Me, Myself, and IUD

Today I'm going to talk about something a little personal, and well outside the realm of fashion or the vintage life - birth control! 

I've been on the pill off and on (mostly on) since I was 14. The pill is easy to use and works well if you use it right, remembering to take it every day at about the same time. I'd never really considered using anything else, but a couple of years ago friends started telling me about their experiences with a longer lasting form of birth control, an Interuterine Device, or IUD.

IUD's had kind of a bad reputation for a while. They've been around since the 70s, and back then they came with some nasty potential side effects, including sterility. In recent years, though, they've become a lot safer and more reliable, and doctors started recommending them not just for women who had already had children and didn't want anymore at the moment, but for women like me who had never given birth and wanted a form of birth control that they didn't have to think about all the time. 

Colorado recently pioneered a program to give teen girls access to IUDs and other longer lasting forms of birth control, like hormonal implants. The results were really remarkable - the state saw a 40% drop in teen pregnancies the first year that the program was implemented, and further decreases the year after. Unfortunately, Republicans blocked further funding for the program, but the results speak for themselves. I actually grew up in Colorado, and I know more than a few girls who might have lived different lives if they'd had access to something like that.

Getting an IUD inserted is a little more expensive than getting a prescription for birth control pills, but I've got good health insurance and the moment, I know I don't want kids for at least a few more years, if ever, and some kinds of IUDs can even stop your period. It sounded like a win all around, so I decided I was finally ready to take the plunge.

My experience with the insertion was pretty typical, I think. (Pardon me if this gets a little graphic for you.)

Basically, the IUD is a t-shaped device that gets inserted into your uterus. Yes, right up in the baby maker. The insertion was a lot like getting a pap smear - you lay back with your feet up in the stirrups, they insert a speculum and crank everything open, and then insert the IUD (with the arms down) into your uterus. Once everything is in place, they extend the arms, which keep the device where it's meant to be, take out the speculum, and tuck the strings into the place. The actual procedure only take a couple of minutes.

In terms of discomfort, yes, there was some. It varies for everyone - if you've already had a baby, you might not feel much of anything, just because your cervix and your uterus are going to be a little more pliable. I'd taken a dose of misoprostol to soften my cervix, so the discomfort was fairly mild until he opened up the arms of the device in my uterus, and which point apparently my uterus was like "the fuck, dude?" and started spasming. Think really bad period cramps, with a dash of the rumbley feeling you get in your stomach before a really bad case of diarrhea. It's a pretty unpleasant sensation, and apparently some women actually faint from the pain, but to my mind it wasn't really any worse than, say, getting a tattoo, or hitting your funny bone hard.

They gave me a dose of ibuprofen and let me chill out for a little while. About 10 minutes later, I walked home, and spent the next few hours just hanging out and eating ice cream. The insertion was at about 9:30 in the morning, and by late afternoon I was back to normal. 

There are a few different versions of the IUD, some with hormones, some without. The one that I chose was the Mirena, which contains a hormone called levonorgestral and lasts for up to 5 years. I picked that one mostly because it's the one that can get rid of your period, although I did also consider the Paragard, which can last up to 12 years. Paragard is neat because it's non-hormonal; it's wrapped in copper, which apparently sperm are allergic to. Who knew? 

Of course, there are some risks. It can cause uterine perforation or ectopic pregnancy, but both of those side effects are pretty rare, about 1-1000. You can also expel your IUD, which would suck given the cost and discomfort of insertion. All in all, though, it's pretty safe, and the hormonal ones can even lower your risk of certain cancers.

We'll have to see how everything goes - I mean, I just got it, so I can't really say if it's keeping me from getting knocked up or whatever yet - but as of now, I'm definitely a convert.

Normally this is the point where I'd ask something like "so what do you use for birth control," but that would be kind of weird. If anyone is curious about getting an IUD, though, definitely feel free to shoot me an email.

Unrelated, but I couldn't pass up a singing uterus.