After getting sick of listening to my birth control alarm go off every night, I decided to switch to an IUD. Since it’s becoming a lot more popular among young women, I thought I’d share the experience — an event I’m now referring to as Cervix Slam 2K10.
Here is what I think you should know…
1. More doctors than you might think are down with the IUD. A lot of people are surprised to hear that that the IUD is now being used by women who are young and childless — it used to be pretty exclusively reserved for women who had had kids before. You can see why girls want it — it keeps you baby-free for up to five years and is a pretty “set it and forget it” method. I had heard that finding a doctor who would do it would be challenging, but when I asked two doctors in the group I go to about it, they both said it was a great option. Once I knew my doctor was down, I just wanted to find out what my insurance would cover, and I was delighted to learn everything was covered. Ask and you shall receive, right?
2. Don’t pee right when you get to the doctor’s office — at least not until they give you a cup! Neither the Mirena web site nor the receptionist told me to come with a full bladder, but I did anyway. And then when I asked to use the bathroom before my appointment, no one stopped me. When I exited the bathroom, I saw my doctor and nurse and said, “Oh hi! I was just going to the bathroom before you’re ready for me!” My doctor said, “Oooh…did you happen to save it?” Well, sir, I don’t generally save my pee unless am explicitly told to do so.
Apparently, they have to do a pregnancy test right before inserting the IUD. I started chugging water in an effort to go again. They came and prepped me in the meantime, but then we were all kept waiting until I could go again. (Luckily, I turned it around in about 15 minutes, something I was rather proud of.)
3. Know what’s going to happen to you. Reading the Mirena Web site was somewhat helpful…but reading this post about an insertion experience was the best thing I could have done. The Mirena site gave me an idea of what all would happen, but I would not have been prepared for the pain had I not read Libby’s account. Not that I was totally prepared for the pain.
4. Know that it’s going to hurt like hell. Let me just start by saying that I have a very high pain tolerance. From a nose ring in college to Brazilians and laser hair removal to a tattoo to major surgery, I never really stress about pain when it’s for the greater good. I thought that if I could handle all those experiences without any major issues, I could handle a little old IUD insertion. I’ll admit, though, after reading Libby’s story, I was really nervous.
And my anxiousness was justified, because I can honestly say that this was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.
Because I had read Libby’s post, I knew there were going to be three moments of “big pain.” She said that people cry and even faint. So I was prepared for it…but then, I was so not prepared for it.
I wasn’t exactly screaming…but that’s probably the closest description for what I was doing.
I’m sure you’ve all experienced some form of “Hey, that thing is kinda big!” pain. Yeah…that’s one thing, and sure, it’s not fun. But. That’s pain in your vagina, which actually doesn’t have a lot of nerve endings. Pain deep up in your insides? Is a whole other story.
Honestly, if someone told me that a masked man had just come into the exam room and shot me in the gut, I would have believed it. It felt like the worst cramps you could ever imagine…times a thousand.
Now, if you ask your mom/aunt/older sister what it feels like, she is going to tell you something very different — because she has had children. Going through a cervix that has at one point accommodated a baby, and going through a cervix that still gets a little skeeved out by tampons are two completely different things. Do not listen to anyone who tells you she went for a run later that day if you know she also went home to her child.
I took pain medicine ahead of time, so maybe that helped a little (I can’t even imagine if I hadn’t). Even with that, I’m surprised I didn’t pass out or throw up. I had a strong urge to do both. After the procedure was done — it only took about five minutes — I just had to lay there for a few minutes because I could barely breathe. Pain like that just takes it out of you. I was dizzy, nauseous, and just holding my abdomen.
5. Plan to have a chauffeur. The receptionist said I could plan to drive myself home, as did Libby, but I decided that I’d probably want a little TLC after this, so I asked Eric to drive me. Best decision I’ve ever made. If I hadn’t had him to drive me home, I probably would have sat at the office for another hour because I felt way too weak to do it myself. Once in the car, I had to recline the seat all the way back because sitting was so uncomfortable. Every time he hit the breaks — which was a lot during rush hour in Houston — it hurt. Just…everything hurt.
