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IUDs: A Love-Hate Story

“In so many ways, the hormonal IUD is the new American dream.”

11.03.16
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You haven’t really lived until you’ve Googled “did my boyfriend’s penis poke my IUD into my intestine” while writhing in pain on the floor of his parents’ basement.

Turns out it was only (only?) a cervical bruise, but the subsequent ER visit and the quick glance at my Mirena, shiftless and foreign on the dark screen of the ultrasound, reminded me, for the first time in the two years since its implantation, what an odd thing it truly is, a tiny fish hook of hormones locked tight in my uterus.

I started taking the pill at 15, even though I wasn’t having sex (I SWEAR, MOM). I simply wanted some measure of control over my reproductive system. I’m incredibly grateful to the pill for 12 years of pregnancy-free sex. My experience was net positive, although I was knocked out cold at least once a cycle by menstrual migraines that, at their worst, caused me to slur my words and vomit. Neat! Eventually my doctor pulled me off the pill as a result of studies linking estrogen-based contraceptives to an elevated stroke risk in patients with migraines accompanied by aura. Also neat!

Around that time, it seemed like every cool girl in New York was getting an IUD. They were the new green juice. Fewer than 10% of American females use an IUD as contraception (primarily due to residual concerns over the Dalkon Shield scandal of the ‘70s, in which an earlier version of the IUD caused dangerous infections and infertility), but Planned Parenthood has reported a 75% increase in patient use since 2008 — growth largely prompted by a decrease in cost and an advocacy campaign that highlighted the low rate of failure (less than 1%). By the time I was considering new contraceptive options, I had heard more and more stories of women my age who had been on the pill since adolescence and who were growing increasingly frustrated by both its inconvenience and its myriad of side effects.

“I decided to get an IUD because I was going to be leaving my job and knew I may not have health insurance for a while,” says Caitlin, 32. “I also had high blood pressure and was advised that it would be a good move because the Mirena is less of a health risk than the pill I was taking.”

She had a great experience. “My nurse kept telling me how great I was doing and what a rockstar I was. The pain was a burning, shocking pain that lasted for the rest of the day. The few days after were painful, but no worse than the cramps I was used to. Since getting the IUD, my periods have been the most manageable they’ve ever been.” She’s become somewhat of an IUD evangelist, noting that since moving to a red state, she hasn’t met another woman who has one. “It makes me sad, because it’s so effective and my experience has been so positive!”

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In so many ways, the hormonal IUD is the new American dream. It’s a quick-fix for your pesky fertility that you can set and forget for up to five years, and it simultaneously makes your periods lighter — or even causes them to disappear altogether. Give me your huddled, tamponed masses, and I will give you this IUD.

Getting mine was simple. My doctor referred me to an OBGYN who went over the options and risks; we settled on the Mirena, which delivers a small dose of progestin directly to your uterus; the procedure and the device were covered by my health insurance (thanks to the contraceptive provision of the Affordable Care Act); and I made an appointment to come back in a couple of weeks once my period had started, when my cervix would be thinner, making implantation easier.

The internet told me I could expect pain similar to a pap smear. Internet, you are a filthy liar. Some doctors use a local anaesthetic to minimize pain; mine didn’t, as she said that for most women, placing a huge needle in their vagina spiked anxiety more than the actual insertion. (Touché.) During implantation, your doctor first measures the length and direction of your cervix with a long instrument called a sound before going in again with the IUD, which is placed up close to the top of the uterus with two thin strings hanging outside the cervix. (These soften over time, so no, your partner shouldn’t be able to feel them.)

The cervix is miraculous. This piece of muscular tissue changes position, shape and size throughout your cycle, knits itself up to hold a baby in, then thins and opens to let that baby out. It is a biological marvel. And it does not want to be forced open. It is antithetical to everything it was designed to do. In my case, my body went into vicious revolt. I broke into a clammy sweat. I involuntarily tried to jack knife my gyno, who calmly dodged my flailing leg while murmuring “sorry sorry sorry sorry” in a sweet sing-song. It was a visceral, eruptive, intensely wrong feeling, something much more primal than pain. During her first year in OBGYN residency, my friend saw more women pass out cold during IUD insertions than anywhere else in her practice.

Ten minutes later, I was shaky and wild on the floor of the elevator, then reclining in the back of an Uber, and two hours after that I had a hot water bottle and some tea and The Good Wife and felt fine enough to text all my friends. “Y U LIE TO ME THAT WAS DEATH?!?!?!”

Over the next few days I had some light bleeding, and then my period vanished entirely for eight months. I now get my period maybe once every other month (minor cramping, and insignificant bleeding I can manage with a panty liner). I have a new relationship with adult acne, and, excepting the aforementioned bruised cervix, no reason to worry. I’ve been a happy advocate for Mirena; that is, until a recent Danish study that linked hormonal birth control to depression.

The study has been widely reported, and it’s validated many female experiences: here’s the science to tell you no, it’s not just you, and no, you aren’t insane. Women on the pill have been campfiring around this study with frightening narratives of psychological and emotional trauma such as crying jags that lasted weeks, depressive thoughts and suicidal ideation.

