So I don’t have to worry about babies for another 10 years (Seriously? Seriously.) thanks to my brand-spanking-new copper IUC. They’re Intra-Uterine Contraceptives instead of Devices now. I don’t know how I’m supposed to keep track of what I want and what I don’t want around my ladyparts if they keep changing the names of everything, but at least I know the people at Planned Parenthood will give me a comprehensive run-down of everything I need. So ladies, if you’re thinking about getting an IUC or you’re not satisfied with whatever method you’re using right now, I’ll try to make this as informative as possible and I’ll make sure and update it if anything goes horribly awry.
First off, I can’t even begin to describe how positive my experience with Planned Parenthood was when compared with Kaiser, which I had had from birth up until last year when I got dropped off my mom’s insurance. The only thing I can compare the switch to is leaving regular high school and going to a continuation school. It was easier, more laid back, and there wasn’t any sugar-coating or candyfloss dreams. At Planned Parenthood, as with continuation schools, the bar has been lowered and they know all about the lowest common denominator. There are no illusions about America’s youth being wholesome and straight-edge. They know we drink and smoke and have sex and get into bad things and they know that there’s nothing they can do unless we actually want help. So they’re there, waiting patiently to explain things clearly when kids can’t go to their parents to ask about AIDS and street drugs and babies.
The doctor at Planned Parenthood (who was totally nice and cool, by the way) explained the pros and cons of the hormone and copper IUCs in a way that made me feel like I could interject with questions at any time. The hormone IUC, Mirena, lasts 5 years and makes periods lighter and less frequent until they eventually stop happening. I’m not sure how good never having periods is for you, but there hasn’t been any research that suggests it has any negative effects thusfar. The copper IUC, ParaGard, lasts 10 years, but it makes periods heavier and with more cramps. Now I’ve been on birth control for a couple years and I just don’t want any more hormones making me fucking nuts. I’m tired of being an emotional wreck when I’m on the pill and worrying about pregnancy when I’m not. I don’t know how this particular hormone would react to my body’s clearly fragile hormonal balance, but I’m just not willing to have someone surgically remove that IUC before it needs to be removed, so I went with the longer-lasting more copper.
The actual insertion had me super worried, especially because when I was setting up the appointment on the phone, the nurse said to down 800mg of Motrin before the appointment. Oh god, they’re not going to give me painkillers… But they put me in the stirrups and it wasn’t bad at all. Not comfortable or anything I’d want to do again in a hurry, but it wasn’t painful, exactly. The doctor said it’d be a pinch, but it didn’t feel like that exactly either. It only lasted a couple seconds though, and the whole procedure was over in about 5 minutes. First, they’ll speculum you and put a topical anesthetic on your cervix with a long q-tip, then they’ll measure the depth of your cervix and uterus, then they’ll put the IUC in, and last they’ll cut the strings. If you’ve never seen an IUC, it looks like a tiny, thin capital T with some sewing thread hanging off.
The doctor warned that I might cramp a lot for a while and should probably continue taking motrin or ibuprofen for a couple of days, but honestly, even during the procedure I didn’t really have cramps, or if I did, they were so light that I didn’t make the connection. I, of course, can’t speak for everyone, especially since my periods have never really been full of cramps, but so far, I’ve only had minor discomfort and I had to go to work two hours after the procedure that day and I’ve been fine and working all week.
My only problem with it thusfar is that I wasn’t allowed to have sex for two weeks prior so they could make sure I wasn’t pregnant (We splurged, whoops. But the copper ones can be used as emergency contraception anyway so our bases were covered.) and NOW we’re not allowed to have sex for another week to stave off infections of any kind. Kill me!
So there you are. I hope that’s helpful for anyone looking into IUCs!
Update 9/24/2010: Oh, and I just realized I haven’t said anything about prices. As of now, the Mirena (5-year, hormone) costs about $750 and the ParaGard (10-year, copper) costs about $650. If you have insurance, it should be covered, unless your work is like mine and excludes contraceptives from its only health insurance plan. If you don’t have insurance, Planned Parenthood can give you some paperwork to fill out to apply for state insurance, which covered the entire cost of my IUC. The state insurance is good for regular health care as well, so if you’re really in a bind, it’s a good thing to look into.
Update 10/18/2010: Hey there, I said I’d keep this updated and I’m keepin’. So I’m six days into my first real period and I have to say it’s been one of the worst and longest I’ve ever had. I came into it exactly as horribly as the first period I ever had in fourth grade. I was sick as a dog and curled up in bed, hurting and hoping I wouldn’t have to get up and throw up. Not the best pre-period feelings, but I can’t blame it all on the IUD because my bee eff was also pretty sick at the same time. So I was probably just sick, but then the flood gates opened and I was even more miserable. I know this will be a joy to hear about, but this is one of the heaviest periods I’ve ever had. And remember when I said I’d never had cramps in my life? Well, I think my body is making up for the past ten cramp-free years. I’m going to have to ask the doctor at my 6-week check-up if it’s going to be this uncomfortable every time. It’s bearable, but not fun.
Update 10/21/2010: 8 days. That’s how long this first period lasted. I made some drawings to express how I felt about it.
Update 12/22/2010: Okay, so I saw my doctor and she said that everything was going smoothly, no problems at all. Now that I’ve gotten used to the slightly unsettling feeling of rolling over and being able to feel a piece of metal in me, I don’t even notice it. Also, I had almost no cramps this month. Go IUD!
Update 2/2/12: This one is kind of important. After over a year of no issues with my IUD, I had an issue. I’ve mentioned before that I have a bad habit of wrestling people. If you play contact sports or for any reason will be having blows administered to your lower abdomen, you should probably not get a piece of metal inserted into your body. It seems obvious but, hey, I didn’t think about it. The morning after a friendly fight last month, I woke up with an intense pain all across my lower abdomen. It wasn’t anything crippling, so I made an appointment to get checked out for as soon as I could get. Three days later, I was in for a check-up and later an ultrasound. My IUD wasn’t broken as I had worried that first morning, but it HAD apparently punched the side of my uterus and embedded itself there. As far as my doctor has said, everything is good and it’s no longer embedded, but dang that hurt. So I have another appointment at the end of the month. As long as I’m not suddenly unable to have kids because of this, it’s still the least annoying form of birth control.
Update 10/4/14: I woke up to some very strange, very intense pain in my left abdomen about a half hour before my alarm was set to go off about a month ago. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. It felt like a ripping pain and it would come in quickly escalating bursts. I ended up heading to the emergency room because no doctor’s offices were open that early and the doctors insisted that the pain was probably uterine. I was confused as heck because I could feel it and it definitely was not coming from my uterus. It was up and to the right of all of my sexual organs. But the doctors did an ultrasound and found that my IUD had slipped into my cervix. Still unconvinced that it was a uterine issue, my first thought was, “Oh god, how long has that been like that?! I hope I’m not pregnant!” But when they removed my IUD, which was way, WAY less uncomfortable than getting it put back in a couple days ago, the pain stopped so it looks like the doctors did, in fact, know doctoring. Also, every doctor I talked to then and since has been confused that after four years of relatively perfect service my IUD would slip now, but now I’ve got a new Paragard happily nestled in my uterus.