On January 19, 2017, I tried setting an appointment to insert an intrauterine device, otherwise known as an IUD, as a form of birth control. I wanted to get it done on that date because that was Trump’s inauguration and I was afraid there would be no Affordable Care Act to cover it. But, I learned all of the appointments were booked and set the procedure for about two weeks later on February 6, 2017. After going in with a friend, yelling obscenities in the infirmary, and being put in stir-ups for what felt like an eternity, I emerged with an IUD in me.
For those wondering, I decided to go with the hormonal IUD, specifically Mirena. I did not want to go with the copper IUD because I was trying to avoid heavy periods. I hated my period, and that would defeat the purpose of me getting an IUD. Additionally, the copper IUD is mainly used for people who are allergic to the hormonal one.
Honestly, this was one of the best decisions I have made about my health in my life. I had the basic background information that they tell you about getting it from the internet, but I wish I knew more about it because it’s still a learning process even two years after getting it. Which is why I’ve compiled a list of five things I wish I knew would happen before getting it because it’s better to be prepared, especially when it comes to personal health.
1. It does not actually hurt for a long time
A common misconception is that you’ll be bedridden for a couple of days because of the IUD insertion. It makes sense considering you have a thick tube inserted through your cervix, and for most people, a cervix is stretched out only when giving birth.
In all reality, I was only in pain for two days after the procedure. I was so afraid of the pain that I had to get a note excusing me from my night class, but the pain subsided within two hours. At the same time, I was cramping really bad and had to do hot compresses, but that also went away quickly. I was back to normal the next day, but there was something that got getting used to at the beginning of having an IUD, which leads me to my next point.
2. You will feel the wires in the beginning until they “soften”
Hanging off the end of an IUD is a pair of metal wires. While this might sound scary to some, they’re pretty harmless because they are super thin and body safe. They are there to indicate that the IUD is still in place and has not shifted. They do get annoying right after insertion.
If you’ve ever had braces, there were times the wire would be too long and catch on the side of your mouth. That’s what the IUD wires reminded me of. The ends would catch inside of my vagina, and it was so awkward to walk around feeling that. I was never warned about it, and it wasn’t like I could do anything about it.
3. Your periods will thankfully be gone…but not for a while
I hated my period because I was always that person that would never have enough pads. Also, I hated the cramping, being self-conscious while lying down and sweating between my legs. Spending excessive amounts of money on menstrual hygiene products wasn’t great either.
When I got my IUD, I was so excited about not having to deal with all of that. This further added to the reason why I got the hormonal IUD. However, I did not reap the benefits until about a year and a half later. I still got my period during this year and a half, but it was more unpredictable. Before getting an IUD, I would get my period every 28 days for four days. Then, it turned into periods lasting a week.
4. When your periods are gone, spotting will visit you often
This might be the most frustrating part of having an IUD. For those who don’t know, spotting is when your body releases small amounts of blood in between periods. This happens so often to me. I had no idea what was happening the first time because I never spotted pre-IUD.
The spotting requires me to wear a pad a lot. Because it’s so little, I usually have to throw the pad away before it is used completely. Sometimes the blood doesn’t come onto the pad but only comes out if I am wiping myself clean. Chaffing also occurs because of the pad rubbing against the skin. It’s such a waste of money and pads.
With an IUD, spotting will be random. It might be every day for a couple of weeks, or once in a blue moon. I always keep a stock of pads because of this, and it does pay off.
5. You might have to take an abortion pill before the insertion
Depending on the practitioner you see, you might be prescribed an abortion pill to help the insertion process by dilating your cervix. Some practitioners might prescribe it to fully make sure that you’re not pregnant. In my case, I was prescribed Misoprostol, which I learned was a pill used to induce abortion.
While this did make the insertion process better, the effects the medicine brought about were hell. I remember I had an event to go to the day before the procedure, and I had to spend a good portion of it doubled over in the bathroom because I was cramping so bad. Even though I wasn’t pregnant, I was feeling the full effects of the pill. If your provider suggests this to you, then have a conversation with them because you should be fully informed of what might happen. I was down for anything, and I went for taking the pills.
As said before, getting an IUD was a great decision on my part. If you are considering birth control options, talk to your provider about your options and ask about an IUD. They last for a long time –– my Mirena is going to last for five years from my insertion date. Ultimately, do what you think is best for you because it’s your own body.