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    This past week, I join an inseparable sisterhood of women; a bond that unites women in effort towards one goal. I suffered and persevered. I connected with my fellow women on a level I previously thought unimaginable. I got an IUD.

As I filled out my paperwork in the Planned Parenthood waiting room, I realized that I did not know any women in my life who use an IUD as their main form of birth control. The procedure was relatively unknown to me, and I have been managing my recovery purely through WebMD. I have been flying completely blind and really had no idea what to expect. It should be noted that although this article is written from my bed where I have been wrapped in a heated blanket for the past twenty-four hours since my procedure, this article is meant to inform, not frighten by any means. It shocks me, that such an effective form of contraception is not talked about among college girls. According to Planned Parenthood, “IUDs are one of the best birth control methods – 99% effective”. Perhaps out of lack of knowledge, fear, or a general uncomfortableness that comes with discussions about of feminine health. So in an effort to be a more transparent woman (while nauseous on the L) I vowed to write the most informative and honest piece I could.

    I have been sexually active with the same partner for the past year and a half, but, like many college-age women, I have been a bit hesitant about getting on any sort of birth control. Although I am still covered by my parent’s insurance, I think a part of me was hesitant about going through the hoops required to learn what contraception my plan covers. In hindsight, I have learned that most insurance plans cover at least one time of IUD, partially, if not completely. Listed on their website, the ParaGuard IUD is said to be covered under most insurance, Medicaid other government programs. Once I decided that it was time for me to take control of my reproductive health, it was relatively easy to call the number on the back of my insurance card and be given access to the range of birth control covered for me.

    Because of my initial hesitation, I have been pretty ignorant about birth control in general, and had a pre-conceived idea that I did not want to be on anything hormonal. I cannot accurately speak to the advantages and disadvantages of hormonal birth control, but I know that I had pre-conceptions that additional hormones might cause mood swings that may interfere with the anxiety medication I am already taking. I was also worried that I would not be allowed any sort of hormonal birth control due to a family history of uterine cancer. These worries lead me to a quick Google search of non-hormonal birth control and an off the cuff online appointment for a copper IUD insertion, one of the few methods that does not administer hormones into your body.

    I made a same day appointment with my local Planned Parenthood for a Monday afternoon under the assumption that I would recover quick enough to have the rest of my Monday evening, which turned out to be wildly optimistic of me. I also decided that I didn’t not need to drag anyone with me and waste their afternoon in a Planned Parenthood waiting room, which turned out to be wildly stupid of me. On their website, Planned Parenthood lists the insertion as a quick procedure done by a trained health care provider. This was my first experience in a Planned Parenthood, and I really cannot sing enough praises about them. Being a young, liberal college feminist, I have always supported and occasionally donated to PP, but experiencing their practices in real life made me realize how necessary they really are to our countries’ women. My whole appointment was extremely discrete, down to filling out how I would prefer they identify themselves if they were to call. Everyone I spoke to was kind and welcoming and very much put my comfort and care first.

    After filling out all of my insurance paperwork, the receptionist asked me if I had eaten or taken any Advil before my procedure. Of course, I had not. I was then given two large white pills and animal crackers and warned that often patients faint or vomit after the insertion. Que panicked text to my roommate. I was then given a pregnancy test and offered STI testing by my friendly nurse. I was told to underdress from the waist down and given a paper blanket to put over my lap for modesty, then left to wait and play games on my phone for the doctor to come in and perform the insertion. If you feel uncomfortable or squeamish by graphic details, please feel free to skim the next part, but in an effort to be more open and educational, I will be as honest and detailed as I can.

