Sunday, August 18, 2013

Ask Me About My IUD

A heads up to readers:  This posts talks about the female reproductive system.  Menstrual cycle, methods of birth control, sex.  If this doesn't interest you, please move along!  Thanks.

When I was trawling the internet one day I came across a post on A Practical Wedding about birth control.  One of the comments said "I love my IUD!  I want a shirt that says 'Ask me about my IUD."  This blog post is my equivalent to that shirt.  It is what I would have wanted to read when I was researching my birth control options because the actual process of getting an IUD freaked me out.

As you read this post, please keep in mind that your body is completely different from mine.  What works for me might not work for you.  As always with random medical information you find on the internet, please talk to your doctor about these things!


When I was younger my menstrual cycle was very erratic.  Halfway through high school I was placed on a hormonal form of birth control.  It was a little pill I took every day.  It significantly lightened my periods, made them predictable, and was a very positive change in my life even if it was a pain in the butt to remember to swallow it every day.

When I graduated college my health insurance shifted and I thought it was a good time to try changing things up.  I really wanted to see how my body reacted to no hormones; a general life rule for me is that if I can go simpler, I will. Plus, I really got tired of remembering to take that little pill Every. Single. Day.  So I stocked up on condoms, told the Pirate what I was doing, and stopped taking it.  The results were mixed: I noticed a significant improvement in my depression, my skin became a lot more sensitive and acne prone, and my periods remained regular and manageable.  I'll take it, hooray!!  

Even though the condom does have many things to recommend it, I was interested in something that was more permanent and more auto-pilot.  Because condoms?  Have to be put on Every. Single. Time.  Off to google I went to research my options.  Short of surgical sterilization (too permanent for my tastes) the only option that did not have hormones, was reliable, and could be placed on autopilot was a copper IUD.  For more information on what an IUD is (I am not the expert), this article from Planned Parenthood does a good job of explaining the options.

Feeling quite confident in my decision but hella nervous about actually having the implantation procedure done, I booked an appointment with my doctor.  I shared my reproductive health history, listened to the options my doctor presented, and pestered him with questions.  I learned that:
1) It was expensive!  Fortunately my health insurance covered it.  HOORAY!!
2) I could not get it that appointment.  I had to come back after they ran their required tests and checked with my insurance.
3)  Also, the implantation appointment had to be schedule when I was on my period.  Since I have not given birth, that was the time my cervix would be the most willing to have something shoved through it.  (Yeah, I know.  It's not rainbows and unicorns.)  My doctor also performed a pelvic exam to gauge whether or not I could sit still through the IUD implantation process and to see if my uterus, which has not been stretched out by pregnancy, was actually big enough to accommodate the IUD.  

Everything aligned and I showed up a month later to get my IUD.  My internet travels had told me some women had a painful implantation process and some were so unaffected they were able to go right back to work afterwards.  I aired on the side of caution and took a half day vacation from work, ensuring I would have time to take myself out for celebratory ice cream after the appointment.  Or curl up in horrible agony, either one.

How was the pain?

Not bad, actually.  It was a mixture between getting a body part pierced, a few painful menstrual cramps, and that unpleasant feeling you get from the dentist of you-know-it's-good-for-you-but-what-you-can-feel-squicks-you-out-something-fierce.  For how incredibly nervous I was going into the appointment, the pain did not live up to my expectations.  Uncomfortable?  Heck yes.  Painful?  I've had stubbed toes that hurt worse.  I did notice tenderness that lasted for at least a week after.  It went away after I spent an afternoon bending updownupdown searching for the perfect 3 alphabet mugs out of 300 mugs on the top shelf of a local home goods store in a fit of wedding craftiness.  It's like it got popped into place or something.

How was the implantation procedure?

The actual implantation procedure was like a very intense pap smear.  The doctor had me take ibuprofen before I arrived and he gave my cervix some of the pain meds they give to your gums during oral surgery.  Then my feet went up in the stirrups and I tried to patiently sit and meditate through my breathes while the doctor fiddled with my girly bits.  It only took a few minutes with a few unfortunate extra minutes since my cervix didn't want to cooperate.  It's not open heart surgery, but it's not a pap smear either.

How was the emotional side of things?

Whenever the doctor would leave the room and I didn't have to put my brave face on I would start shivering uncontrollably from nervousness.  That surprised me.  I knew I was nervous, but I didn't know I was that nervous!    I had procrastinated on the IUD for at least a year because I dreaded the implantation process so much.  Once I was done, though?  I felt like I could do *anything.*  It was one of the more empowering experiences I have had, which was unexpected.  For various reasons the Pirate was unable to come to the appointment, but gave a lot of support in the form of hugs and dinner and flowers when he got home.

Can you feel it?

I was very aware of it for the first two weeks or so.  But as my body adjusted to it, kind of like adjusting to a new piercing, it was relegated more and more to the "oh yeah, this happened" box instead of the "Hello, this is currently happening" box.  Once it got popped into place after that afternoon of bending updownupdown I don't notice it at all.

How's the sex?

Yay!  :D  It took me a while to feel comfortable with the whole "I have this random metal thing in my uterus, let's have some sexytimes!" thing, but you know...practice makes perfect!  Communicate to your partner what you are feeling.  Every once and a while we can feel it, so whenever we do we simply change positions.

Have you noticed any change in periods?

The first few periods after implantation were a few days longer than normal and super heavy.  Like, maybe-I-will-just-hang-out-on-the-toilet-all-day heavy.  Once my body has adjusted to the new addition, the periods went back to their normal level.  Thank goodness!

tl;dr Logistics summary, please?

  • 3 doctor's appointments (initial, implantation, follow up) over 2 months
  • $1000ish that insurance covered
  • 1/2 day vacation (I totally had the best ice cream date with myself afterwards)
  • 1 week of tenderness
  • 3 months of heavy periods
  • 10 years of birth control! w00t w00t!

Help, I'm still nervous!

E-hugs, love, and support to you!  You can do it!

I have a random question about IUDs and birth control.

I am not who you should ask; I can only speak to my own personal experience.  You should ask a medical expert.  Please keep in mind that your body is completely different from mine.  What works for me might not work for you.  As always with random medical information you find on the internet, please talk to your doctor about these things!

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