My IUD: A Tumultuous Love Story
I have a love-hate relationship with my Intrauterine Device (IUD). A few years ago, I decided to switch from the Nuva Ring to a long-acting reversible contraceptive. I went with the Mirena, an IUD that contains a small amount of hormones which slows the growth of uterine lining in addition to increasing cervical mucus. I was incredibly optimistic about the prospect of this option because of its low maintenance and high efficacy.
Before the insertion, I was told to expect a slight pinch and a couple days of cramps. The doctor also warned me that I might be more sensitive to the insertion because I had never had children, but assured me that it was easiest to insert while on my period.
The procedure was quick (not much longer than a Pap smear) and fairly simple. My doctor inserted a long instrument into my vagina, which placed the IUD into my uterus. It did hurt, but it wasn’t anything too much worse than the cramps I was used to enduring. When I got up to leave though, I immediately felt nauseated and lightheaded, and briefly blacked out. Having unwisely scheduled this procedure on my lunch break, I had to collect myself quickly and return to work. I felt quite sick for the rest of the day, and a few days after. I called my doctor to make sure nothing was wrong, but was told my body was just adjusting. A few weeks later I left the country for an international internship. My IUD stayed in place, though I continued to feel more cramping than I expected.
I returned to the doctor eight months later, reporting that the IUD still didn’t feel quite right, and she referred me for an ultrasound. The ultrasound determined the IUD was definitely in place, though slightly uncentered. I was reassured that it wasn’t doing damage and would hopefully just move back into place with time. About to get married and ready to not think about birth control for another five years, I decided to continue on with the IUD.
A few months later, my concerns were reignited. During intercourse I felt an unpleasant pang. Within seconds of this feeling, my husband let out a yelp like a puppy whose tail had just been stepped on. He recoiled and gasped “your vagina just stabbed me!” I laughed momentarily, until I realized he wasn’t joking. I regrouped and centered on the pain I was in and quickly rushed to the bathroom to assess. IUDs are shaped like a T, and I could feel the stem of the T sticking out of my cervix. I had indeed just stabbed my husband or more accurately poked him (don’t worry he’s fine).
The top part of the IUD was still lodged in my uterus and I was unsure of how exactly it was stuck in there. I contemplated the potential danger of pulling it out. Powerless, I sat on the toilet desperately googling all the ways I could remove it and if I would be unable to bear children because of this. I finally settled my panic and decided I would go into the doctor's office first thing in the morning.
The doctor removed the IUD with ease, saying that she had never seen this happen. She assumed that instead of working itself into the right spot, my uterus had just started pushing it out. She assured me that no permanent damage was done to my reproductive system, and encouraged me to get a new IUD once my insurance would cover it. She suggested using condoms in the interim, to which I assured her my husband would likely need time to work up his courage to come near me again anyways.
I spent the next couple of months contemplating what to do next, but came to the conclusion that this unusual occurrence wouldn’t happen again, and this was still the best option. So I got a new Mirena, and things went well over the next couple years.
Then one night after staying out late, I woke in the middle of the night remembering that I had to change my tampon. I searched for the string and couldn’t find it. In my half asleep, uninhibited state, I convinced myself that I must have put the tampon in too far. I started fishing, sticking my fingers in deeper to find the tampon string. Finally I found it, and though it felt a bit different, I didn’t think anything of it. I yanked hard to get it out quickly. An all too familiar pang rushed over me and I looked down in a panic to see the IUD I had come to love resting in the palm of my hand. “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?” I yelled, waking my husband who rushed in to see if I was dying.
This commenced another late night of googling. I was sure I had really made myself infertile this time. Defeated and embarrassed, I decided to call the doctor in the morning. I explained to my doctor that in a sleepy haze I couldn't tell the difference between my tampon string and IUD strings (one is like fishing line, the other like a thick cotton twine). She laughed, surprised that I had pulled it out on my own, reassuring me that this was similar to how a doctor would remove it (by pulling the strings). She scheduled me to come in for a new one.
I inquired as to whether this was the best option for me, and she asked me how I liked it so far outside of these hiccups. I reflected on all the ups and downs with other birth controls, the nauseated days and cramping nights. Clearly this was the best option for me, so I went ahead and got the third one. She trimmed the strings shorter this time, and sent me home with a pamphlet, encouraging me to read it and learn more. I’m 17 months into this one, and so far, so good (knock on wood).
Regardless of these experiences, I still believe the IUD is the best birth control option out there for me. Minimally invasive, the Mirena hormonal IUD lasts up to 5 years. When used correctly, it is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, it is incredibly low maintenance and it reduces menstrual flow by an average of 90%. Most insurance covers the costs of getting one, and though the upfront cost is higher, it ends up generally being cheaper than the costs of other options when added up over a similar timeframe.
Friends ask if I would recommend an IUD, and while I always advise individuals to discuss birth control options in detail with their medical providers, I do encourage the consideration of IUDs. I know my experiences have been a bit crazy.Though we've had our ups and downs, the IUD fulfills the majority of my wants and desires in a birth control method. No birth control option is without its limitations, and the longer term side effects and arduous maintenance of others leaves no doubt that the IUD is my best option.