 

    The doctor assigned to me was extremely friendly and walked through all of the precautions I needed to be aware of before the procedure. She also actually took the IUD out of the box and showed it me, which was an extra step that I really appreciated. The whole procedure itself is less than ten minutes, which is one of the big reasons people love IUDs so much. But, as someone who has never gone to the gyno before, this was approximately the longest ten minutes of my entire life. I was told to put my feet in the stirrups and lay back and “relax” while the doctor first located my uterus. This is done by the insertion of two fingers and a hand on my lower stomach, and although I was being talked through this by the doctor, this already was a terribly nerve wracking experience. I was then told that a tool would be inserted that would expand my vagina, which feels exactly how you think it does. I can’t actually tell you what the tool looked like, but it felt as though salad tongs were inside of me and being opened. There was a very detailed smudge on the ceiling above me that I memorized. One direction was playing. The doctor then took three different q-tips and swabbed the inside of my vagina up to my cervix. I am told this is what a pap smear feels like, but I can only describe it as the mildly uncomfortable feeling when you push a tampon in too far. At this point, while incredibly self-conscious and in a fair amount of discomfort, I was not in pain.

And then, I became a new woman. I left my body. I transcended time. I believe the doctor said to me “I am going to pull your uterus towards me” but I actually passed out briefly that I am not exactly sure what the process was. I assume this was the point in the procedure when my cervix was opened, but honestly I just saw the face of the devil and let out the most unholy sound known to man. As I said before, I am the only person I know who has ever gone through this process, so I had no one warn me the form of hell I was about to experience, and this level of pain was a shock. I have never felt such an immediate full body pain as I laid there and she inserted the copper IUD and trimmed the strings in the longest minute of my life. I felt both a wave of chills and nausea I haven’t experienced since I got food poisoning from a Dairy Queen in Wilmette. I saw ancestors of women who gave birth in cabins with bullets in their mouths float through my head and mother Gia hold me in the bond of womanhood while Eve cursed woman-kind eternally. In reality I actually blacked out.

When I came around seconds later, I was a sweaty nauseous mess. The doctor sat with me and gave me water as I worked up the strength to sit up. I was given the largest pad I have ever seen in my life and a card to remind me when to get the IUD taken out (2030!) and told not to put anything inside my vagina for the next 48 hours. I now was a card caring member of womanhood. I was told I could stay and recover as long as I wanted to, but I just wanted my own bed; so I stumbled out of the office and onto the L, where I thought the smell of a man’s strawberry vape pen would literally be the end of my life. It was at this point that I sincerely regretted not making a friend wait with me. I somehow made it home and into my bed where ate three donuts and cranked the heating pad. Most family planning websites I looked into say that every woman’s experience with IUD insertion is different. Some are in pain and experience cramps for up to 48 hours after. Some feel fine right away. But their website suggests, “There can be some cramping and backaches, so plan on chilling at home after your appointment — it’s a great excuse to curl up on the couch with your favorite book or movie. Heating pads and over-the-counter pain meds can help ease cramps too.”

I was not prepared for the ongoing pain that comes after an IUD insertion. After about an hour and a half in bed with what can only be described as period cramps from hell (think about it. You have bad cramps when your body is trying to expel blood from the uterus. Imagine how pissed your body is there is now this little device in there too) I realized this is how the rest of my night would be spent and canceled the rest of my plans. I had planned to go boxing the day of my IUD insertion (that’s how uninformed I was) so please, give yourself an evening of self-love to recover. I was fully exhausted from what my roommate described as “reverse labor” which about is how I felt. I self-medicated with staggered Advil and Tylenol, herbal medication and melatonin, but truly felt like I could not move. My sweet boyfriend had a fancy burger delivered to my dorm, but my roommate had to go down and pick it up for me.

By the next morning I felt okay enough to attend all of my classes, but as soon as they were over I worked from my bed where I could sit with multiple heating pads. The pain was manageable, but made me still wish I could cancel my plans for the evening and have my mom drive up and take care of me. Most comments I have read online say that I should feel back to normal by tomorrow.

Although this was an experience I was wholly not expecting, I can already tell I will be madly in love with my IUD. The idea of not having to worry about my birth control and any chance of pregnancy for the next twelve years of my life while I forge my career and relationship thrills me far beyond any of the pain I’ve been experiencing.

 

*all information and images courtesy of Planned Parenthood and ParaGuard.

*Thumbnail Photo courtesy of Sarah Mirk via Flickr Images.

 

Sophomore at Loyola University Chicago
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