“I was ecstatic,” says Dr. Jerilynne Prior, professor of endocrinology and head of the Centre for Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research. She’s blunt, passionate and frustrated, and couldn’t be happier that the Danish study has garnered so much attention. Her own research has found persuasive and worrying links between the use of hormonal contraception in adolescents and negative long-term reproductive effects and bone loss.

She’s one of a growing number of doctors and researchers who believe adolescents should steer clear of hormonal birth control entirely. “These young women need to be making connections between what happens in their reproductive system and the rest of their lives,” Prior says. “Because hormonal contraception takes away their period, they don’t learn to live in their bodies.”

Interestingly, the Danish study found that adolescents using the patch, ring or hormonal IUD were three times more likely to be prescribed antidepressants — although, as critics have pointed out, merely being prescribed an antidepressant does not necessarily indicate depression (people use antidepressants to treat everything from migraines to chronic pain). And the particularity of the link between Mirena and anti-depressants is odd, since the hormone is localized in your uterus, releasing 1/10th the amount of progestin into the body than the pill. Why would lower hormones result in higher causation?

Dr. Prior is less than convinced about this facet of the study — “More work needs to be done to make that connection,” — and pointed out that in other randomized trials, older women actually experienced positive mood effects after hormonal IUD implantation.

It’s complex territory for any medical practitioner to navigate, and especially so for female doctors. As Prior told me, “The birth control pill holds a place of high honor in our culture. Both women and men are eternally grateful for it. But a pill cycle is now viewed as the same as a normal cycle, and in reality the medical community just hasn’t done enough to study this. We’re putting a high-dose of synthetic, powerful hormone into the bodies of our young women.”

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If you want to avoid hormonal contraception entirely, your options are limited. This is especially true for adolescent women, the demographic most in need of comprehensive contraceptive care and education. For young women wanting to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy without hormones, the copper IUD (which is effective for 10 years) is the best option.

That’s what my friend Sarah decided. At 25, living in Portland, she was dating someone who worked at a health store and learning about alternative medicine. “I started seeing a naturopath, started taking vitamins, was weaning myself off of antidepressants and decided I didn’t want to be on hormonal birth control anymore either. And once I made that decision, you quickly find the IUD is the only non-hormonal option, really, besides barrier methods which are prone to user error.”

Like me, her insertion was intense. “I broke out in a sweat. I remember laughing after, like, ha ha, that was HORRIBLE!” Unlike me, it didn’t get better. “I had long, painful periods — like, call in sick to work-level cramps. I once had to pull over while driving.”

The most common side effect of the copper IUD is heavier, longer and more intense periods. “I was going through two ‘Supe’” tampons an hour. It was insane,” she says. She went back to Planned Parenthood to have it removed — and then re-inserted, a year later, when she found herself in another relationship and still without a simple hormone-less solution.

“I’ve basically only started being regular in the past year. I’m not having sex on the reg, the only reason to leave it in is like, future insurance. My periods do kind of suck — they’re long, heavy and I get bad PMS — but I’m just not up for trying tons of different pills, tweaking to see which ones don’t make me sad or gain weight, all of that. It’s fine.”

“It’s fine.” = Motto of all ladies everywhere.

As for me, I started taking anti-anxiety medication at 29, a full 14 years after I popped that first pill out of its plastic disk. I have a family history of depression, and, you know, I write personal essays for the internet, so I’m not willing to say that the pill is responsible. But entire generations of young women are growing up without an understanding of their own reproductive cycles, believing that ovulation is something that can and should be controlled with a pill, that “feeling sad” is an okay side effect. The burden of family planning still falls largely on our beautiful bodies. We’re also breathlessly lucky to have relatively safe, inexpensive and readily available access to options that allow us rich sex lives free from the consequences of unintended pregnancies.

The more I read about contraception, the more exhausted I become. Prior, who was prescribed birth control in 1966 — a pill containing a whopping 100 mg of estrogen that put nine pounds of water weight on her frame in the first week — is even more tired. “It is empowering and necessary for women to be able to control their own reproductive capacity, but if that is coming with an undisclosed price, as it may be, that is not good enough. It’s just not good enough.”

Is your birth control depressing the hell out of you? You’re not alone. But if you’re waiting for male birth control to pop up on the horizon anytime soon, don’t hold your breath. Here are some cute animals to make up for it. 

IUD necklace by Amanda Rabinowitz of Witz Jewelry Design. Shop her collection here. Collage by Emily Zirimis.

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  • I was actually just having the IUD discussion with a friend who swears by it. More and more of my friends are using them, as this article suggests, and are largely very happy with the results. This small pool of women has reported minimal side effects. Fewer periods and less worry about pregnancy seem a good deal to me. Of course, side effects can be much more serious. But as women who wish to enjoy the janus-faced pleasures of this world, well, then, compromise seems inevitable (in varying degrees) until something better comes along. (or until dudes can grow a pair and take BC and bear the brunt of side effects which we’ve historically carried for so long.)

