I’m 26 years old and, until recently, I’ve never been on any sort of birth control. I know I’m pretty late to the game, but I’ve always had a whole slew of reasons for why I avoided it. But recently, I decided to go for it and get an IUD, specifically Mirena. Here’s my story.
Before I get into it, here are the reasons why birth control always scared me:
- I didn’t want to gain weight.
- I didn’t want to commit to taking a pill every day and knew I couldn’t trust myself to do it.
- Before “Obamacare,” I wasn’t able to get tested for a possible genetic condition that would make birth control risky for me. If I did get tested, it would’ve been considered a pre-existing condition making it difficult to get insurance. I’ve since been tested after “Obamacare” went into effect and found I’m all clear.
- I just didn’t like the idea of messing with my body.
So after all of that, why did I change my mind? Well, to be honest, I had been considering an IUD (Intrauterine Device) for quite a while. I knew the pill wasn’t for me, so an IUD was going to be the way to go if I decided to do it. It’s 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy compared to 97 percent with the pill when it’s used properly. Plus, once it’s implanted you don’t have to think about it for years.
I also talked to a few friends and relatives about their experiences with an IUD. All had nothing bad to say about it, except that the insertion was pretty damn uncomfortable.
Choosing the Right IUD
Once I decided I wanted to take the plunge, I had to choose the best IUD option for me – hormonal (Mirena or Skyla) or non-hormonal (Paraguard) IUD. At first, I was really leaning towards the non-hormonal IUD, or Paraguard. It’s made of copper and works by making your uterus a toxic environment for sperm. It also lasts for about 10 years compared to three and five years for Skyla and Mirena, respectively. At this point, the choice seemed like a no-brainer.
But then I dug a bit deeper and found that a common side effect of Paraguard is longer, heavier, more painful periods. No thank you! On the flip side, your periods are shorter and lighter on the hormonal IUDs with about 20 percent of Mirena users not getting a period at all. Yes, please!
But wait! What about weight gain, mood swings, and all those other common side effects that come with hormonal birth control? Well, those are still a possibility, but my doctor said there wasn’t enough evidence to say so. The reason is that the hormones just administer to the uterus and don’t really flow throughout the body like other birth control methods. That means they’re less likely to cause all those unwanted side effects.
And because the hormones are just localized to the uterus, it has a far lower dosage of hormones than traditional birth control. That makes it a safer option for women with health issues that prevent them from being on hormonal birth control. For example, my sister has Factor V Leiden, a condition that makes you more prone to blood clots, and she was cleared to use Mirena.
How Do Hormonal IUDs Work?
The hormonal IUDs work in two ways. First, they release a small amount of hormones every day that create a “plug” of mucus that prevents sperm from entering the uterus. Second, they thin the lining of your uterus to make it unfavorable to an embryo. Basically, a sperm would need super powers to survive.
After I scheduled an appointment with my doctor to finally do it, I also spoke with an RN to learn how to prepare for it. She suggested I eat something and take a pain killer about an hour before my appointment to reduce discomfort. I also asked about the price, prepared to spend at least $500 on it, and she told me it was completely covered by my insurance. Thanks Obama! (For the record, I actually said that on the phone call.)
How The IUD Is Inserted
At the office, they took my vitals and gave me a cup to pee in for a pregnancy test before my doctor came in to do the deed. Even though I had already decided on Mirena, I chatted with her some more about what type of IUD I should get, just to be sure.
The process went like this: she inserted a lubed up speculum into my vagina and swabbed my insides with an antiseptic solution. Then she used a clamp to hold my cervix and uterus in place – this was the worst part. It felt like instant cramps mixed with an urge to go number two. (I told my doctor the latter and she said it was the first time she heard that reaction.) I had a hot flash and got sweaty as well.
While clamped, my doctor had to do some measurements to make sure my body was right for the IUD. Next came the IUD. It was in a long tube that my doctor inserted into my uterus and when it was in the right place, she released it to look like that t-shape we’ve all seen. Then, she trimmed the strings attached to the Mirena. Their purpose is to help your doctor remove the IUD when it’s time – five years, in my case. (Wooh!) After that, all the other tools were taken out and I immediately felt back to normal. I was surprised by how unfazed I was after everything.
The last step was an ultrasound to make sure the IUD was in its proper place. This step is key to prevent perforation (puncturing the uterus) which is bad news bears. You can see a video of where my IUD is below!
And that was it! My only instructions were to refrain from placing anything (tampons, penises, etc.) up my vagina for the next 48 hours and then to use a condom for five days after that. I went to a work event right after and I experienced no pain. I did have to wear a pad though because I started to spot.
A few days post-insertion, I had a “back-ne” breakout all over my back. There were about four or five big cystic pimples on my back. They went away pretty quickly though. The most annoying part of having the IUD was that I spotted for about 6 weeks straight. But I just wore a panty liner and got through it.
Now, five months later, I’m happy to report that getting an IUD has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself and my body. I only wish I had done it way sooner. I still had a period for about four months, but it was definitely way lighter, and this past month I didn’t have a period at all. (Score!)
To my relief, I haven’t gained any weight. And I know the doctor said the hormones didn’t really affect any other parts of the body, but I think it’s helped reduce the hormonal acne I used to get. But it could also be the good skin care habit I recently adopted too.
The one drawback is that I’ve been a little more tired that I usually am and will fall almost immediately if I sit down to watch TV. But overall, I don’t really notice any significant differences.
If you’re in the market for birth control, I definitely think you should consider an IUD. In fact, since the election of “He Who Shall Not Be Named,” women have been rushing to get them. So I would look into making that appointment ASAP if you want to do it.
Again, I’ve been super happy with my experience. If you’ve tried an IUD or are thinking about it, let me know in the comments below!