An IUD Diary
Getting an IUD has been the least sexual experience of my life. It hasn’t even remotely enhanced my sex life, because despite being nearly impregnable, all I did for two weeks after insertion was roll around in my bed crying, wailing, and being double-teamed by heating pads. Nowadays, I probably get as much nookie as I was getting before, but I’m saving a boatload on condoms and birth control pills.
I got Paragard, a non-hormonal copper intrauterine device (IUD) shoved through my cervix on July 27th, and I’m somewhat convinced that it’s an effective birth control method because you’ll never feel like you want to (or if blood is a deterrent, even be able to) have sex again. My best friend Elle also got Paragard (albeit a few weeks earlier), and had a much better all-around experience than I did.
Procedurally speaking, your gynecologist has to approve you for an IUD before you can get it, and I can’t speak for every OB/GYN office, but my office didn’t keep the IUD stocked on-hand; it had to be ordered from Paragard and sent to the office. This meant that I had to make two separate appointments. My appointment for assessment and approval basically consisted of telling my gynecologist why I wanted an IUD – specifically Paragard, although we talked about alternate options (she was extremely gung-ho about Mirena). She said that insertion would be a short and simple outpatient procedure and that they’d prescribe me cervical softeners to take the day of the procedure. Since I was switching insurance between June and July, she also said they’d try to get me in before the end of the month so that we could get me an accurate idea of what it would cost. It was a surprisingly simple appointment, and since I’d read about Paragard, I didn’t have too many questions, and she didn’t volunteer any information that led me to generate any.
Why I wanted Paragard:
- Paragard is non-hormonal, and hormonal female birth control (FBC) inevitably turns me into a miserable wretch every time I get it. I’ve tried the NuvaRing, Ortho, Seasonale, and Loestrin24Fe. All of these hormonal solutions have initially seemed like they were passable candidates for controlling my periods from hell… for a couple months. After a few months I’d go back to being miserable and irregular, in some cases, my periods got even worse. That said, I wasn’t inclined to put a hormonal IUD in my body.
- If no complications arise, Paragard is a method of birth control that’s over 99% effective for up to 10 years. This seemed a lot more cost-effective than Mirena, which lasts 5 years.
- I’m in a monogamous, fluid-bonded relationship with a partner that I trust. Paragard doesn’t protect against STDs, and if those were a concern, I would use a barrier. My primary concern is unwanted pregnancy.
My friend Elle lives in the Seattle area of Washington state. I live in North Carolina. Elle went to Planned Parenthood for her procedure, and the assessment appointment involved a discussion with a nurse practitioner about cost, what her period is like, potential side effects, and a step-by-step walkthrough of what the procedure would entail.
My insurance changed carriers because no one from my OB/GYN’s office called me or returned my calls within the time frame we had planned to do the procedure. Both carriers covered family planning and IUDs, so I didn’t cancel the appointment when they finally did call to tell me that they had just put in the order for it, and it would arrive within the next 2-3 days. They’d call to schedule an appointment when it came in. They were about two days late calling about that, as well… and when they did call, they didn’t say or do anything about the promised cervical softeners, or even about taking painkillers before I came in.
Meanwhile, on the opposite coast, Elle had a two week wait (that was scheduled) between her authorization and her appointment. She was told to dope up on 600mg of Ibuprofen before she came in. Good advice! Wish it’d been given to me!
Procedure-wise, I went in without medication. I should have thought about the fact that they would be shoving something into my uterus, but honestly, she said it would only be slightly painful during the procedure and that I’d be able to go about the rest of my day. So I came in, did a pregnancy test, was shown the IUD and magical gun-syringe combo that would shove it through my cervix, and we got down to business.
- My doctor opened me up with a speculum. Twice. Gynecologists always need a longer speculum, and NONE OF THEM believe me when I tell them that they will. I was miffed that she didn’t listen to me, but I have yet to encounter an OB/GYN that will take me seriously. I suspect it’s because I crack jokes about my vagina.
- Because my cervix was so high up, my doctor used Kelly forceps (the ones that resemble scissors) to pull it down. SHE PULLED MY CERVIX DOWN. WITH LITTLE TOOTHY CLAMPS. I hate having my cervix touched unless I’m at a certain stage in my hormonal cycle, or being fisted. This was neither. Despite this being necessary for the procedure, I spent the entirety of this five-minute process (yes, it took THAT many tries to grip it and get it at the right angle) thinking about what a sadistic fuckface she was.
