Life with an IUD
A friend reached out to me because she was anxious about an upcoming IUD insertion appointment. Totally understandable..I was, too, when I first got mine in December 2016—who wouldn't have reservations about a piece of plastic that makes itself at home shoved right up your uterus? And the fact that it emits either synthetic hormones or copper ions? w e i r d stuff. In an effort to spread awareness about IUDs, here's a short Q&A + input from friends who've also gotten one + my personal experience.
WHAT'S AN IUD?
An IUD is an Intrauterine Device. It's a T-shaped piece of plastic that sits in your uterus and acts as contraception. IUD's are long-lasting (between 3-12 years) and their effects completely reversible. There are currently two kinds of IUDs: hormonal (Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, Kyleena) and nonhormonal (Paraguard). For more comprehensive info, check out Planned Parenthood and Bedsider.org.
WHY WOULD I WANT ONE?
(prereq: you possess a birth canal.) Maybe you're tired of taking birth control pills everyday, want to stop rushing to buy Plan B in the event that a condom malfunctions, are looking for lighter periods, or want a non-hormonal contraceptive. IUDs are one of the most effective forms of birth control, and using them is a "set it and forget it" process; no worries about using it correctly or remembering to use it at all.
AT A GLANCE
- can be crampy after insertion (take 600mg ibuprofen before your appointment, stay hydrated, and try to get it during your period)
- some users have spotting for weeks post-insertion and their periods are crampier than normal for several cycles
- your body may reject the IUD
- your acne may not improve. most birth control pills contain both estrogen (which keeps skin clear) and progesterone. IUDs only release progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone.
- accidental pregnancies while with IUD can be ectopic (abnormal)
- your period becomes heavier and crampier (more common with Paraguard)
- don't have to remember to take a pill everyday #setit&forgetit
- over 99% effective in preventing pregnancies—on par with getting your tubes tied. condoms, with perfect use, are 98% effective (i.e. 2 in 100 women will get pregnant)
- most health insurances, including colleges', cover it. no prescription needed.
- lasts for 3-12 years depending on the device you choose
- fertility usually returns in your next cycle after removal
- your period may become lighter and/or stop completely—no more pads/ tampons! (more common with hormonal IUDs)
- hormonal IUDs release less hormones than pills/arm implant and are more localized; the artificial hormones don't circulate around your entire system (= less side effects, if any)
- shouldn't affect your sex drive (but may).
What DO MY FRIENDS HAVE TO SAY?
re: nonhormonal Paraguard
- "My friend on the softball team has one. She likes it."
- "Sister has one because Mirena would increase her risk of osteoporosis, which runs in the family. Made her periods more painful but I mean like that's better than falling apart at 50. Check your family history for diseases and look at what Mirena could affect"
- "I have the copper one and really like it. It makes periods a little more painful but my mood was really affected by hormones. If you think you are going to faint after getting it inserted, don't try to walk it off. Give yourself time to recover."
Re: Hormonal IUDs
- "I have a hormonal one which works well for me because I have thyroid problems, but it's definitely not for everyone and the hormone effect is non-negligible. I have friends with the copper and I have heard really good things. Also, while I would not change my decision to get it, the insertion was way more painful than I expected, so Advil before and having a friend to drive you home are really useful"
- "++would definitely recommend ibuprofen and a buddy to hold your hand"
- "I got hormonal specifically because it helps with periods. I went from feeling like a volcano on two days of my period to only having a period every other month that is pretty light. +1 to taking advil before hand and having a friend to drive/help you get home. Also, make sure you hydrate before you get the procedure! My gyno said that my cramps could have been worse afterwards because I was dehydrated, which can cause your muscles to contract more."
Re: general advice
- "If you can time it to get your IUD inserted when you're on your period, waaaaay easier insertion. That helped me a ton, and I definitely felt good enough to drive."
- "Another thing of note, there are a lot of negative stories on the internet that dissaude or add worry to the IUD experience. It really stressed me out when I got mine, but reminding yourself that no one will ever write about when everything goes totally normally is important, and those experiences are a lot more common."
- "Actually brought play-doh and massaged it the whole time and it helped distract me and it was very satisfying. 10/10 would recommend! I only cramped a little for an hour afterwards so it's not always horrible :) I have the Mirena."
- "I had the procedure done twice (really weird fluke on the first one). First time done by my GP, second by a gyno. Gyno had so much more experience and it was way less painful that time, so see someone experienced if possible."
WHAT HAS MY EXPERIENCE BEEN?
Thanks to my journaling habit and tracking on the Clue app, I can recount my full IUD experience. **TMI warning**
- November 15, 2016: After doing a bit of research online, I called MIT Medical to schedule a consultation. It took all of two minutes to book an appointment; I'd have the consultation and insertion on the same day (December 15). Lady over the phone said I could get an IUD inserted at any time in my menstrual cycle, though I've read that it's less painful to have it done while on your period.
- December 15, 2016: My appointment was at 3pm, and I was in and out within an hour. The procedure itself took 5 minutes and I had minimal cramping; I only noticed if I thought about it. The 400 mg ibuprofen I took half an hour before my appointment did its job. Shoutout to Lee for accompanying me to my appointment! I had told the midwife that I wanted the Skyla because it's smaller than the more popular Mirena, but she convinced me to get the Mirena because it lasts for 5 years, whereas Skyla only lasts for 3 years. Although I was slightly concerned about synthetic hormones, I didn't consider getting Paraguard because I was too afraid of getting heavier, crampier periods. Later in the evening, I noted that the cramping was "not a sharp pain, just ugly uncomfortableness". Real descriptive.
- December 18, 2016: Finished a light workout on the elliptical. Cramps returned, probably because I was dehydrated.
- January 06, 2017 (winter break): Broke out in cystic acne on my jaw. Whether it was from my diet, new skincare products, or hormone imbalance due to the IUD and/or jetlag from flying to Taiwan, who knows.
- January 24, 2017 (winter break): Have been back in the US for two weeks for my externship in the Bay Area. Period this month was lighter than usual, but also crampier.
- February 04, 2017: When I first got my IUD, I spotted for three weeks post-insertion, then no news for two weeks, then another spotting for three weeks after my period. Minorly annoying.
- February 05, 2017: 1 month follow up with OB/BYN. Everything's gucci.
- March-September 2017: Regular, super light, non-crampy periods (my periods pre-IUD were light/medium & non-crampy). In fact, I'm more regular than I was before I got my IUD (my cycle would range from 28-35 days). Sometimes I'm unsure that I'm even having one.
- October 2017 to present: No more periods. No spotting, nada. Dream come TRUE.
Want to add your two cents or have additional questions? Shoot me message or leave a comment down below.
Additional Resources (no affiliate links)
Wellness + Menstrual Cycle tracking app | Clue (track your moods, cravings, energy, appointments, activities, etc)
How Effective Are IUDs | Planned Parenthood (tl;dr it's 99% effective)