Hey, hey. It’s October, which means I have 4.5 years until my Mirena IUD becomes inaffective. That’s right, it was only six months ago that I had the Mirena IUD inserted and lived to tell about it here.
I thought it would be helpful to review the first six months after I got the Mirena IUD. Initially I had painful cramps and I found myself complaining a lot. Every few days, I was grumbling to my girl friends. Two of them instantly admitted that they didn’t let me know how painful the cramps were during the first month. It was worth it they said. A few months later and I was still bitching at them, but by that time they learned to ignore me. I had always planned on giving a six month update and for awhile I thought it was going to be one big bitch fest, but over the past two months everything has changed, thankfully for the better.
First, I thought it would be helpful to review the most common side effects and then my experiences with each.
The most common side effects of Mirena are:
- missed periods (amenorrhea) – No missed periods here. I was under the impression that my periods would disappear, but they haven’t.
- bleeding and spotting between periods – My gyno warned me about light spotting. I basically thought my period would be replaced with a few days of spotting, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Instead, I was bleeding and spotting every.single.day. This is totally TMI, but I ruined every single pair of underwear. It was gross and irritating and quickly became something my boyfriend and I had to laugh about because it became an awkward fact of life.
- heavier bleeding during the first few weeks after device insertion – Absolutely. I was not prepared for this and I was worried intitally, but after a quick google search, I learned it was quite common. Obviously as a woman, bleeding is a common occurrence, but the bummer about this was it was unpredicatable. I would spot every day, but some days I would be hit with heavy bleeding and I would be completely unprepared. Imagine me working a ritzy retirement party, running around, two cameras in hand, wearing a white dress and then having that sinking feeling of imminent bleeding. Yup. That happened. I made it through, but I was terribly anxious and upset while working, which had me hating the IUD for a few days. Finally, after four months, I’m not spotting every day. It’s magical and I feel so much better about the IUD.
- abdominal/pelvic pain – Immediately after insertion, the cramps were horrible. The following ten days were similar to a terrible period. It was nothing I couldn’t handle, but I did find myself taking Aleve pretty often, which is rare for me. I felt desperate. The cramps did come in back waves for about five months. I just recently noticed that they’re gone. What a relief. The cramps sucked and I bitched a bunch to anyone that would listen, but now that I’ve lived at least four weeks without any debilitating cramps I can barely remember the pain.
- ovarian cysts – Thankfully I didn’t have any trouble thus far.
- back pain – Immediately after insertion, absolutely. During my periods I would also have lower back pain and it was so apparent and intense that I was completely confused by it until a day or two later when my period arrived.
- headache/migraine – It’s rare that I ever have headaches and I can’t say I remember a single one in the past six months.
- nervousness – This is interesting. There were a few moments over the past few months where I had a moment of apprehension or nervousness that I felt was out of character, but really nothing major to speak of.
- dizziness – I only experienced this immediately after insertion.
- nausea – Again, I only experienced this immediately after insertion.
- vomiting – I did throw up after insertion, but then I felt much better. Another random side note: there were about a dozen times over the past six months where I had this immediate and overwhelming feeling of having to throw up. Each time it caught me by surprise (because it was completely random), but I was able to regain composure and just let the feeling pass. It was over as quickly as it came on. Once I was mindful of my increased gag reflex, I noticed I gag pretty much every time I brush my teeth something that rarely happened before the IUD. It’s not a big deal, it’s just strange.
- bloating – Nope!
- breast tenderness or pain – Nothing. Actually now that I think about it, my boobs are usually tender during my period, but they haven’t been feeling that way recently.
- weight gain – I was concerned about weight gain (maybe a little excited at the thought of my boobs growing), but I haven’t experienced an ounce of weight gain and I haven’t changed my diet or exercise patterns at all.
- changes in hair growth – I haven’t noticed anything major.
- acne – I don’t think my skin has changed at all.
- depression – Nothing out of the ordinary. I think I tend to lean towards depression instead of enthusiasm, but I’ve been aware of it for almost a decade so I try to be very present and combat any bouts of sadness before they feel overwhelming.
- changes in mood – I haven’t noticed anything major.
- loss of interest in sex – Intially I was very hesitant to have sex. I get freaked out by any medical procedures so I felt pretty vulnerable for a couple weeks. Also worth noting, sex was painful and uncomfortable for me for a few weeks after insertion. Thankfully my partner was more than understanding, but it was disappointing to try to have sex only for it to be uncomfortable and something I wanted to get over with as soon as it began.
- itching or skin rash and puffiness in the face, hands, ankles, or feet – No rashes or changes that I noticed.
- increased vaginal infections & UTIs – I’ve actually had two minor yeast infections since the insertion. I’m in tune with my body and once I felt a change, I bought medication from the pharmacy to combat the infection.
- sciatic nerve pain and numbness – I didn’t realize until writing this post, but my numb, tingly legs and increased lower back pain could be caused by my IUD.
What else? The strings. Ick. Like I said, I’m a wuss when it comes to anything internal so the first time I noticed my strings, I almost fainted. I actually closed my eyes and pretended it didn’t happen and then of course I turned to the internet. I learned that the positioning of your cervix changes over the course of the month and so mine had probably shifted and my strings were more exposed. I’m not exactly sure if that’s correct, but seeing the strings really posed no threat and if anything I was happy that my body didn’t expel the device.
Now that we’re discussing strings, it’s worth noting that your partner may (mine definitely did) feel your strings with their fingers and/or penis. The strings are actually two thin braided wires. I’m only warning you of this in case you have a partner that’s inexperienced with IUDs. He or she may feel the strings and be completely shocked. It might be something you want to talk about before hand if you’re comfortable expressing your concern.
It may not be helpful to compare the IUD to the pill, but for me it has been a massive improvement. While I was on the pill, I felt wildly different from week to week. It was hard for me to maintain a baseline emotion and overall that really f*cked with me. I also experienced weight gain, vaginal dryness and a complete lack of sex drive. I haven’t experienced any of those symptoms with the IUD. The best part? I don’t have to worry about taking a pill every night or refilling my perscription, I know I’m covered for the next 4.5 years.
Overall, I’m completely happy with my IUD. If you would have asked me two months ago, I probably would have listed a host of complaints (all the side effects above), but I would have definitively said I’m pleased with it. Now that I’m at the six month mark, I’ve forgotten the pain and the bleeding that plagued my life just two months ago. I’m over the moon. I praise my decision to get an IUD. Funny thing is I lost my health insurance and ended up having to pay full price ($800+) for the IUD and I’m still absolutely certain I would do it all over again. It was worth the twenty pairs of ruined panties and the crippling cramps. They lasted four months, but I’ll have a reliable contraceptive for the next four years.
I hope if you or someone you know is considering an IUD, you’ll read my IUD insertion post as well. The original post also had a great mix of comments from individuals who liked and disliked the IUD. Please reach out if you have any other questions or if you want to share your contraceptive experience.