Updated: Aug 28
Reproductive health is certainly an important discussion when it comes to health,
and I am beyond grateful for those who share all their reproduction-related experiences online.
Unfortunately, it's not something we learn much about in school despite it being such vital information in our lives, and not everyone is lucky enough to have such an amazing doctor like I do (on top of having free health care-thanks Canada!)
So, to pay it forward, here is my experience getting an IUD.
For starters, what even is an IUD?
IUD stands for intra-uterine device.
It is in my opinion the best birth control method, since it is inserted into your uterus and left there for 3-10 years depending on which IUD is used, and is more than 99% effective. You can also have it removed before it's expiry date if you'd like to, for whatever reason.
That means your chances of getting pregnant with it are less than 1%, and you don't have to constantly worry about taking your birth control pills with you everywhere you go, and taking them at the same time every day.
There are two different types of IUDS: hormonal and copper.
The difference between them is that hormonal IUDs have a slightly higher efficacy rate of 99.8%, alter your hormones, and can last up to 5 years; while copper IUDs have a success rate of 99.2%, do not introduce any hormones into your body, and can last up to 10 years.
So why did I choose to get a copper IUD?
Besides the obvious of not having to stress about taking a pill on schedule or forgetting my pill at home one day, I don't like the idea of messing with my hormones.
It frustrates me that hormonal birth control is presented as this easy, magic solution to all your problems, when I actually know tons of people who have gone through hell and back due to hormone changes from birth control.
In extreme cases, some women and girls have even died from hormonal birth control, yet the public presents it as if it's no big deal. In the US alone, about 300-400 females die from hormonal birth control each year.
But who cares, right? Take your pill, have all the sex you want, you'll be fine. 🙄 *Sarcasm*
With the copper IUD, I didn't have to anticipate dealing with any of the issues on the long list of possible side effects as I would have to on hormonal birth control, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me.
That said, it is well known that copper IUDs can cause cramps and back pain a few days after insertion; make your periods longer, heavier, and more painful; and run a low risk of expulsion, infection, or perforation. Also, in very extreme cases, some people deal with copper toxicity, which is something I was not warned about.
The reality is that there is no form of birth control that runs 0 risks, and even though it's not portrayed this way in the media, sex and birth control are not simple and inconsequential, and should be taken more seriously. Anyways, that's a different topic for a different day, but I felt that was really important to throw in here since we're already talking about reproductive health.
Here's how it went:
First I made an appointment with my family doctor to ask her about getting a copper IUD, and we agreed that it would probably be a suitable device for me. She sent a referral to a gynecologist she recommended, and prescribed me a Mona Lisa IUD.
I went to the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy to pick up my IUD, which I purchased for $91.73 CAD.
If you're not Canadian, FYI, all doctors appointments and procedures are covered by health care, so I didn't have to spend any money on my family doctor or the gynecologist. But, any product you need to purchase, like medicine, a cast, a wheelchair, etc. needs to be covered yourself, which is why I had to pay for the IUD.
Ontario, the province I live in, is the only province that covers some birth control for females 24 and under, and I do happen to be 24, but I didn't feel like going through a whole process to get the IUD covered. Either way, I later learned that the Ontario Health Insurance Plan only covers Kyleena and Mirena IUDS (the hormonal ones) so I wouldn't have been eligible to get it covered anyways.
Anyways, after my doctor's appointment, the gynecologist's office got in touch with me to schedule 4 appointments. These consisted of the pre-insertion phone call, the insertion, the check-up ultrasound, and the post-insertion phone call.
The pre-insertion phone call with the gynecologist was very quick; we just went over which IUD I would be using, and she explained that I might have some cramping immediately after, and heavier and more painful periods for up to a year after. She also told me I need to arrive with a full bladder, and prescribed me misoprostol, a pill you insert in the vagina the night before IUD insertion in order to dilate the cervix.
I went back to my pharmacy to pick up the prescription, and the night before insertion, I inserted the misoprostol as prescribed.