    • I know the idea that the male birth control study was halted due to male participants intolerance for side effects has been widely perpetuated (not just by you by any means – and even on this site) but I can’t help but feel it’s because it “fits a narrative” rather than due to the actual evidence.

      The trial was not halted because the men participating were uncomfortable with the side effects (remember, 75% wanted to continue) – but because those reviewing the safety of the trial were.

      This was not because side-effects occurred in general – but because the incidence of side-effects was extremely high. For example – nearly half (!) of participants reported acne, more than 20 percent had a mood disorder, 38 percent experienced an increased sexual drive, and 15 percent reported muscle pain. One participant committed suicide (although they think this was unrelated to the contraceptive). Even so, these numbers are much higher than serious adverse incident rates reported for female contraceptives.

      More here: http://www.vox.com/2016/11/2/13494126/male-birth-control-study

  • starryhye

    I got my Mirena IUD at my 6 week post natal checkup after having my son in 2012. That little bugger has been amazing! I get no period and never think twice about it’s efficacy (less of an issue now that Mr got the ol snip). I don’t remember the insertion being anything traumatic. A little pinching and discomfort. I recommend them to everyone I know!

  • Ashley

    100% agree with being unprepared for the pain of IUD insertion. I had friends tell me I just needed to take some Advil beforehand and that I could definitely go back to work afterward. The whole insertion lasts maybe 30 seconds, but hot damn, I’ve never experienced pain like that. Not looking forward to the removal.
    Basically, women are SO TOUGH. Women who give birth are HEROES.

    • starryhye

      I wonder if having had kids makes a difference on the pain you experience?

      • Ashley

        That wouldn’t surprise me.

      • Kari Hawthorne

        Yes!!! It makes a huge difference. If a person’s cervix has never been dilated/stretched, it is known to be more painful.

      • Tiffany Mouton

        Not for me, I have a child & I nearly passed out after insertion. It wouldn’t go in, they had to use ultrasound. The pain was like child birth cramps, no doubt.

    • Cate

      I think it varies a lot. I have the copper one, and mine was not that bad. It hurt a bit, but I got it done in the afternoon and went out that night and was fine. That’s more or less the experience that all of my friends have had, too

      • PlaidandPrejudice

        I agree that it must really vary. Mirena barely hurt to insert for me, and I’ve never had kids. The removal, however, whoa…

      • Lauren

        I had a copper one and I wanted to curl up in a ball and die on the way home. It was extremely painful and it messed with my head, as the author mentioned just a “wrong” feeling.

    • Tiffany Mouton

      I’ve had a child & I nearly fainted after insertion. The pain was absolutely equivalent to my child birth pain.

      • Natalie Robbins

        Removal is completely painless. No need to worry.

      • CMF

        That’s amazing. We truly are all different. I had 30 seconds of the “sounding” excruciating horror and then 30 seconds of the “insertion” of excruciating pain. Exorcist-style arching off the table and yelling incoherently. The pain may be equal to childbirth but childbirth pain clearly lasts longer than 1 minute total!

    • Natalie Robbins

      Removal is absolutely painless. No need to worry.

    • CMF

      Yeah, the Advil is really for the cramps I think. As for going back to work?! Spread the word: late afternoon on Friday is the best, and get someone to drive you in case you’re one of the ones who nearly/actually passes out!

    • Joy Marie Clahar

      I had only pressure when I got my mirena inserted. Just one day so far, but no pain yet.

  • Cate

    “Because hormonal contraception takes away their period, they don’t learn to live in their bodies.”

    Oh, come on. That is ridiculous. You can “live in your body” while medically controlling your periods. Women and their bodies are NOT solely their reproductive systems. Give young women a bit more credit.

    There needs to be more research into women’s health, in general, including effects of birth control on mental health. And yes, there are side-effects, but let us not forget how HUGELY important it is that we are able to control our reproduction. Literally no women before us has had the power we do. You don’t have to take birth control, you can accept the risk of becoming pregnant. That needs to be a bigger part of the narrative here – that is why so many of us are willing to live with side effects. Some of this article is skewing oddly towards an anti-BC vibe, and that’s scary.

    • Ashley

      I hear what you’re saying, but Meghan does address that: “We’re also breathlessly lucky to have relatively safe, inexpensive and readily available access to options that allow us rich sex lives free from the consequences of unintended pregnancies.”

      • CMF

        Today, March 24, 2017, the ACA was NOT repealed and replaced. Birth control should still be free. Best day since 11/8/16

    • Katrina Lee

      I scoffed at that too. As someone who suffers with endometriosis, I would have given anything to be separated from my reproductive system.

      • Per this, but from a more economic standpoint, I think it’s also important to consider the ways in which the female reproductive system can keep women in the depths of poverty, too. This notion came about more visibly after Melinda Gates’s statements the other day, too. Lack of control over bodies from a BC perspective (i.e. “Not learning to live in our bodies”) has perpetually made women victim to external factors which disable them from elevating their own statuses or improving their qualities of life.

