Me & My IUD

I can confidently say that getting an IUD is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Two years ago, I was quickly approaching 26 and had the realization that I would be losing coverage under my mom’s insurance. It was also at a moment when there was political uncertainty surrounding women’s reproductive rights, as well as changes to policy regarding insurance. Every woman's magazine (digital and printed) was scrambling to inform women of their options, especially long-term options that could outlive a presidential term (or two). Regardless of the political and social climate at that time, I had to think about long-term options for myself given my impending change in insurance coverage.

In the past, I had taken oral contraceptive prescribed to me at 16 because I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). At the time, it was a godsend because it alleviated a lot of really terrible symptoms. But with hindsight, I had been able to see that that birth control triggered a crippling depression that lasted for about 5 to 6 years. That situation instilled a deep-seated fear of hormonal birth control and the potential side effects of depression.

Faced with a loss of insurance and a political climate that could significantly impact access, I decided a long-term birth control method was the best route for me. So I began my research which meant looking at everything like medical websites, magazine articles and forums. There was a misconception that women without children could not be candidates for an IUD, but it wasn’t the truth. Yes, an IUD sits differently in the uterus for someone that has not had kids, but it doesn’t disqualify someone from getting one.

I scoured the internet to find out how each method worked in the body, and the only non-hormonal long-term option was the copper coil IUD (commonly known as Paraguard). The coil on the stem of the IUD causes an inflammatory reaction as copper ions are released on the uterus that creates an inhospitable environment for sperm. So not only does it act as a physical barrier, but it also acts as a spermicide of sorts. The horror stories online caused me a moment to pause, though.

Many women have had horrendous experiences with IUDs, and it made me question the decision. This occurred around the same time as a documentary highlighting issues with the medical device industry and regulation. It caused me to pause for a moment and evaluate whether this was the right decision. But upon evaluation, the copper coil has been around successfully for an extended duration, unlike the hormonal IUDs. Given its longevity on the market without issue, I decided I would go to my doctor.

After consultation with my OBGYN, he offered me anesthesia, because of my anxiety over the pain of the procedure, and a medication that softens the cervix to make placement easier. With that, my appointment was scheduled, and I was elated. Long-term birth control gave me the autonomy of deciding when I have children. The insertion, even with anesthesia took under 30 minutes, and I woke up faster than when I had my wisdom tooth out. With a little bit of discomfort, I left the hospital.

The cramps got worse as the day wore on, which was normal. I did end up with some pelvic floor issues, with my muscles tightening so much I couldn’t use a tampon, let alone my menstrual cup. But with physical therapy (yes, there is such thing as pelvic floor physical therapy) and in time I was back to mostly normal. The only long term effect I experienced was a heavier flow. Before my IUD, I had a light 3 day period (I was lucky). After, I had extremely heavy periods (waking up multiple times in the night to empty my leaking menstrual cup), which has lessened over time to medium flow.

Despite the changes to my period and temporary pelvic floor issues, my copper coil IUD is still one of the best decisions I’ve made. Those problems are entirely outweighed by the benefits. Ten years of 99.7% effective protection from pregnancy without having to remember to take a pill or change a ring and no hormones. Granted, STI protection is still necessary. But I can feel better using additional forms of protection, knowing I have a backup, if that fails, already in place to prevent pregnancy.

When it comes to sex, it’s crucial to feel empowered through your decisions for protection. My IUD removed the fear of unplanned pregnancy, making me feel more confident in my choice to have sex. Feeling empowered in my sexual health helped give me more confidence in my life in general. I only hope that every woman (with and without a uterus) can feel that way.

If you’re thinking about birth control options, especially long-term, contact your doctor or clinic for a consultation. Everyone is different, and a doctor can provide the best recommendation for you and your health.