By now I would think all women taking, or of age to take, contraceptives have heard ads for IUDs or Intrauterine Devices. The little pieces of plastic or copper that go into the uterus to prevent pregnancy for up to three to five years. Advertisements air frequently on television; cue images of medicine commercials with subjects depicting a carefree, happy existence thanks to this product.
Having tried many different types of birth control methods over the last fifteen years, I feel it is important to share a real experience with an IUD. Granted, I know some people who have had them and loved them, but this wasn’t my experience. I have actually had three different IUDs in my body. The first was a copper IUD, followed by two Mirena(TM) devices. All three experiences were negative. I would urge anyone considering these devices to do their research and really think about what would be best for their body based on their personal experiences and preferences. Stay with me for why I did this three times…
Copper IUD (Paraguard)
After being on birth control pills for a number of years I decided to try a different method. I wanted to see how getting off hormones would affect my body. I didn’t do much research on different methods of contraception; of course, I knew the basic options and I began birth control pills for several reasons at age seventeen. At that time, you took the pill or the patch, at least, those are what seemed to be my options.
At this time in my life, I was married and wanted to have a few years of time with just us as a married couple, so I decided to try the IUD. This was one of the most painful experiences I have had in my life.
I thought I could go to work after having this put in – oh no. The cramping was so severe that I was unable to get out of bed for an entire day. All stages of my menstrual cycle became much more painful, my mood went nuts, and overall it was just a terrible experience.
I later realized that the Paraguard device isn’t ideal for women who haven’t experienced pregnancy or childbirth; it is incredibly large when compared to the other IUDs on the market. I decided to have this device removed after a few months. I just couldn’t get used to the changes it brought me and returned to birth control pills for a while.
Mirena IUD (My first time using it)
Following the birth of my daughter, I decided to get another IUD because I did get pregnant while taking birth control pills. At the time, I was incredibly stressed so I’m sure I made a mistake with them, but I am now so glad I did. While loving my baby girl I knew I wasn’t ready for another baby so quickly, which is why I decided to give another smaller, hormone-based IUD a try. At his advice, I had my doctor place it in three months postpartum.
I didn’t have any major issues with it this time; it was a little uncomfortable having it placed but nothing like the copper one. It would have been placed in the month of October that year. The next month, on Thanksgiving Day actually, I remember having this intense and sudden itching at the very top of my thigh – I run upstairs and realize where the itch is coming from – and the entire device just came out into my underwear (TMI I know).
The device had completely dislodged itself. I went back to my doctor and he told me that sometimes the body just does things we can’t explain and that what I experienced was rare. When that happened, I decided to go back on NuvaRing since it was a bit more stable than birth control pills and didn’t rely on me remembering to take a pill every single day, since I had a four-month-old at the time.
I tried the Mirena IUD a second time, and when I did it finally hit me that foreign objects in my body are not tolerated well. This time I decided to try the IUD again because I have a toddler, and have not been able to make up my mind about trying for another baby.
One of the benefits of the IUD is that once it is removed it does not delay your fertility (according to my OBGYN). Having it placed this time around wasn’t too bad. Still not great, but no worse than a typical pelvic exam. Not too long after having it placed I had to go in to have the strings shortened, which was a bit of a pain. After giving it the full six-month adjustment period, I had to have it removed.
Even with the hormones in the Mirena, it caused a huge shift in how I felt, very similar feeling to when I had the Paraguard. It caused me to (in my opinion) change my antidepressants because something felt wrong. This triggered extreme upset in my life. I felt out of control, angry, hormonal, and very much like Dr. Jeykll and Mr. Hyde. The emotional effects were too much to bear. I honestly felt like I was going insane. I knew I couldn’t do this to my body any longer and made the soonest appointment I could.
Getting this one removed was very difficult. Due to the shortened strings, my doctor had trouble finding the placement. After several attempts to remove it, the device had to be removed under ultrasound guidance. They told me I may have to come back another day to have it removed unless the technician could fit me in. I started to panic. Thankfully my practice is awesome and was able to get me in the ultrasound room to get it out for good! After another final attempt, it was out.
Once it was removed, I felt an instant weight off my shoulders. I can’t explain it but I know that this shift in hormone levels, etc. did something to me and threw me way off. My mental health seriously declined after getting this device. After having it removed I can tell a difference in how my body feels. I’m going to let my body go contraceptive free for a little while to figure out what the next best move is.
If you’ve stuck with me, thank you. I hope anyone reading this does a little extra research when considering contraception. I urge you, or anyone you know, thinking about getting an IUD to think about the adjustment time period and carefully consider all of your available options. And be sure to talk to your doctor, and ask lots of questions.