    • kasia

      I actually loved the “live in their bodies comment”.
      It made sense to me. I think the Dr. was saying that women rush to hormonal birth control at such a young age, they never truly understand their natural cycle or even accept it.
      I don’t think it means that the doctor was ever against birth control. I think she was saying that maybe one should wait to mature and fully understand their bodies before making such an important decision.

      • kittenish

        Agreed. Also, I think the pill is an all too common way of regulating periods, when the actual cause of the problem is elsewhere (eg. in my thyroid). Taking the pill just masks the problem without offering an actual solution – so in my case, treatment for Hashimoto’s disease and insulin resistance. (Obviously this would apply to the hormonal IUD as well!)

      • pia_k

        Got my period at 14, went on the pill at 15. Don’t regret a damn thing. A year is enough to learn about horrible cramping and heavy bleeding, and, taking control of your reproductive health at that age was liberating. Also, who’s to say that women stop ‘learning about their bodies’ just because period symptoms decrease??

      • CMF

        I sort of understand, but if the (very) young women get pregnant that is an even more important decision to make

    • CC

      I never lost my period. And if I did I would be happy as hell!!!

    • CMF

      Also I thought girls these days were getting their periods way earlier, like 11. Presumably they get to experience the Joy and Wonder of their reproductive system for at least a little while before getting birth control. Kids aren’t often having sex at 11 or 12, are they?

  • Taste of France

    I LOVED my Mirena. Had it for 10 years. Two days of misery after insertion–cramps–but TOTALLY worth 10 years of no periods. No PMS. No hassles. Plus, it’s reversible.

    • Ashley

      I feel the same about my IUD! We got off on the wrong foot, but we talked it out and now we’re besties.

    • Madeline

      Question for you! Insertion was pretty bad for me. What’s it like to have it removed?

  • PlaidandPrejudice

    I had Mirena for 6 months before I couldn’t take it anymore and had it removed. First of all, insertion barely hurt for me, which was surprising (and no, I haven’t had any kids.) The cramps after were call-off-work debilitating though. Unfortunately, I had my period for a full two weeks every three weeks or so for the entire 6 months. I couldn’t handle bleeding constantly, so I had an ultrasound to see if it had shifted or been inserted improperly. Nothing wrong with the IUD, but it caused me to develop several ovarian cysts. I had it removed the next day. Insurance wouldn’t cover the ultrasound, and I’m still paying off that $800 bill. TL:DR: Mirena was a horrible nightmare.

  • anonymoose

    Still not on birth control. I used condoms or pull out method with my longterm SO. I’ve been reading up on those fertility readers like Dasye. I’m still shocked there are days you can have unprotected sex and be okay…like what!? Never learned that in health class.

    • Caro A

      No, I am the same way. My guy is old enough/has enough experience to know when to pull-out (we both recognize there is always a chance though!!). It’s a constant conversation. I’m too nervous to try birth control. Already got enough going on in my head and in my life to make room for the bad side effects.

      • anonymoose

        I’m the same way. I made the decision not to go on birth control about 4 years ago (when i became sexually active) and I still don’t regret it. It makes some people really uncomfortable with my decision. But I have had positive feedback from doctors and acupuncturists alike. Yes, twice, I have had to buy the morning after pill at CVS. That was not fun. BUT, after reading about IUDs, the many negative insertion stories, the way other women feel on these meds, and my history of depression — I’m just not doing it. And to be honest, most of the time, sex at my house ends with mutual masturbation, enjoyed by both parties afters some V in P. Can I say all this on man repeller folks? So now I’m considering fertility monitors…find them hella fascinating. Would love to hear others experience…Kindara, Wink, Dayse…

        • Caro A

          I recently told a girlfriend that I’m not on any form of birth control (besides an occasional condom and pull-out, always) and she was shocked that I would be willing to take “that big of a risk”. I felt a little embarrassed when she reacted that way. But, it’s like I said, it’s a conversation my guy and I are having regularly, checking in- we’re both well aware of the risks. And, I do not regret it. Also, same, have had to buy morning after twice- over the course of two years. Also, yes, I have a history of depression and anxiety, I’m on medication for both which, for me, at this point if there is a risk of something causing those symptoms to come back/increase- like birth control, I stay away. It just seems like there is so much work involved in going on bc. Haha, yes, you can say that here! That’s awesome. Here for it. I don’t know anything about fertility monitors.

        • Caity

          I’ve got a Ladycomp monitor. It’s been super easy to use and no unwanted babies here (yet) for me. Would recommend it. Feel great off the pill, downside is I’m 29 and have teenager like acne which has really ripped into my confidence. Chinese medicine seems to be bringing it under control though….

          • Grace B

            cool im also interested in these things. thanks caity! i also found acupuncture (when i could still afford it) to be beneficial. i’ve read good things about the ladycomp.

  • Karen L

    Out of curiosity, anyone here had a Skyla? Lower hormonal dosage than the Mirena- though I literally got sick after insertion of mine, it was so painful. Even now I’ll have cramps that make me want to lie down in the middle of the day. Plus I’ve been spotting basically nonstop for 3 months or so, which has been super fun with a partner… IUD, I want to love you but you’re bringing me down.

