The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has officially endorsed intrauterine devices (IUDs) as contraceptives for healthy women and teens (regardless of if they’ve given birth before or not). In honor of that, we want to get a little more informed about the lesser-known form of birth control, so we’ll be posting about IUDs and contraception options all week here at Blisstree. Today, I talk with Valerie Whitney, a musician and blogger living in Brooklyn, New York, who has used both the hormonal (the Mirena) and copper (the ParaGard) IUDs.
Why did you decide to try the IUD, and how long have you been using it?
I came to the IUD in college, and have had one for six years.
I had been on the pill since I was 15—I took my learner’s permit and drove myself to Planned Parenthood without anyone knowing. After nearly a decade on the pill, I had some trouble, bled for about a year straight, so my doctor recommended I try the low-hormone Mirena.
I used the Mirena IUD for the recommended five years, and it was awesome. I had two day periods and was very regular. The ParaGard IUD I’ve had for a year—the periods are much heavier, there’s intermittent spotting between periods and I think I feel more bloating.
So you prefer the Mirena?
I prefer the Mirena. I appreciated the much lighter periods and the clearer skin (from the hormones, I’m sure). I decided to try the ParaGard because it’s good for 10 years vs. the five years of the Mirena, and I was on a “No Hormones” kick when I had it changed out. In retrospect, I think I should have gotten another Mirena. The hormones in the Mirena are so low-dose and controlled release that I really don’t mind.
Did you ever have any trouble with doctors or insurance companies about your IUD?
When I replaced the first one, it was a little trouble for me because there was some insurance rigamarole; I had to wait a week and do some paperwork. I think the frustration came with the particular gyn office I was using- not very organized. I had to do some of the legwork. Initially the office told me I had to take a written script for the IUD to a surgical supply pharmacy, and physically bring the device to the office, where they would put it in. Apparently this was not the case, and I couldn’t pick up the IUD because insurance would only cover it if it was dispensed through the office. It was a hassle, but not impossible. Eventually, with many phone calls, I was able to have it sorted out. The first time, I didn’t have any of this insurance hassle, but I can’t say why.
What do you consider the upsides and, if any, the drawbacks of using an IUD for contraception?
I appreciate not thinking about it. I appreciate the convenience and long term-ness of it. I like that I don’t have to remember every day or week (I had previously been on the pill, the ring, and the patch. ) It’s convenient and easy. I don’t want children, but if you do, you can have it removed and start trying right away.
Drawbacks: Some people say it causes weight gain (I’ve had some, but I think it’s most attributed to other environmental factors—living with a boy, eating boy portions, stuff like that).
Can you feel it? Is it ever uncomfortable?
I can not feel it now. It was VERY uncomfortable to have it put in. I remembered this from my first time and the second time prepared by getting a script for a few Percocet to take before the procedure and then one or two after. After the first 3 days it goes away, I don’t feel it.
Has someone you’ve been having sex with ever been able to feel it inside you?
Me: Have you ever felt my IUD?
Husband: Just the string
Me: How so?
Husband: A little tickle. It’s not weird or anything, I’m just sometimes aware of it. Doesn’t bother me at all.