When I first started considering the IUD in my early 20s, I went really deep into the online forums. Reddit, Livejournal (!), Tumblr, all of them. There, I found so many wildly different experiences of IUDs, from “totally uneventful” to “worse than childbirth.” The most horrific and scary ones tend to float to the top, which is an unfortunate aspect of the internet.
But after considering all the potential benefits, when I was 26 and in a long-term relationship, I finally decided to go ahead with it. I decided to get the Kyleena, which is available in the US and lasts five years. It has a slightly lower hormone dose than the more-common Mirena hormonal IUD, and is smaller in size. I was lucky enough to have health insurance through my workplace at the time, and living in New York City with relatively-easy access to good healthcare.
I wanted to share my experience because birth control and especially IUDs are not one-size-fits-all. Even among the team at Clue, we’ve had a wide range of experiences with birth control methods. The more stories that we can share—even the uneventful ones—the better informed we can be about our options.
Birth control trial and error, and then BV
For years, I used condoms (with new partners) and then the "pull-out" method (with long-term partners). I knew the risks. But about twice a year, I experienced a flush of stress and anxiety about possibly being pregnant, though usually my periods were delayed due to stress.
I’d asked two gynecologists about getting the IUD. The first said that I should try the pill first. I never filled the prescription. I was worried about the way the pill might affect my mood and mental health, as I take antidepressant medication.
The second gynecologist told me that if it were her, she wouldn’t get an IUD in before having children. She scared me about the possibility of perforation. I’ve since learned that this is not standard advice, and that most gynecologists do recommend IUDs as long-acting reversible contraception.
The third time’s the charm! Goldilocks, etc. When I told the next gynecologist that I was interested in getting an IUD, she trusted I had done my research. She said that she had to make sure I had no infections with a pelvic exam and Pap test, and would then refer me to another doctor to do the insertion.
During my pelvic exam, she told me that I had "a little BV.” “What’s BV?” I had no idea.
Then, preparation for the insertion
On the morning of the insertion, I followed all the doctor’s instructions. I ate a good meal, took ibuprofen one hour ahead of my appointment time, and then took a previously-prescribed anxiety medication 30 minutes ahead, to ease my nerves.
At the clinic, a very knowledgeable and warm nurse practitioner asked me some questions. Though I had used Clue to schedule the appointment on my expected first day of my period—they recommended this, so that my cervix was more open—I hadn't gotten my period yet.
About two weeks prior, I had taken Plan B (emergency contraception), which tends to alter my cycles. I had no idea where I was in my cycle, and was slightly relieved when they gave me a pregnancy test and confirmed it was negative. But they told me to take another test in two weeks, just to make sure that there wasn't any pregnancy developing.
They offered a local anesthetic for my cervix and I enthusiastically said yes.
During the procedure, the nurse practitioner did most of the work under the supervision of a doctor. The whole thing took 10 minutes, tops. She walked me through everything that was happening. At the end, I think the doctor stepped in to do the actual insertion, and the ultrasound to confirm its proper placement. There was a bit of discomfort during the procedure, but I'd compare it to the discomfort of a Pap test, with a bit of pinching. I did some deep breathing throughout the entire time I was in stirrups. I hate stirrups.
After the insertion
My partner at the time had accompanied me to the clinic. Afterward we ate fried chicken sandwiches, and then I went home to lie down.
I didn't have any cramping at first, but I had a bit of mild cramping later in the day. About 36 hours after the procedure, I had pretty bad cramps, comparable to my heaviest period days. I think having a heavy period with pretty bad cramps for most of my life prepped me well—if I wasn't used to bad cramps, I would have been shocked by their intensity.
Nearly two years after the insertion
I am coming up on my second anniversary of the insertion. Overall, I’m really glad I have it.
My periods have lightened significantly, and are these days mostly brown blood that I don’t even need to wear a tampon for. I don’t have debilitating cramps anymore, which has vastly improved my quality of life.
I like that I’m still ovulating and still have a real period on the IUD—unlike with the pill, which causes withdrawal bleeding and stops monthly cycles. It is nice to have a monthly confirmation that I’m not pregnant.
After six months, I noticed that I had more coarse facial hairs on my chin and that my premenstrual acne was a bit worse. Nothing else has really changed in my life, so my new gynecologist in Germany speculated it could have been due to the IUD. But she couldn’t confirm it. She also spotted a cyst on my ovary, which I learned is very common—it went away after a few months.
I decided that these potential side effects are not outweighed by the peace of mind and the lighter periods that I experience now. Thumbs up for the IUD (so far!).
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