    That being said, most of the people I know have had a great, uncomplicated experience with them (particularly with the non-hormonal Paragard). I really would advocate at least trying them for those who have grown up on the pill – everyone reacts to insertion differently.

    • My mom is a gynecologist and she recommends the Skyla! I’m looking into IUDs for the first time (borderline terrified) but I think that’s what I’m going to go with…

    • Lena

      I’ve had Skyla for about a year, my gyno recommended it for me as a young person who’s never had children. Insertion pain wasn’t pretty bad, but my doc was really great and talked me through it. Cramps after were worse, I canceled all my plans for the rest of the day. After that though, I haven’t had any problems and I really love it. I occasionally get cramps, but fewer migraines and way lighter periods than I did on the pill.

  • Tiffany Mouton

    I was 39 years old when I had my Mirena inserted. Short term experience: Mirena insertion day-required an ultrasound because it wouldn’t go in, resulting in major pain & cramping during insertion. I’m talking like child birth cramp equivalent. Upon checking out with the receptionist I nearly fainted & had to be laid down until it passed. After the initial day I experienced no further pain or cramping & it seemed like a miracle birth control option.
    Long term experience: Prior to the Mirena I had a normal period every 28 days like clockwork. I was told I may not get a period anymore, great right? Fast forward 2.5 months after insertion, I started feeling like something was very, very wrong. After some doctor visits & lab work, I was diagnosed as being post-menopausal. Yes, somehow I went from normal cycles to POST menopausal within 2-3 months. GYN says no way the Mirena caused this…& I will never know if it was, but my gut tells me that this was the cause. No family history of early menopause. My mom & sister didn’t start until their 50’s.
    Now 45, it has been a tumultuous transition because my hormones crashed immediately…not gradually like normal perimenopause. It has been hell & I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I have heard of other people who do great…but for anyone who wants kids, I wouldn’t take the chance. I’ve read of many women going in to early menopause after the Mirena.

  • Alex

    I love my Mirena. Got it a little over a year ago and have not looked back! My periods have disappeared except for a few spotting here and there. The insertion precess was uncomfortable but definitely worth it. It’s SO nice not having to worry about it. Having the Mirena IUD makes me feel like a women in control.

  • EmUhLee

    PSA: if you are planning to get a Mirena inserted, please consider asking your doctor about getting a one-time dose of misoprostol to take before your insertion (ESPECIALLY if you’ve never given birth). It’s a medication that dilates your cervix. My doc prescribed it for me to take the morning of my appointment, and I think it made things run much, much smoother. My insertion hurt, of course, but I was able to get right up and go home after without any debilitating pain. Be aware that the misoprostol will make you cramp before insertion time, though.

    1.5 years in, I’m super happy with my IUD except for the whole hormonal acne thing. Being on the pill before made my skin much better, and taking that away unleashed a swarm of chin/jaw zits (Mirena is also thought to cause acne). It’s getting better with lots of TLC, but I’m still working on that whole situation. However I have several friends who are also on Mirena and have clear skin, so YMMV.

    Also, buy a hot water bottle. It will be your new best friend for the first month.

  • Anonymous

    I had the Mirena for 6 weeks, and they were some of the worst weeks of my life. I developed a myriad of health issues from eczema to abdominal pain that landed me in the hospital twice. I lost my appetite and unintentionally lost weight. I went to the doctor 5 different times for issues that developed that I NEVER had before Mirena… and they always said they we’re unrelated. From my own extensive research I learned that Mirena is made of EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) which I have a suspected allergy to- this was the last straw. I had it removed and am now fine. BUT the NuvaRing and cooper IUD are also made of EVA and the pill took such a huge toll on my mood… so I don’t know what options are left for me. The world of birth control is near impossible to navigate!

  • I love my copper IUD. I usually have one brutal day on my period, but that’s WAY better than the side effects of all the pills I had tried over the years. Weight gain, acne, and I was sick of the trial and error. My body just does not want any foreign hormones up in it! I did let my gyno poke me with a needle before the procedure, and even with freezing the pain took my breath away…but again, I get so many years of worry free sex!! So happy I gave this option a go.

  • Sophie

    My IUD completely fucked up my LIFe for the three months I had it in. I became clinically depressed. I became another person. The best decision I’ve ever made was to REMOVE that unnatural piece of plastic from my body. Don’t ever get an IUD ladies

  • Autumn

    I’ve had an IUD since 2008 (I’m actually on my second one) and I’ve told so many of my friends that it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. Hands down. The idea of “set it and forget it” is amazing. The only downside for me is I naturally have irregular periods and the pill helped regulate them, where the IUD does not. But it hasn’t failed me yet so I’m a big supporter!

    • Autumn

      Ps. the insertion process wasn’t great but I didn’t think it was terrible. Had slight cramping on and off the next day or two and right after but that was pretty much it.

  • Caro A

    You all, isn’t it INSANE how different all of our bodies are???!! Not on birth control, have been considering it for a while…it’s really hard! I’m going with the experiences my three older sister’s had and what my gut is telling me. My close girlfriends all have really different experiences too, it’s seriously crazy! I personally don’t want to go through the work of seeing how my body responds to foreign chemicals or objects (IUD). Eeeeek. I think about this so frequently. Thank you for this article!!

