (Seriously, they really make it sound like either having an IUD will turn you into some sort of whore or your whoring ways will turn you into an even whorier diseased whore). Technology has come a LONG WAY in 40 years, and the IUD is no exception.
I have never been pregnant, therefore I have never given birth. This seems to make a difference in comfort levels during the insertion process. Some doctors are a little behind on the latest research and recommendations, but my doctor was happy to tell me all about it and couldn't praise it highly enough. His rundown of available options:
- The ParaGard (copper IUD), lasts 10 years and contains zero hormones but tends to make your periods really heavy and gives you bad cramps. I really did consider this one because I like the idea of not dealing with hormones anymore but there are better options....
- Mirena: Low dose of hormones, lasts 5 years. Many people stop having periods completely.
- Skyla: Very similar to the Mirena, but slightly smaller physically with an even lower dose of hormones. It lasts three years. My doctor dismissed it as being "for teenagers".
I went with the Mirena. My sister has it and she loves it. I can't ask for a much more glowing recommendation.
I was very nervous about getting it put in though. My doctor said he'd use some Novocaine to numb my cervix and since I haven't had babies he would use a cervical dilator to open things up and make the whole process more comfortable (Well, I'm not sure if comfortable is the word. Less painful maybe?). My appointment was for Tuesday. I started taking Advil on Sunday to try to get my body ready for the cramps. I took 2 Advil every 8 hours on Sunday and Monday, and then doubled the dose on Tuesday.
Tuesday afternoon came and there I was on the table stark naked from the waist down with a paper sheet over my lower half. Did I mention that during your period is the best time to do this? That's when your cervix is the most open. The doctor came in and got right down to business.
First he cranked me open with the speculum, and he had to use a metal one for this. God I hate that. It's so cold. He swabbed the decks with some kind of iodine-type disinfectant. Next he did the Novocaine shots. This is when things were decidedly uncomfortable. It's one of those situations where doctors say "This might pinch a bit," and you both know they're lying, it's gonna fucking HURT. He also said I might get a weird taste in my mouth or feel a little high for a few seconds. (Nope.) Next he clamped my cervix to stabilize it so it wouldn't move around while he was doing the next couple of steps. Then, and this is what I was dreading, he did the sounding which basically measures how big my uterus is. They have to know how far in to place the IUD, so they stick a plastic rod up in there until they hit the back (top? back? other side?) of your uterus. This, my friends, is where the cramps start. I expected it, and it wasn't the worst thing in the world. But I definitely wouldn't choose to repeat it.
After that they inserted the IUD. DEEP BREATHS. Big cramps. Then he used some cotton to swab up the blood and iodine and god only knows what else, released the speculum, and I was done. It really wasn't half as bad as I was prepared for. The sounding was the worst, followed by insertion being 2nd worst. The entire procedure probably took about 3 minutes.
He asked when my husband and I plan to have more kids. I pointed out that I haven't had any kids to begin with (just ignoring the whole "husband" part), and he said, "Oh... OH! That went really REALLY well then." He completely forgot about the dilators. Apparently my cervix is Mammoth Caves or I'm a damn champ.
I sat up and he told me a couple of things (strings? tampons?) I don't remember at all because suddenly I got very clammy and nauseous and experienced one of those lovely vasovagal response spells. The doctor had me lay back down and told me that whenever the cervix is messed with there's a slight risk that the vagus nerve will freak out and make you faint. I didn't faint but I was definitely unhappy for a few minutes. I lay down for 10 minutes, had some water, and then drove home.
The whole time after the IUD was in place I had really bad cramps which I imagine was my body saying, "Get it out get it out GET IT OUT!" There was so much blood on my paper sheet when I got up that I'm pretty sure my uterus cramped out my entire period in a space of 10 minutes. I know, you're charmed. Just be prepared to shower when you get home.
I slept for a few hours, just like you'd take a nap during a really bad period. I wasn't terribly hungry and I was nervous that my IUD was going to fall out or something (ridiculous). I hung out with the heating pad, took some leftover Lortab, and slept it off.
The next day I was tired, but the cramps were gone. I kept taking Advil that day and the next just in case. Physically though I felt fine and was good to commence with, ahem, "relations" probably 3 days later. Per my doctors instructions I did another month of the NuvaRing (like all hormonal BC, the Mirena takes a week to take full effect and he wanted to make sure I was completely covered).
It's not long enough to know if I'll have regular periods yet or if they'll disappear or what. But so far (about a month) I haven't thought about the IUD much at all. I can't feel it, my boyfriend hasn't noticed the strings, and just knowing that I won't have to think about birth control for another 59 MONTHS is amazing.
I'd do it again in a heartbeat just for that. Totally worth it.
I hope this helped. Clearly I'm not a doctor (nor do I play one on TV), so don't take any of this as medical advice. The whole thing was free (thank you insurance!). I just want to share what my experience was so you can find one good or at least not so terrible story in a sea of THOUSANDS of horror stories.