- She then proceeded to shove the gun-syringe into my tool-laden cunt and told me that pushing the IUD past my cervix would be the most excruciating part of the procedure. I joked that I was quaking in my boots… but then she did it and I actually quaked. It was HARD. She met more than a little bit of resistance from my cervix. (Gee, I wonder if those fabled cervical softeners would have helped with that.) My uterus immediately began feeling like it was seizing. If you are in possession of a uterus and you suffer from heavy periods and cramps so severe that they keep you out of work or school, then you may be able to imagine a fraction of the pain I was in. My back arched up off the table. I tried very hard not to yell.
- Once the little fucker was in, the cramping continued for a few minutes, then subsided. I was advised to sit up very slowly if I felt capable… because apparently a few people have been known to faint. Or barf! Maybe both! I’m not made of sterner stuff – I just have never managed to faint. Once the cramps subsided, they sent me toodling back off to work!
But when I got to work, I took 800mg of Ibuprofen and 1500mg of Acetaminophen for the cramps, because they came back about five minutes after I walked out of the doctor’s office. I spent an hour rolling around my office, alternating between sitting, standing, and wiggling. I shut my door and wailed. I finally called my supervisor and asked if I could leave (MY LAST DAY OF WORK) when my counterpart came back from lunch at 1.
I then proceeded to suffer two of the most excruciating weeks of my life. I bled so many buckets of pig’s blood that you could have doused 40 prom queens. I cramped nonstop. I didn’t think it would ever end. I called the office after a week and a half to ask if there was anything I could do for the pain or if this was a sign of complications, and they were like, “Nah, you’re fine, call us in a few days if it doesn’t let up.” (In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my OB/GYN sucked. They’re closed now, which is both unsuprising and shitty, since the other gynecologist’s office here has treated me extremely poorly.)
You’re instructed to check the strings (they hang down into your vaginal canal – my partner doesn’t notice) for changes in length that might indicate migration after every period. My doctor told me to call and schedule a follow-up in three weeks to check my strings.
Something else my doctor neglected to tell me was that you have to be careful when using menstrual cups with an IUD. (Fortunately, Elle’s doctor told her, and she told me.) There is, at least initially, some concern about breaking the suction of your menstrual cup before you pull it out… I guess because you don’t want it trying to yank out your IUD if you don’t break the suction. Since then, I’ve only used the cup once or twice, because my fingers aren’t really long enough to break the suction properly. I would like to go back to using my menstrual cup, because it saves you a bundle on tampons and pads. (Expect more on the virtues of a menstrual cup some other time.)
How much does Paragard cost? I have no idea! I never got an insurance statement. I never got a bill. I couldn’t tell you. Paragard’s site has a cost chart that says it’s $754. They also offer payment plans, which is very fair of them.
Do I recommend Paragard? Honestly, if it fits your lifestyle, then sure I do. It will save you a ton of money in the long run, and it’s practically foolproof in its effectiveness. Everyone reacts differently to it. Elle and I are both overweight (something that I was told could make your after-insertion experience more severe) and both had totally different experiences with the procedure and our periods. I obviously can’t guarantee which you’ll have, because if I had any say over it, my periods wouldn’t come barreling out of the depths of hell. If hormones control your periods well, then Mirena might be a better choice for you than Paragard. (I’m not a gynecologist – consult with one about which you should choose.) The procedure is still going to be a little painful, but cervical softeners and/or ibuprofen will help a little bit. If your periods are bad, account for the fact that you might lose a little bit of time to terrible cramping after your procedure. It was my last day of work, so I was free to wallow for the next fourteen days… which is good, because there’s no way I could have gone to work and kept my composure during that time. You may not suffer that long, but I can’t promise that you won’t see at least two terrible days.
It’s December now, so I’ve had Paragard for a while. What’s it like? I get a lot of severe, random cramps. I often start cramping a week before my period. My period is still somewhat unpredictable, and the flow varies – sometimes it’s even heavier than before, sometimes it’s average (for me… which is still pretty heavy). In comparison, Elle has had few complaints about Paragard’s effect on her periods. I’m so jealous that my tears are green. On the upside, though, I never have to worry about forgetting to take a birth control pill or running out of condoms. The relief of never having another pregnancy scare is almost worth all the trouble.