  • Desiree

    This article is so timely! I just had my IUD inserted 3 weeks ago and so far so good. After 11 years of taking a pill every single day, I had enough. Mine is the Jaydess which my Dr recommended over the Mirena.

  • Michela Galante

    I agree – the insertion was TERRIBLE! I also agree that all women have a love-hate relationship with birth control. It all sucks, but so does having a child when you’re not ready/unprepared to do so.

  • seeabigail

    I’ve had Paragard for about 6 years now. My period was definitely worse and more painful in the first year and usually lasts a full week now. I’ve found I think to be manageable. The only downside is the length of my period but I couldn’t handle hormones so for me it’s a pretty good trade off. It is unfortunate that women have to make these decisions–which side effects can we handle best.

  • Renee

    So I went in for an IUD (I was also going to be insurance-less for a couple months, moving, new job, etc.) My doc attempted to insert it, and it didn’t hurt much (similar to a pap) but after a few minutes he determined that my cervix was just too tight, and it wasn’t going to happen that day. He gave me a script for misoprostol (so my cervix would loosen up) and I had to make an appointment for a week later. I was annoyed that this would make it 3 appointments for a damn IUD (first for std screen and to “discuss my options”, failed insertion, possible insertion??) so I ended up cancelling the appointment. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I wonder if some docs are er, “more forceful,” while others may be thinking, “come back and let’s do this the easy way.” That being said, I’m still on the pill and pretty happy with it, so I’ll probably just stick with it. Plus the threat of adult acne scares me (shallow I know)

    • Lauren

      My doctor practically cried into my crotch when I requested ParaGuard, but also wrote me an rx for the medicine right then. It still hurt worse than anything else I’ve ever experienced.

  • Audra

    Love the IUD necklace! I’m wondering if I could get away with it at work.

    I switched from the pill to a copper IUD over a year ago. Insertion was the most painful minute of my life and cramps and bleeding the first month were insane! I found that the Traditional Medicinal Healthy Cycle tea and a hot water bottle ended up helping me more than ibuprofen.

    I was convinced that I wanted it out the first month, but now I recommend it to everyone! My periods have evened out, although they are slightly heavier and more painful than before. I actually think they are about the same as they were naturally, but I got used to extra light periods thanks to the pill (Ocella).

    Also, it was weird to not have the pack of pills to remind me when I was getting my period at first. Now I use Clue to track my periods and I can really see how they got more and more regular this past year.

    • SChase

      Similar experience!
      I had stopped taking BC all together because I wanted to see how it was truly affecting me. Even down to digestion. When I started dating someone serious my doc recommended Skyla for me, its smaller and lasts 3 years (I’m 30). I started using Clue when I stopped taking pills and it gave me SO much peace of mind. Turns out my period is really about 5-6 weeks, not clockwork 4. That can stress you out big time if you don’t have an app saying hey it’s cool not yet.

      Had heard the insertion stories… my doc prescribed a drug that softens the muscles of the uterus and also a strong dose of ibuprofen. It was definitely uncomfortable but thankfully I didn’t experience any pain. Pretty freakin crampy though for a few days but it’s been 5 months, and with Skyla and Clue I feel in tune with what’s going on with me, mood swings are no longer mysterious, and have much more spontaneity in my sex life. This is a big deal.

  • Zoe

    I have the arm implant and I’m really surprised at how little I hear Americans talking about it? I haven’t had my period since I got it, light cramping at most and maybe a little weight gain. All of which seems worth it since it lasts three years. Highly recommend, especially because IUDs and other long term birth control options seem so scary and painful.

  • Jamie

    I hate/love my IUD. I’m seven months pregnant on my IUD. and no it didn’t fall out. I got pregnant after being on it for a year and a half.

  • June2

    I was one of those for whom the pill caused severe depression. And Deprovera was the hormonal alternative then, (the 80’s). But I was over pharmaceutical intervention and dove deeply into learning about my body and its schedule so that I would be informed and in charge. Learning your cycle properly affords about the same percentage of control that IUD’s and condoms provide. Combining the two – knowledge of one’s cycle and prophylactics – provides nearly %100 protection.

    Women need to learn how their bodies work instead of relying on pharmaceuticals and other invasive technologies. I am all for sex at will for women, but that doesn’t negate that sex is a Big Deal for women for many reasons. But that’s another conversation.

    Here is a GREAT book by a woman who took hormonal birth control injections (deprovera) and how she discovered and recovered from the devastation it created in her life. Second link is an old WIRED article about her, but all of the links are old and dead. Her story used to be available online but I guess once she wrote her book, she took them all down.

    https://www.amazon.com/Dying-Get-Well-Shelly-Keck-Borsits/dp/1591096383?tag=duckduckgo-ffsb-20
    http://archive.wired.com/medtech/health/news/2001/06/44562

  • elpug

    Copper IUD owner:

    Hormonal pills were the bane of my high school existence: Lack of acne or spawn countered with severe depression. I only noticed once I stopped how sad I was with the pill.

