Me And My IUD: One Week In


Just me and my IUD card, kickin' it like old pals

Last week, I got my very first IUD, effectively joining the Adult Women With Long Term Non-Permanent Birth Control Club. I wanted to let you know how that whole thing went, in case you’ve ever considered getting one. Spoiler: It was both not as bad and also worse than I thought.

The not-as-bad part was the actual insertion. At my OB/GYN’s advice, I took 800 mg of ibuprofen before the actual appointment…and took two Xanax that she kindly prescribed me. My boyfriend and I don’t have a car, but we got a ZipCar, and he very patiently drove me, waited, and then drove me home. I chose not to have him in the room because, well, I know I’m a big baby and also he had some work to do.

First, they had me take a urine test, to ensure that I wasn’t already pregnant. And I passed! Which was a relief.

Because I’d already gone through a consultation, there wasn’t much to for the nurse and I talk about before the actual procedure–except that I saw the box they had out on the counter, and it was the hormonal IUD. Which is not the IUD I wanted, because hormonal birth control and I have not had a great relationship in the past. I asked the RN if she could kindly swap it out before the procedure because, well, it was wrong. She did. Close call.

For the insertion, my OB (who rocks. Seriously. Dr. Christina, you are wonderful) made sure to walk me through the whole thing. She inserted the speculum, felt around a little bit, and then got started. She also brought in a gentle-talking counselor/assistant lady to hold my hand and pat me softly on the head, which I appreciated.

My doctor numbed my cervix first, mercifully. I’ve heard of other places where they use the sound, which measures the cervix, to do the actual numbing, which sounds much more painful. Pro-tip: Ask your OB to apply the numbing gel before anything gets inserted.

The insertion itself hurt pretty awfully, but no worse than, say, getting a piercing. Of your cervix. So kind of a lot, but only for a second.

And the whole time, I was being flooded with encouraging Tweets**,which was wonderful and made me think everyone should always tell everyone they know that they’re getting an IUD, because the support was really, really nice.

Letting everyone know also really paid off when, for the next week, I would randomly double over in pain because the cramps were terrible. This is the part that was way worse than I thought.

I’ve had bad cramps before in my life, but never like those. They are still going on every now and then, but I’ve been on a steady diet of naproxen, which I’ve found works better that ibuprofen. The first two days were really rough, and I had to cancel a few things because it was so painful. I definitely recommend getting it done on a Thursday or Friday so you can have some recoup time.

Overall, the experience has been OK. The IUD, apparently, often gets your period started a little early, so going before it happens is probably a good idea, so it doesn’t totally throw your cycle off–though I have a feeling it will, anyway. It’s hard to say at this point.

But knowing that I don’t have to deal with birth control for a decade? That’s pretty unbelievably cool, and, as of this time, definitely seems worth a few weeks of belly aches. Especially considering how much money and time it’ll save me in the long run.

Mostly, though, what I learned is that it’s a good idea to tell people. Your friends and even family will (probably) understand more than you think (hopefully), and you’re going to want help and support and understanding when you’re groaning through a particularly bad bout of cramps.

Image: Mine

**One Tweet I received was from the incredible Sarah Mirk, who writes for the Portland Mercury and also draws comics. She drew a comic about her experience getting an IUD that was really awesome to read right before the procedure. I highly recommend this comic. 

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    • kibbe

      Congrats on the IUD! I’ve had mine for a little over a year and I’ve never felt more relief knowing that I don’t have to think babies until I’m ready.

      Just a heads up, you’re probably going to have super heavy periods for the next three months. The cramps SUCK A LOT for these periods, but it tapers off quite a bit after that.

      All. Worth. It.

    • Heather

      I have had my IUD for 4 years and couldn’t be happier! I have the Mirena and haven’t had a period in almost the whole time I’ve had my iUD and am probably going to have another inserted next year after this one needs to be removed. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Congratulations and yes, the first couple of months with cramping is not so great, but it gets better! (invest in a hot water bottle if you don’t have one already!)

    • Annie

      I have paragard also and the insertion was nothing, I have already given birth twice with no anesthesia, though, so that was to be expected.

      The really bad part came later. I have always had easy, light, pain free periods with no acne, no cramps, no bloating, nothing. And they were 28 days like clockwork since i was 13. The paragard periods are a nightmare.

      I have had the thing for almost 18 months and it is actually getting worse. I have to use super plus (the orange ones) tampons, changing them like every hour on the worst days, I have to wear a tampon and pad (not liner, overnights with wings) to bed and the periods last 7-10 days. And the cramps, dear lord, the cramps.

      I am also having terrible acne in the 7 or so days before my period begins, it is miserable. The periods are also not every 28 days any more, they are more often, so I have bleeding for 7-10 days, then usually around 23-27 days after the first day of that period I start bleeding again. This month I had a second period just 14 days after the first day of my last period, not good, the only plus was that the second period was lighter but lasted (actually it’s still going) 7 days.

      My doctor says it may never get better for me, but it was so expensive, I really felt I had to try it for at least a couple of years, though I think I might have to have i removed at the end of the two years if it doesn’t get better. I genuinely hope you have a better experience.

    • Jodi

      Thanks so much for continuing to share this! Thinking about getting one, although still waffling between hormones and not. Would super love not having periods at all. Congrats!

    • Hidi Byrd

      I have had my IUD in since 09. Curious if anyone out there has had problems? I’ve had random issues and have done research and it all points to my IUD but my OB says it’s not.
      One major issue: Weight gain.

      Any one else?

      • E

        Which IUD do you have? The copper one, Paragard has no hormones and should NOT cause weight gain. However, Mirena, a small plastic IUD is imbedded with progesterone which may cause weight gain.

        Here’s a good pro/con info article about mirena vs. paragard!

    • Hidi Byrd

      Wow….did my comment get deleted because I was curious if anyone has had any problems?

      • Michelle B

        I had mine removed because I suffered severe PMDD and my rhormone was out of control. My OB removed my IUD immediately and put me on birth control pills. If you are considering it, please do your research :).

    • KLR

      I echo those who said to wait it out. It took me about 10 months for things to get 100% manageable again — the periodic cramps in the middle of the month and heaviness all tapered off, and I’m back to a period similar to my no-pill, pre-IUD days. Life is good.

      I weighed it out like this 10 years = 120 months. The first 3 were terrible (roughly 3%) and the remaining 7 were unpleasant (another 6%), leaving 91% of the experience fine and worry-free. WORTH IT!

      Ibuprofen is your friend. Drink a lot of water and lay off the booze for 90 days.