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Let’s start with my own naïveté on the topic of birth control, shall we?
When I was 29, sick and tired of the burden of virginity, I decided to make love to an amazing man who I had known for all of two weeks. More on this later. Knowing we were both clean, we had opted out of using protection. I had a truly wonderful experience making love for the first time and begged him not to pull out as we had planned previously.
The next day I took a morning after pill, and due to his disdain for condoms and our exclusivity I decided to take on the responsibility of birth control for my own body.
Granted, I had absolutely no idea that HPV couldn’t be detected in males though thankfully this didn’t become an issue. These days, two years and two additional partners later, it’s condoms or beat it.
Getting into the ParaGard, I did some research and chose to pay a visit to Planned Parenthood. They made me wait to ensure I wasn’t pregnant before proceeding with the insertion, and my second trip to the office proved I was baby free and ready to get the copper insert.
Here’s why I chose the copper ParaGard:
- Lowest risk of pregnancy you could hope to get.
- Zero (hormonal) side effects.
- No hormones at all, which was honestly the biggest appeal.
- Lasts for twelve solid years (or more, research pending)!
- Can be removed easily without hindering efforts to become pregnant in the future.
- Can be reinserted after giving birth easily.
- Relatively low risk of causing physical damage.
Here’s what I know now:
Holy buckets I was not prepared for these cramps of epic proportions! I had always had blessedly short and easy periods, and these days were suddenly and decidedly over. I was so fatigued by the extreme cramping I nearly passed out multiple times and nothing helped. These cramps brought on head splitting migraines and were impossible to even think around.
Again, I had been spoiled rotten from 13-29 with easy cycles. Now I was bleeding so heavily I had become anemic. I was pale, disoriented, foggy and was painfully exhausted. Every cycle for fourteen months after getting the ParaGard stretched into eight or more days of heavy bleeding. I was using over night pads and tampons together and still spotting through my clothes every single day. In the last ten or so months that I’ve had the ParaGard it’s finally started to normalize and my monthly is more manageable, though nowhere near the way it had been pre-insert.
Oh. My. Gato. The smell!!!! This was the thing that no amount of research showed me beforehand, and that no doctor would acknowledge due to lack of scientific data/evidence when I claimed my insert was causing a foul odor. And I mean foul! It happened after my third month of having the copper ParaGard and continued for seven months. I even went and got retested for STD’s just in case I had contracted something that could be the cause. Nope, free and clear but utterly reeking. It was like I was rotting from the inside out. As if my crotch was a moldy corpse. Disgusting and undisguisable as douching, powders, salt baths and sprays proved useless against this overpowering aroma of decaying meat. It was horribly embarrassing, kept me away from friends and family and made going to work a living nightmare. And there was nothing to do but allow my body to run it’s course of coping with the new addition to my uterus.
At the end of the day, I still believe that the copper ParaGard was the right choice for me. I love the fact that I have no hormonal side effects, and that I have an iron (well I guess it’s copper) clad backup to condoms. If I’d have known about the wretched eight to ten days a month I’d be facing for over a year I’d have simply prepared differently.
Here’s what you can do:
TALK TO YOUR LADY DOCTOR!
Seriously start with a visit to your gynecologist or to Planned Parenthood purely for an exam and information. Asking questions up front instead of relying on my own in-expertise would have saved me a lot of heartache.
If I were to do it all again I’d double down on birth control. I wish I had known to take a birth control pill to ease the suffering of cramps and severe flow as my body adjusted to the insert. A year of doubling down would have saved dozens of pairs of pants and chonies!
For the smell, do not douche! This just makes your insides raw on top of smelling rotten. There’s not a lot that can be done for this but there are a few helpful tips I used as I eventually learned to manage. First, don’t shave or wax. Keep it natural downstairs to help keep unpleasant odors from wafting upstairs. Second, drink kombucha and stay super hydrated! The probiotics in kombucha help clear up the I infection-like reaction your uterine wall is having with the insert as it sloughs off. Also, peeing every hour and wiping up helps minimize the smell. Ditch the tight clothes, skip the thongs and wear breathable cotton panties at all times—even when you smell normal! I also made an effort to wear nightgowns with nothing underneath to let things breathe down there.
If you’re considering the ParaGard I’d vouch for it as a fantastic choice in birth control. Just be prepared! Remember to talk to professionals and continue to care for your body. Stay hydrated, beautiful and baby free!