This is the first of a multi-post series on my love-hate relationship with my IUD. Let’s start from the beginning: why I got the darn thing and what the heck getting an IUD was like. (Read part two about the side effects and part three, a check-in six months after getting my IUD.)
Note: This is not meant to be medical advice or to tell you what your experience will be like since all bodies are different, but is an anecdote that you may find useful when deciding to get an IUD.
One of the first things I read after the “election” of He Who Shall Not Be Named was an article on why every person who wants to avoid pregnancy should get an IUD, right now, because reproductive rights will be under attack for at least the next 4 years.
Well, this prompted a fairly warranted freak-out, which involved me sending the article to all of my potentially impregnable friends and frantically researching the options I had. I read some online resources and talked to a lot of friends and acquaintances who graciously shared their IUD experiences with me before I decided on the Mirena, a hormonal IUD that lasts 5 years. I was previously on the pill and liked how hormones regulated and lightened my periods and reduced my cramps, so I didn’t want to go with the copper, non-hormonal Paraguard which can result in heavier periods and cramps or the 3-year Skyla which wouldn’t outlast He Who Shall Not Be Named’s reign. And, I was very interested in the possibility of not having my period at all, which happens in a lot of people who get the Mirena.
The first step was scheduling a consultation with the women’s health clinic operated by my insurance provider. The consultation was free, and thanks to Obamacare/ACA, so was the IUD. Thanks, Obama. My doctor was so knowledgeable and friendly that I felt pretty confident I was making a good choice. I scheduled the procedure for a couple months later, in early January.
The doctor prescribed me misoprostol, a drug that dilates the cervix, to make the procedure less painful since I have not given birth before (due to some mishap at the pharmacy I wasn’t able to take it, but it’s an option if you’re nervous about the pain). She also recommended that I take 600-800mg of ibuprofen about 45 minutes beforehand. The procedure was similar to a pap smear, where your ankles are in stirrups and the physician sticks an uncomfy metal thing to open your vagina. The physician gave me some numbing injections in the cervix, which I didn’t feel because I guess there are no nerve endings there. Not all doctors will offer this, so you could ask if yours does.
The pain from getting the IUD inserted felt like a terrible menstrual cramp. I had been expecting a sharp pain from the insertion, but I guess, again, there are no nerve endings in your cervix so really you’re feeling your uterus contract around your new baby-chamber security system. I had to lie down for a bit after the insertion, but it wasn’t the worst pain I had felt. (A quick Google search of “does getting an IUD feel like reverse childbirth” confirmed that yeah, it kinda does.)
The cramps came and went for about another 6 hours or so, which I spent intermittently screaming (my cat freaked out and just hid from me…I felt very betrayed). By the time I wanted to sleep, the pain had not relented. I had taken way too much ibuprofen at this point to feel comfortable with popping more and risking stomach bleeding or other fun side effects, so I took my best friend’s advice and ate an edible, which, thankfully, are plentiful and legal in Seattle. INSTANT RELIEF! I’d recommend getting the procedure done at a time when you can just go home right afterwards, in case your cramps really suck.
The cramps were gone the next morning. I’ve felt some random cramps here and there for maybe a month afterward, but nothing as horrible as the first few hours. I’ve also been spotting very erratically and don’t know what a real period is anymore. However, the spotting doesn’t bother me that much because I use a menstrual cup, so I don’t really have to think about it throughout the day or buy expensive tampons and pads.
Over all, it’s been great not having to take pills every day! I do have some issues with my IUD, but that’s another post for another day—part two of this mini-series will be all about the not-so-fun side effects.
If you’re considering an IUD, definitely do your own research and put your needs first. Everyone’s body is different and I’m in no way qualified to give medical advice, but I hope this post was helpful for you to understand the procedure. Although the devil’s “healthcare” bill has been pulled out of Congress (ah, sweet irony), reproductive rights will continue to be under attack and unfortunately, it’s unclear how long birth control will continue to be covered by health insurance.
Whatever you have to do to be in control of your body, I support you! Good luck.
*This post is tagged as women’s health for searchability, but I have used gender-neutral language throughout the post to reflect the fact that not all people who can get pregnant or use birth control/IUDs are women.