6. Buy a heating pad ahead of time. One of my first thoughts after the procedure was, “This needs heat on it.” I don’t own a heating pad, so we stopped at Walgreens to get one. Getting out of the car actually helped — I found that standing was a little bit more comfortable than being in the car — but I wish we hadn’t had to make any stops. All I wanted was to get home and lay in bed. I also recommend having some ice cream in the freezer — that’s pretty much the only thing you’re going to want to eat after.
7. Clear your schedule. Because I hadn’t known how much pain I’d be in, I didn’t make any plans for the weekend and I am so glad I didn’t. I’m sure the recovery time is different for everyone, but when you decide to have this done, don’t commit to anything big for the next couple days because you just may not be feeling up to it. Personally, I found that I felt better about two hours later — and by “better,” I mean, I started to have a bit of an appetite (for ice cream) and I felt like I could move. But then I stayed at that level for the rest of the night and the next day. Thank goodness for the History Channel marathon of “America: the Story of Us.” I needed that ten straight hours of entertainment.
Late on Saturday, I felt better, so Eric and I went to get some food and wandered around Kohl’s…and by the time we got back, I was feeling a lot worse for the wear. I went straight back to bed with the heating pad. It got better and worse for the rest of the day, so then Eric just accused me of faking it, and said that I was in the most pain when I wanted him to do something for me.
8. Make sure your SO knows what you’re going through. I didn’t want Eric to come into the exam room with me, and I spared him the details of what exactly they were doing in there — I want him to think of my vagina as fun place, not a scary place — but I did want him to feel a little sympathy for me. Immediately after, I was trying to put on a brave face and not cry, so I’m not sure he realized how bad it was. I mean, that’s the only explanation I can give for why he made a joke about fisting as we were getting in the elevator. My eyes started to well up. “Too soon?” he said, as I hobbled to the car. The next day, I asked him if he’d take three swift kicks to the balls if it meant he’d be sterile for the next three years. He plead the fifth.
9. Remember that your body forgets pain. It’s weird how this morning, I can’t really remember the pain. The worst of it was over within a couple hours and from there, it felt pretty miserable, but your body does forget pain. Even though I spent Friday and Saturday feeling like I had sustained a traumatic injury, this morning, I feel completely back to normal.
I’m really interested to see if I notice a difference from the lower dose of hormones. I also have no idea what will happen to my period. I was on Seasonale for a few years, and I got very used to the lack of periods. Allegedly, that will happen again, but probably not for several months.
Earlier this fall, even though I hadn’t missed any birth control pills, I had started to get a weird set of symptoms, including nausea. Everyone and her sister was hinting at me that I was with child, and even though I knew I wasn’t, I decided to take a pregnancy test, just so I could say, “NO FUCKING WAY” the next time someone said, “Hope you’re not pregnant!” in response to my “I haven’t been feeling great lately.” It was my first time taking one, and, after spending $15 I didn’t have for a Walgreens brand two-pack, I managed to pee all over myself and the bathroom during my quest to find out exactly what I already knew. That was pretty much when I decided I wanted a method that was more effective than the Pill.
I love the benefits that the IUD has to offer. It’s five years of birth control, of never having to worry about missing a pill, of never having to get a prescription refilled (which has been an ongoing pain in the ass since I moved to Texas), and of never having to pay a co-pay. So, of course, now that I’m pain-free, I’m saying that it was a good idea. In five years, when I have to get that little sucker removed, I’m going to be singing a different tune.
But ultimately, I learned one thing from this experience and that is that childbirth now terrifies me. I really only like pain when it’s going to make me skinner or sexier. I guess this made me sexier though — I mean, I’ve watched enough “16 & Pregnant” to know how much of a turn-off the alternative is.
Update: In December 2011 I had my IUD removed.