    The copper IUD, while not a cure-all is the best thing I could get my hands on since I didn’t want to risk feeling the lowest of lows during college. It’s simultaneously a miracle and another different set of pains. But at this point in my life, the benefits outweigh the cramps. I’d rather be in physical pain than emotional trauma over birth control.

    Why is this the only non-hormonal option?

    • dustBUNNYparole

      Same here, I fucking hate my now longer and bloody periods and the cramps but hey is better than everything else, I have hear that GOLD is less bad for you but still trying to find it

  • Tigg

    Here’s my piece of advice: If you don’t feel like yourselves, get your Mirena removed. I did it after one year feeling blue and suffering strong migraines with aura. I wish anyone had told me those links (Mirena and migraines, Mirena and depression) are real. My migraines gradually stopped and now I just think that if gynecologists are not clear about that, women have to tell each other.

  • S.O. Carts

    So the hippy in me needs to point out that there’s another option than what’s been discussed: Fertility. Awareness. Methods. You need to be supper picky about which method you use (Google informs me that FAM has a 76% effectiveness rate) but certain methods (Clear Blue/Marquette: 99% effective) are within decimals of the best hormonal and device methods.
    And just to be clear, FAM =/= rhythm method!
    Both the biggest pro and con (but mostly pro): needing to have open & honest communication with your partner.
    Weird tip: Main purveyor of these methods? Catholics. It’s the only type of birth control they’re supposed to use, so they actually have some pretty good information & resources.

  • jules

    I l-o-v-e LOVE my copper IUD. It has changed my life. I started taking the pill when I was 15 and was several different strains for about 7 years. While on the pill I was anxious, extremely moody, sad, reactive during PMS, my skin would break out, I would cry all the time without knowing why. This got especially bad during the last 1-2 years. My periods were also all over the place, some months I would get my period twice a month and then sometimes I would go up to 5 months without any period. I also had migraines up to 2-3 times a month. I finally decided I needed to get off hormonal birth control and made an appointment for ParaGard (copper IUD). I was nervous leading up to my appointment after reading WAY too many mixed reviews on the internet & having a coworker who had a very negative experience with it. The insertion was FAR from pleasant, quite painful actually. However, it was 100% worth it. I get my period every month now, exactly one month apart. My migraines became less frequent and eventually stopped completely. I no longer turn into the hulk during PMS and I feel much more aware of what is triggering my emotions. Anxiety has also reduced dramatically. In terms of my period, I get bad (but manageable) cramps the first day of bleeding, which is very heavy, and then it gets much lighter day 2, and lasts about 4 days. Overall, I have had an incredible experience with ParaGard and endorse it to anyone who will listen!

  • Teresa

    I have the Paragard Copper IUD. For the past 5 years it has been wonderful. Insertion was a so extremely painful, and I did have intense cramps for 6 months after insertion. So I totally empathized with your experience with the insertion, I felt like I was going to pass out and the rest of the day felt like there was a foreign object jammed up in my uterus.
    I am so glad that IUD’s are becoming a more popular subject, and their use is increasing, and this piece has really sparked a lively conversation within the group. What I am concerned about is that women still need to be proactive about protecting themselves from STD’s as well, and should be using condoms. An IUD will protect us from having to make hard decisions about our reproduction, but condoms are absolutely necessary if you are having sex, and are not informed about the other parties sexual health or history. Let’s be safe ladies!

  • cicillionaire

    I love my Mirena so much. It’s heaven. I still get periods but they are minimal, basically spotting and I usually don’t have to use anything. And yeah, the insertion is EXTREMELY PAINFUL. It’s intense and feels really wrong, your body kind of screams from your uterus. The first time my doctor did it the Mirena wasn’t placed properly and it was taking far too long. Apparently I have a tilted uterus. So she put it in, and I had to lay there because she wouldn’t let me up. Basically she was like, “This was traumatic for both of us, and you need to rest.” Then I had a transvaginal ultrasound, they discovered it wasn’t placed high enough and she had to take it out.
    I came back 2 weeks later and did it all over again. The insertion was still just as painful, but it took no time at all and was done properly. The payoff is so worth it. Five years of never even thinking about getting pregnant.
    Je ne regrette RIEN!

    • Kayla

      You are the only other person on earth I’ve come across who also has a tilted uterus! Fortunately my doc succeeded on inserting my Mirena first try (so, so sorry you had to go through that more than once!), but thanks for making me feel less alone in the world of weird uteruses. Also, ZERO regrets on my Mirena, though insertion was brutal and the doc said “You’re turning a little green… let’s take a few minutes and some deep breaths.”

      Fun story: went to Planned Parenthood for a checkup when I was around 19 or 20, and when the doc realized that my uterus tilted the way it did, asked if she could bring some students in to take a look. BRING ‘EM ON IN, I said. Having half a dozen people checking me out like that is certainly one of the more bizarre experiences I’ve ever had, but happy to stay in stirrups for a couple extra minutes for the sake of science and learning. Especially if it helps to avoid situations like yours!

