I recently made a trip to Planned Parenthood to get an IUD (also known as IUC- Intrauterine Device/Contraceptive), which despite some bad rep it's gotten throughout the years, remains the most effective form of birth control on the market (See chart). I'm a person who has suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety, on top of a genetic history of blood clotting, making hormonal birth control not an option for me. I tried the birth control pill for a few months, and the effects it had on me were next to terrifying. My depression spun out of control, my mood swings were unpredictable, I had no desire to get out of bed in the morning, my sex drive was nonexistent– basically the equivalent to female castration. While some women have had a great experience with the birth control pill (which is awesome!), for me it was a disaster– and I had to stay in tune with my body to realize that it was, in fact, the pill causing these crazy side effects, not just my mental health history. Once I went off the pill, it was incredible how quickly the side effects disappeared.
It became clear that hormonal treatment was out of the question. I tried using condoms as my only form of birth control for a long time, and while they were effective, they weren't ideal for a monogamous relationship where the risk of STI transmission is extremely low– plus, I was developing a sensitivity to latex, which left my vagina sore.
Well, this left me with exactly zero hope that I would ever have a healthy protected sex life. As any person with a vagina and a uterus would testify, feeling SAFE from unwanted pregnancy plays a huge part in being able to relax and really enjoy sex. I was stranded.
One day, a friend of mine enlightened me about the Copper IUD (Paraguard©) and its wonderful efficacy.
The copper IUD is one of the oldest forms of birth control on the market, having stood the test of time while remaining the most effective form of birth control, with the same success rate as permanent sterilization. Copper is a natural spermicide, and the T-shaped device prevents the sperm from getting to the egg. Something you should know about the copper IUD, is that it is also used as an emergency contraceptive; meaning you can get it inserted within 5 days of having unprotected sex and it will reduce the risk of pregnancy by 99%.
There are a few IUD's with hormones if that is your jam, also known as LVG IUD (Levonorgestrel Intrauterine Device) and many women absolutely love theirs! A great thing about the IUD's with hormones such as Mirena© is that the hormones stay in the located area, as opposed to entering your blood stream– eliminating blood clots from the side effects. However, if you're prone to depression, the LVG IUD might not be good for you.
Once you've done some research on which IUD you think might be best for you, book your appointment with your gynecologist to get it put in. In addition, try booking a doctor that has performed this procedure many times before. You can always ask them how much experience they have inserting IUD's.
Here are some ways to prepare before your appointment:
Wear loose-fitting comfy clothing
If you can, bring a friend or your partner to accompany you afterward.
Bring a menstrual pad (your doctor may provide some) as you will spot after the insertion.
Eat something before the procedure, you could faint if you go in on an empty stomach.
Take 800mg of Ibuprofen about 30 minutes before the procedure
Prepare any questions you might have for the doctor.
How is the IUD put in?
The doctor will examine your vagina with gloved fingers and feel for any abnormalities
The doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina, holding it open
The doctor will then slightly dilate your cervix with an instrument
The IUD will be inserted, not as a "T" shape but as an "I" shape, into the uterus. Once in the uterus, it opens up to its T-shape.
Plastic strings hang down from the IUD, through your cervix, and into the vagina just a tiny bit (around 1 cm). These strings allow the doctor to remove it whenever you are ready in the future.
What to expect regarding pain/sensation:
Something important to remember is that everyone is different; there is no way to predict how much or how little pain you will experience. I wouldn't recommend going online and reading testimonials, as it could just freak you out unnecessarily. Expect some pain, very much like heavy cramping, and an uncomfortable feeling– it's quite an odd feeling because you've probably never felt something prodding around your uterus. The whole procedure lasts for probably less than five minutes, and I was more nervous than I was actually in pain. It was similar to less than a minute of a really bad cramp, and then it was over. Remember your period for the next 2-3 months following the IUD insertion will probably be heavier and crampier, and should get better with time.
Tips for immediate aftercare:
Have a coke, chocolate, or something sugary at hand in case you feel light-headed afterward.
Have a heating pad ready for use when you get home.
Be prepared to stay in the rest of the day and possibly even the next day and expect cramps– have enough Ibuprofen, food, tea and Netflix at hand.
Ibuprofen is your friend. Don't take more than 800mg at a time. Think every 100mg is good for 1 hour. 800 mg= 8 hours of pain relief.
Keep in mind that it is normal to experience pain and spotting in the days following the procedure.
Tips for long-term aftercare:
There isn't a mandatory follow-up appointment. Ask your doctor what would be best in terms of following up.
Some info online recommends that you feel for the strings hanging out of your cervix to make sure the device is in place. Do NOT try to feel for the strings. The strings resemble wet tooth floss, and could naturally stick to your cervix– causing you to freak out.
If you experience unexpected pain, first try emptying your bladder (a full bladder can push the IUD into an uncomfortable position). Next, change positions (if you sit or lay in a certain position for a long time, that can cause some soreness). If the pain persists, take ibuprofen, and if it is still painful afterward, contact your gynecologist or Planned Parenthood as there could be a problem with the placement of your IUD.
Ask your doctor how long he/she recommends before having sex. For those with a Copper IUD, it might be as soon as few days.
During intercourse, be cautious of positions where your partner might bump your cervix, as it might be sore and cause some pain. Take it slowly.
Keep in mind that IUD's only prevent pregnancy and not sexually transmitted diseases. Use barrier protection such as a condom/dam with new partners to protect you from STI's.
If you've come this far... Congratulations! You now have your IUD. Despite the pain the insertion might cause, you are now covered from unwanted pregnancies for 3-5 years for hormonal IUD's and 12 years for copper IUD's! It's a pretty great feeling; so pamper yourself with loads of self-love, Netflix binging and comfort food! You did it!
Source: Mayan Toledano
Below is a chart comparing the efficacy of all birth control methods from cdc.gov