Coming at you with something pretty personal today, so if you’re a dude, or you don’t feel like hearing about birth control, this is your chance to tune out! We’re not trying to offend anyone so simply look away please, but be sure to visit us tomorrow 🙂
Hey ladies, I wanted to share a brief summary of my IUD (Intra-Uterine Device) experience here today. I had been contemplating writing this for a little over a week. I wasn’t sure if it was necessarily blog material, but really, what is blog material? What are all the things we avoid talking about because they’re not pretty and cute? So here I am, talking about my uterus on the internet. If this creeps you out or seems like TMI, I sincerely apologize. I think it’s important to talk about things that apply to half the population, hence our discussion about birth control here today.
A few weeks ago I started seeing a new doctor and when the topic of birth control came up, I realized I didn’t have a good excuse for not being on one. I had tried the pill as a teenager and used it for a good five years, but one day I ran out of pills, I was single at the time, and I kind of just phased out of birth control. I didn’t give it much thought, but I did notice a change. I felt a little bit more in control of both my emotions and my weight and I realized that could have had something to do with the hormones I was pumping into my body year after year, but that could have also been in my head, it’s hard to say really. I just knew not taking a pill every day felt right to me. When my doctor suggested Mirena, an IUD that is completely covered by insurance through Obamacare (even the copay is covered) my interest was sparked. Did that totally sound like a commercial? I promise it’s not. EDIT: Shortly after publishing this post I received a bill in the mail for $70 – whomp, whomp, whomp. In the long run, it will still be cheaper than pill prescription costs and tampons though. I am in no way a health care professional, I’m merely here to tell you my experience, not to give medical advice.
Why Mirena seems like the right choice for me:
- I’m not consistent when taking pills. I was really bad at taking the pill. No one had ever stressed how important it is to take the pill at the same time every day, not only was I horrible at doing that, I would often miss a day or two. I just wasn’t good at it. I didn’t feel comfortable taking a pill every day either. I think that comes from growing up in a household where your parents tell you to “Suck it up!” a lot instead of ever giving you medicine or taking you to the doctors.
- Mirena delivers progestin locally. I simply feel better about a device that is delivering hormones directly to where they need to be instead of a pill packed with hormones that then travels through the bloodstream. As hard as all this is for me to comprehend this just seems to make sense to me. Overall there are less hormones entering my bloodstream.
- Effective and convenient. Once the IUD is inserted there is very little I have to do until it’s removed in five years. I have an appointment in a few weeks during which my doctor will check its still in place, but other than that there’s little for me to do. It’s more effective than the pill too. I’m guessing this is mostly because the pill is highly dependent on proper usage and we already determined that’s something I’m bad at.
Obviously there are risks with Mirena. You’re putting a foreign object into your uterus. Talk to your doctor about how many insertions he or she has performed. I was very confident with my doctor’s track record of over 200 successful insertions (she has never perforated a uterus and has never had a patient with any serious issues) and I made sure to ask plenty of questions about the process.
The insertion process and aftermath:
I will be completely honest with you. I was scared shitless. I’m a freaking wuss when it comes to needles. The week before my IUD insertion, I almost passed out while giving three small vials of blood. I have passed out during pap smears, I’ve passed out while giving blood, I’m generally not good in hospital settings. When I watch hospital scenes on T.V. I swear I have a very mild form of mirror touch synesthesia. I just can’t deal. Quite often I say that if I get seriously injured from a fall or crash, chances are I will just die on the spot because I won’t have the wherewithal to deal with the situation. So just know that this is my attitude while you read about my experience.
I got my period a couple days before the insertion and while I was worried I would have to reschedule, I read online that your cycle actually softens the cervix and could make for an easier insertion. My doctor was fine with it because I have a light flow, but if you have heavier periods this could reduce visibility and you may have to wait.
About an hour before the IUD insertion, I took four Advil. My doctor recommended at least 600mg, I took the maximum dosage of 800mg. I was extremely nervous, so I brought an eye mask with me. The nurse and doctor giggled, but assured me I would be okay. I put on the mask, put my legs in the stirrups, and started taking deep and slow belly breaths. First my doctor inserted the speculum then she cleaned my uterus by wiping it three times with antiseptic solution. It felt like a cold, but gentle version of a pap smear.
