Ever since we got acne, and my first friend started “doing it,” birth control has been a hot topic; and as twenty-something’s the myriad of choices can be overwhelming. Many of my twenty-something friends have chosen to switch their birth control option to an intrauterine device (IUD). I started taking The Pill when I was 16; and by the time 22 came around, I was sick and tired of filling my body with hormones, day after day. I’m also terrible at remembering to take meds, and I know many of my friends are too. No matter how many reminders I set, I would inevitably skip a day or two and have to make up for it. So, when I heard about a birth control option that would last me 5-10 years without having to think about it after the first few months, would prevent me from having hormones pumping through my body, and would be completely reversible whenever (if-ever) I so choose? Well, I was on board.
But before you make a decision about sticking with your birth control pill, or switching to an IUD, there are some things that you absolutely need to know.
Types of IUDs
An IUD basically looks like a small piece of plastic shaped like a T that gets inserted into your uterus. The two most popular versions of an IUD are ParaGard and Mirena.
ParaGard: made of copper which basically makes your uterus toxic to sperm (pretty cool, right?)
Pros- 99% effective, lasts up to 10 years, hormone-free (!!)
Cons- heavier, longer-lasting periods
Mirena: releases progestin that makes your body prevent sperm from entering the uterus
Pros- 99% effective, lasts up to 5 years, shorter and lighter periods (most women no longer get a period after 3 months… and that’s totally fine for your body!)
Cons- local release of hormones (but, at least it’s not pumping through your whole body like The Pill)
The Insertion Process
So, you can usually only get an IUD inserted at a gynecologist’s office or at Planned Parenthood. You will discuss your options, sign forms, take some ibuprofen, and get set up in the stirrups. Some places will give you a local anesthetic, and I highly suggest you ask for it. You can place a pill close to the cervix to soften it, and make it easier and less painful to place the device. They insert the speculum, then take some time to switch gloves to be sterile, and then insert that thing right into your cervix. Which hurts. Like a bitch. Not gonna lie (I did not have local anesthetic). Then you’re done. There is a 1/1000 risk of perforation (i.e. the IUD punctures your uterus), but your doc can usually tell if that happens. I had some minor bleeding, some slight dizziness from the pain, but then was sent off on my way to deal with my terrible cramps for the next 24-48 hours. (I would definitely recommend having nothing planned for the day you have this done, although I do have a friend who got hers implanted and then drove two hours to college on move in day). Everyone’s pain levels are different. Some people have no cramping or issues the next day, others don’t want to get out of bed for 2 days (and I have a friend who couldn’t drive herself home after the appointment), I was fine after 24 hours. So prepare for anything.
So that little plastic piece that is now in your uterus has two little strings that hang off of it, which hang out in your vagina. (After a few months they usually wrap up around your cervix and are gone.) In those first 3 months you want to check and make sure those strings are in the same place. Are they shorter? Are they longer? Does it feel different? If so, go see your physician ASAP because it’s an indication that the IUD moved out of place. There’s only a 2-3% chance this happens, but hey it happened to me! One day my strings were longer, I saw my physician, and my IUD had moved, so I had it removed and replaced.
Without insurance, an IUD generally costs $1000. Fortunately, with my insurance it was covered at 100% (I didn’t even have to pay a co-pay). Thanks Obamacare!! Check with your insurance provider.
There are so many options for birth control these days, take the time to do your research and speak with your physician when deciding what option is the best for you. Every body is different, so make sure you are choosing the right option for you.
Disclaimer: I am not a health professional. This information is based on my personal experience and the information I received from my physician and reputable sources.