Way back in December I decided to take my relationship with birth control to a whole new level: I got an IUD. While I was a little apprehensive about it, three months later I can say that I do not regret the decision one bit. Here are some things that I learned on my IUD journey:
What is an IUD?
For those of you who don’t know – and didn’t feel like watching the sweet vid by Planned Parenthood (above) – an Intra-Uterine Device is a little T-shaped thing that sits in your uterus and prevents pregnancy without you even thinking about it. The copper IUD makes your baby garden deadly to little spermies, whereas the smaller hormonal IUD releases progestin to stop your ovaries from releasing eggs, which in some women actually stops their periods for as long as they have the IUD in. I’ve read varying opinions on whether or not this small dose of hormone can affect your overall hormonal balance (I heard a pretty convincing argument from a friend that the hormones are centralized to your uterus only) but ultimately decided against it for myself, given my own not-so-great track record with hormonal birth control. Both kinds of IUD are good for anywhere from 1-10 years, depending on the brand. An IUD prevents pregnancy, but not STI’s, so you should still use a condom to be safe!
How do you get an IUD?
I personally decided to take advantage of my well-spent tuition dollars took myself to UBC Student Health to get an IUD. This is the basic process:
- Book a 15-minute appointment with one of the two doctors at Student Health qualified to insert IUDs to talk about birth control (book it over the phone instead of online to make sure you get the right doctor).
- During this appointment, the doctor will go over the kinds of IUDs available and talk you through choosing one.
- The doctor will write you a prescription for your IUD and perhaps a cervix softener, depending on who you get. Someone at the desk will help you book your insertion appointment – try to schedule it at a time when you’ll already be on your period, as your cervix is usually already open a bit at that point in your cycle, which makes insertion a bit easier.
- Take your prescription to the pharmacy ASAP. They don’t keep IUDs in stock, and it takes a couple days to order it in.
- Follow your doctor’s directions on what to do leading up to your appointment – they’ll probably advise you to have something to eat beforehand, and explain how to use other medications they’ve prescribed (like the aforementioned cervix softener). Feel free to take an Advil or Midol dose a bit before too, as it helps with the cramping.
NOTE: IUDs are generally not covered by provincial health insurance, but for some provinces the insertion fee is reimbursable. You can also submit IUD through many private insurance providers. The cost of an IUD ranges anywhere from $60-$100 (hormonal cost more), and the insertion fee is about $40.
What does it feel like?
The big question: How does an IUD insertion feel? I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous to get mine in, and full disclosure, it did hurt a bit – but the pain was just like the mother of all period cramps, and is probably a mere modicum of the pain of giving birth (that thing that you’re avoiding by getting an IUD). Here are some gif-tastic thoughts I had while my feet were in the stirrups:
This is HAPPENING. I am a bossa$$ B*tch. I can do this. I got this.
Cold, cold, cold. Cold. Cold iodine.
Huh, I guess that’s what my cervix is.
Holy sh*t it’s in! I did it! I DID IT!
After that the doctor lets you hang out in the office as long as you want. There’s a little bleeding and cramping, but other than that it’s really pretty chill. Then you walk around the rest of the day feeling very adult and awesome. Initially my period cramps were pretty super-charged (standard side-effect of the copper IUD) but they’re finally starting to kick my ass a little less, and except for the occasional freak out when I can’t find the strings (they were wrapped around my cervix for the first month, and yes you definitely, definitely will know for sure when you feel them) I can say I’m pretty happy with the mostly stress-free birth control that is my IUD.
If you have any questions about this writer’s personal experience, feel free to email [email protected] – if you have questions about IUDs, though, you should probably ask a real doctor instead of a know-it-all English major.