Next came the a cervical block, a local anesthesia injected directly in the cervix, which I had read about, but my doctor didn’t explicitly say she was going to do this until, well, she did it. This was the most uncomfortable part of the experience for me. My doctor counted to three and asked me to cough on three. The first time I guess I coughed too late (I was nervous!) so we had to do it again, and it did hurt. It felt like a rod of paid from my uterus up into my belly. When I told my doctor this she said, “that’s weird, try to relax” and that made me feel the opposite of relaxed. The only other time I ever felt so exposed and vulnerable in my life was during a cavity search in jail (you’ll hear that story some other day), but the rod of pain was gone a few breaths later.
Next came the actual IUD insertion. This went by pretty quickly. I would say it only lasted maybe 5-8 minutes if that. I imagine it like squeezing a bead through a straw. It felt like a robust, yet dull pain moving up inside of me. Throughout the process my doctor would say, we’re entering the cervix, we’re midway, we’re almost there, etc. and it did make me feel better. I tried to concentrate on breathing really deeply, at one point she forcefully told me to slow my breathing or I would pass out. I appreciated her firm demeanor, as I said, I’m a wuss. I was ringing my hands a little bit, but I didn’t feel faint or dizzy at all throughout the insertion.
The last step was cutting the threads and by that time I was so happy the end was in sight, I survived, I hadn’t passed out yet, and like I said, the most painful part was the cervical block and I think half of the pain was that fear of being exposed and vulnerable. All in all the insertion process was more of a mental struggle than physical for me. I relaxed for a good ten minutes before getting off the table since I have a history of fainting, but I left the doctors office soon after and drove home.
Usually when I faint, I have this feeling of being worried about fainting before I faint. Makes sense, huh? Obviously I didn’t want to put other drivers at risk so that worried me even further. I took five minutes to relax in my car before starting the drive home. Once I started driving, I began to feel a little worried and increasingly nauseous. I wanted to get home ASAP to lay in bed. I started to have really painful cramps, like you would during the first couple days of your period. I had all the windows down (it was really hot and sunny outside) with cool air hitting me in the face, but I still felt a little bit hot and clamy. I pulled over and immediately threw up and just as quickly as that happened, I felt 100% better. I sat in my car for another five minutes just to be sure I really felt as good as I thought I did. The rest of the drive home was normal and easy. I felt completely clear headed, but still had major period-like cramps.
We’ve all had cramps before. They suck and they’re debilitating, but it’s just one of those things you can handle if you’re a woman and you’re used to putting up with them your whole life. I spent the next four hours in bed reading and laying with a heated pillow on my tummy. The cramps sucked, but they were no worse than cramps I’ve had to deal with in the past. I made sure to take the maximum dose of Advil for the rest of the day to ward off the cramps, but after a few hours I felt like myself again. I even went to work in the darkroom (where I stand the entire time) for a few hours that evening. For about five days afterwards, I was surprised that I still felt cramping, it wasn’t constant and it wasn’t as intense as the initial insertion cramps, but I was popping Advil a lot that week, something that is a rarity for me.
It has been ten days and my cramps are gone for the most part. Some mornings (like today unfortunately) I do wake up from the cramping pain, but I just pop an Aleve and try to fall back asleep. I feel proud of myself for making a progressive decision about my health, something I haven’t been too good at in the past. I’m hoping that the Merina IUD is the right decision for me and as of right now I can say it is. I will certainly keep you updated if anything changes. I know an IUD might not be right for everyone, but it seems like the best decision for me. Every body is different, but I hope if you’re contemplating it that this post lends some comfort to a typically uncomfortable topic.
*One of our commenters brought up a great point that I think is worth mentioning. If you decide an IUD is right for you and you have extra tampons, panty liners, and pads in your home, please donate them to a homeless shelter or charity. There’s an immense need for these items both here at home and abroad. THANK YOU!