Ahhh, the IUD.
First of all, most of you are probably asking, what even is an IUD? Isn’t that for women who have already had kids?
IUD is short for “intrauterine device” and is a small “t” shaped device that is placed in your uterus to block sperm from getting you pregnant.
Caught up? Good.
When I was sixteen, I decided that I needed to be on birth control. I have always been a responsible person. My birth mother got pregnant with me when she was sixteen (and my sister when she was fourteen), so given that, I was not about to be stuck with a baby. I went to the gynecologist and met a young, inviting woman who prescribed me lo-hormone birth control pills.
When I tell you this was the worst week of my life…
I was eating everything. I mean, I would eat, and immediately feel like I was starving afterwards. I was mean to everyone. I felt horrible all the time.
I called the gyno to tell them I wanted to come back in because I couldn’t possibly be on this pill anymore. They said no, and I should wait for my body to adjust to it.
I was outraged. I called again the next day, demanded an appointment, and went in.
I got off of the horror pill. I don’t care if that was an “adjustment period” or not, nothing should make you feel that horrible for that period of time.
We talk about some non-oral options. Some, scary, some not.
The shot, of course. That was a no for me. My anxiety brain knew people who had gotten pregnant anyway using it.
Nexplanon, the arm implant. Terrifying. How?
Then, enter the IUD, soon to be my new best friend. Kinda.
There were two options at the time, either Mirena or Paragard. Mirena is a 5 year hormone-releasing IUD, whereas the Paragard is a copper IUD with no hormones that lasts for 10 years. The answer was clear. Paragard would be the alien device being inserted into my uterus.
Now, from here I’m going to go into exactly how the procedure went, the drive home, and side effects, because this is the information that I was obsessively looking up on the internet weeks before mine, with few results.
First of all, before even getting this inserted, your cervix has to be measured. If it’s not wide enough (I’m unsure of the exact measurements), it’s not always safe to proceed. Often times they’ll measure it before the actual date. They measured mine on the spot. You also must be on your period for the procedure, or else to my understanding, the cervix is not open enough.
I went to the gyno office alone. I was advised to take some Advil beforehand, so I did. I was told that I was going to feel something sharp (doctors never say you’re going to feel pain, do they?) and then it would go away, I would have some cramps for the rest of the day, but to drink water, rest and take Aleve.
The procedure was very short. It’s like a regular gynecologist visit, only they're installing something into your body. So I sat back, put my feet on the stirrups, and they set me up as if they were going to do a pap smear. The IUD itself was on this long tool, so they simply just…inserted it. That was it. Very anti-climactic.
I did feel crampy, but I didn’t feel very dizzy or anything, I was mostly fine. But I drove home no more than ten minutes later, and that’s when it hit me. These cramps were out of this world. It was like knives.
However, here’s some perspective: before this, I never had any side effects from my period. Nor did I have a heavy period whatsoever. I barely had any cramps. So these. were. bad.
These lasted days and days, but eventually faded. However, they came back from time to time, especially during my period, which by the way was…I don't know, about three times as heavy as it ever was. They say your body adjusts to the object and the heavy bleeding should get lighter in six months, but mine was much longer than six months. I also never knew when I had my period. It was kind of just a ton of blood sometimes, and then other times none. Completely could not make a decision. But that was something I knew about beforehand.
Then, a turn of events. *gasp*
About 6-8 months after getting my IUD, it started to feel like something was wrong. It was hurting at the wrong times, and when I would go to the bathroom…and so I made an appointment.
Turns out, the IUD was protruding.
Why? I don’t really know. See, there are strings that hang down from the IUD basically so it can be pulled out, and they’re trimmed kind of short when it’s inserted. (Some men in other stories had reported feeling the strings that weren’t trimmed, weird right?) We think somehow the strings got pulled on by my boyfriend at the time (although she didn’t seemed convinced by that), or it seriously could have just protruded itself for no reason. It’s a medical mystery.
My gyno got Paragard to send us a new one because their product failed us. *yay!*
I wasn’t worried. I’m a pretty “whatever” type of gal, as long as I’m not pregnant or in surgery.
Ever since then, this one has been working perfectly. And I’m on year six! It gives me absolutely no problems, and I am 100% not pregnant. Not only that, but if you’re monogamous (and you both have been tested), you can kiss condoms goodbye.
At this point you might be thinking “Ella, that was a lot, you scared me, why should I get that?”
I will tell you, valued reader.
There is over a 99% chance you will not be pregnant for 12 years. According to planned parenthood, that means fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant every year. (And in my opinion, this is the closest thing you’re gonna get to just flat out tying your tubes.)
However, if you decide to get pregnant, you can just take it out and you’ll be good to go.
The copper IUD works in 2 ways, it blocks off your fallopian tubes physically, but the copper coating also fights off sperm as a backup plan.
There are no hormones involved.
You don’t have to remember to do anything. No pill, no shot, nothing.
It will cause changes in your period (heavier and more cramps).
The procedure/aftermath can be painful (but it’s nothing unmanageable!)
You shouldn’t get one if you get infections easily.
You could technically get an Ectoptic pregnancy, which happens when an egg implants inside of the womb. It’s very serious. But the risk is very small. (However, I do know someone that this happened to recently.)
You have a risk for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, but it’s pretty uncommon, and it’s likely to happen within the first three weeks.
It could get stuck in your uterus, meaning you would have to get it surgically removed. (I hope this doesn’t happen to me. *sigh*)
While I can’t speak for Mirena, Skyla, or any new IUD’s out there, I can speak for my tried and true, always by my side copper friend Paragard.
We may have been through some tough times, but I can’t imagine what my life would be like without it.
To check out more about IUD’s, visit the planned parenthood website linked here!