What I Learned About Birth Control After One Year with a Hormonal IUD

To be completely honest, this is not an article I ever thought I’d be able to write.  I’ve often described my birth control journey as a horror story–weeks spent playing phone tag with the OB/GYN, awful symptoms, feelings of exasperation, pain, and ultimately defeat, and pills that were ruining my mental and physical health.  I spent so long learning to cope with a menstrual cycle that had a serious negative impact on my life that I convinced myself this was my norm. I didn’t see an end to the problem I was experiencing, so the article I am about to write was nothing more than a dream to me then.

Last year, I wrote an article entitled “What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting Birth Control” in which I talked about my experience trying to find a hormonal birth control pill that worked for my body.  As someone who experiences a laundry list of painful symptoms related to her period, including migraines, cramps, insomnia, and anxiety, hormonal birth control seemed like the right step in regulating my cycle and getting my health back on track. 

You can check out that article for the whole story of how I made it to this point, but the gist is that after years of painful symptoms that kept me in bed for multiple days of every month, playing phone tag with doctors that didn’t listen (even when they actually picked up), cycling through prescriptions, and taking pills that made things far worse instead of better, I finally found a birth control method that worked for me–a hormonal IUD.  Thanks to Planned Parenthood in Boston, I was finally free of the symptoms that had affected so much of my life before. For the first time in so long, I felt in control of my body and my reproductive health.  

Plan B Alexandra Redmond / Spoon

But writing only two months after getting my IUD, I really wasn’t sure how long my positive experience with this birth control method would last.  I was fairly confident that I had finally found something that worked for me, but I had been just as confident about pills that had worked for the first two months in the past.  What if this was too good to be true? I couldn’t shake the fear that I was only fooling myself into thinking things were different with this one. Writing now, one year later, I can honestly say that the hormonal IUD was the best decision I ever made for my reproductive health.  

birth control methods against pink and yellow background Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition

Spending a whole year without almost any of the awful symptoms I usually experienced with my period has really put into perspective just how much I had learned to cope with.  I can’t imagine going back to the state that I had convinced myself was normal, missing class and popping Advil like it was candy every time migraines or cramps kept me from leaving my bed.  I spend so much less time now thinking about and dealing with my reproductive health, and that has been so freeing.  

My IUD has been a monumental step in improving my health, but I also feel like in some ways, it’s allowed me to reclaim my body. I feel in control of a part of my life that once dictated so much of what I did, and I feel comfortable in my body in a way that I haven’t for a very long time. Not just coping with the pain, not just better than last time, but really, genuinely comfortable. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to say that, that I’d ever find a doctor who would listen or birth control that would work. I think back to the years I spent on the pill (pills, as it was never the same one for more than a few months), and I wonder how I managed to balance every aspect of my life when it was so regularly interrupted by the pain caused by my periods.  

It is devastating to me to think that I was so hopeless things could get better, I actually convinced myself that what I was experiencing was normal. I wish I could go back and tell that version of myself to advocate for the care she knew she so desperately needed, and not to let herself become complacent just because no one would listen. All it took was one phone call in my freshman year of college to completely transform the state of my reproductive health, and words can’t express how grateful I am both to the doctors I spoke to and to myself for taking that step.  

Unfortunately, I know that my experiences navigating reproductive healthcare are not unique ones. While some people experience super light periods and have no issues with their first birth control, there are so many others with horror stories similar to mine. For those readers, I hope that at the very least, this article makes you feel less alone in your experience. I hope that it reminds you that you don’t have to learn to cope with unbearable symptoms and that there are options out there that will work for you.     

Navigating birth control can be a really tricky process, so listen to your body, recognize what it’s telling you, and advocate for the healthcare you need.


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