The misoprostol itself caused some light cramping and spotting the next day, so I thought I was getting my period a few days early, but it turns out that's a normal side effect from the pill.
The day of my IUD insertion, I made sure to have some Advil on hand, just in case, because I read some stories about painful cramping post-insertion. Obviously, I also made sure to bring the IUD with me, lol.
When I arrived at the clinic, I was feeling pretty nervous. My poor friend was actually one of the unlucky ones that had her ovary punctured from her IUD insertion (ouch!), and I'd read lots of stories of how painful some people's untroubled insertions were.
To calm my nerves, I just kept reminding myself that however painful it will be still has to be better than getting pregnant when I don't want to.
When I got to the clinic, I was taken into a room where I received a transvaginal ultrasound (the one where they stick the thingy up your vag), hence why the gynecologist told me to show up with a full bladder. I'm really glad this was part of her procedure because I learned after that having an ultrasound before inserting an IUD can minimize any risks and simplify the process. So, even though it's not required, it's a really good precaution to take.
After the ultrasound, I had some bloodwork done and had to provide a urine sample, to make sure everything is ok and that I wasn't pregnant. I was not notified about this step prior to my appointment, so if you hate needles, beware.
Finally, I was called into the room where the gynecologist would insert the IUD. I asked her if she could let me know when she's going in and tell me when it's really gonna hurt so I could brace myself.
I won't lie, it was quite painful, but the gynecologist did a great job of slowly easing it in, so it certainly hurt less than someone who's had it shoved up way too quick. It was also easier to handle going in knowing that I was in for some pain; I can't imagine what an unpleasant shock it would have been if someone told me "don't worry, it only hurts a bit."
The part where the IUD actually goes in and is released felt like a sharp sting, and the cramping began immediately after.
I was pretty upset that no one told me to bring an Advil because I am oh so glad I had it on hand. I walked back to my car crouched over, feeling what I can only describe as the worst uterine cramp ever, and popped the Advils right away.
Thank goodness my car also has heated seats, because turning mine on full blast helped ease the pain as I drove home-the same way heating pads help ease menstrual pain.
Once I got home, I was bedridden the rest of the day. I moaned and groaned with a heating pad on my back and my uterus, the same way I do when my period pain gets real bad. Except, this was much worse than any period pain I'd ever felt before.
The post-insertion cramping subsided after a few days, and then I was able to get on with my life as per usual...until I got my next period.
It's been almost exactly 3 months since I got the IUD, and my periods are still much longer, heavier, and more painful than they were before. I have more spotting before and after, more blood flow during, and my period symptoms are more intense, and they last longer.
However, I have noticed that the flow of the periods is already starting to lessen, which is much better than it was just a month ago.
Since I never had a really heavy flow, my periods are still manageable. I now just need to get used to having more pads and tampons on me, whereas before I never had to worry about using a liner in case I bled through my tampon.
A few weeks ago, I went in for my pelvic ultrasound to make sure the IUD was properly in place, and everything is just fine. The appointment was quick and easy, and it was done abdominally, so I didn't even have to feel the discomfort of the stick thing up the vag. Lol.
The gynecologist called me a few days ago to have our post-insertion phone call, and there wasn't much to be said. She just asked me how I was doing and if I had any questions, and I had none to ask.
All in all, although I'm disappointed at how much important information I was not given prior to my insertion, I'm extremely glad that copper IUDs exist as an option. And I'm extremely glad I got one inserted.
When I travel alone, or go out at night, the fear of being raped has much less of a hold on me knowing that I probably won't get pregnant from it if I'm ever in such an awful situation.
I also feel at ease knowing that I have an extra layer of pregnancy prevention protecting me the next time I decide to be sexually active, and I don't have to pay for it with hormonal sanity.
Hopefully my periods become easier to handle soon, and hopefully this article has been helpful in influencing your birth control choices and knowledge.