      • cicillionaire

        I’m happy to represent! My dr told me that you would only know if you had symptoms, the most common being painful sex. I don’t, thankfully, and it usually doesn’t cause problems with pregnancy either. It did explain why I can’t use the Soft Cup. Which I tried for AGES to use. It seems so great, no mess sex during your period? Awesome. I went out and bought a box, put one in, and it would not stay in place. I couldn’t even get it in place and I was using the Diva Cup, so I am very familiar with my lady parts. Anyway, I’m happy that you were able to use your unique uterus to spread knowledge.
        Mirena FOREVER!!!

  • I did a research project with Dr. Prior! WOOHOO! she’s so baller!

  • Jolie

    I know everyone is getting IUDs these days, but the horrible pain during the insertion that I’ve heard so many people describe will keep me from ever getting one. I started the pill a few years ago, long after I started having sex (oops), and it’s really been great for me. I used to get debilitating cramps every month that made me pass out and vomit, which prevented me from living my life at work and school and social events. The pill allows me to know exactly when my next period is coming and to control it. Not to mention, those deadly cramps are a thing of the past.

  • Lisa

    After 10 years on the pill, I wanted something I didn’t have to think about, something that would last a long time, and something that would mellow out my horrible periods. My doc used a lidocaine injection to numb and soften my cervix for my Mirena insertion a year ago, which worked wonders for my pain during the procedure. I did have a bit of a lightheaded, tunnel-vision spell after the shot but she gave me a minute to chill and I was fine. I drove myself home and my body immediately just shut itself off – I slept for the whole rest of the day, and into mid-morning of the next day. I had some really mild cramping for a couple of weeks intermittently, but I haven’t had a period in about 4 months, and the random cramps have also stopped! I can’t overemphasize how each uterus-having person’s body is so completely unique, as is evidenced by the incredible range of experiences we read here. Don’t let one person’s experience dissuade you from doing your own research and talking with your doctor to find a contraceptive choice that will work for you. I am obsessed with my Mirena and sing its praises while knowing I had a relatively easy time of it. Love all of you!

  • little c

    So I’m in my 40’s and have been on the pill (a LOW dose one) since my mid 20’s and have never looked back. It’s not all bad ladies; make sure you get a LOW dose one. I have a family history of depression too. I have not gained weight (am only 2 lbs more than my highschool weight, BMI 19.5), not got depressed (well, except sad about the usual life stuff) and am so happy not to have had to worry about sex or kids or whether I was going to get pregnant when I might not want to. AND periods so light that I have rarely used anything
    more than a pantyliner. AND the ability to control when they come so that I can take holidays and avoid them if I want. AND why has no-one even mentioned this lovely little benefit of the pill — can clear up acne! So I have lived a life of no kids (by choice), fun holidays, sex without worry, great skin, super easy periods…. And I actually did “live in my body too”. It doesn’t have to take a ton of experimentation to find the right pill either…. you just have to have the right doctor to start with. AND AVOID THE DEPO PROVERA INJECTION. (I know what I am talking about — I didn’t mention but I am a pharmacist too).

  • rebunka

    Everybody–and every body–is different. That being said, there’s a lot of scary discourse around the IUD, despite it and the implant being some of the most cost-effective, low user-error, and long-term options. And I really bristled at the comment about adolescent women ‘not learning to live in their bodies’. So, I’d like to present to you an unlikely love story between a gay woman and her IUD (alternately titled, Hoes for Hormones):

    I decided to get an IUD shortly after meeting the woman who would become my serious girlfriend. Yep, after I met her. I wasn’t sure whether I was still attracted to the idea of P in V sex, with men or other people with penises. To the confusion of my doctor, I hadn’t had that kind of sex in over a year. But I wanted some sort of low maintenance backup, preferably one that would also help regulate my irregular, horribly crampy period.

    I basically did everything wrong and had the worst-case scenario: a newly-out babygay who wanted an IUD, who wasn’t on her period at the insertion time, hadn’t taken painkillers, but was anxious and overcaffeinated. As I would come to learn, I also had a tilted cervix. This made itself known when, after some poking and prodding that felt like nothing more than a flu shot, I asked my doctor: “Are you inserting it?” In shock, she responded: “I just tried to insert it four times. Did you not feel that?” One more try (which was uncomfortable, to be fair) and I was done. Pretty minimal cramping just for a day and that was that.

    What was miraculous about it all was that I wasn’t in the horrible pain everyone had warned me about. My next few periods were a little heavier and crampier, but then, they just…went away. It was amazing. No more cramps and headaches, no more weepy PMS, no more gross period undies. The amount of money I’ve saved on menstrual products and extra pain meds alone makes it worth it. Even my now girlfriend might get one since her periods are worse than mine were.

    No, I don’t technically “need” to curb my fertility now or even ever, but there’s no reason to suffer through a period just to know I’m not pregnant but could be if I wanted to. Nothing about my period serves a purpose for me as a 21 year old. I hate all this pseudoscience BS about it being an indicator for overall health. No. Misogyny isn’t just pussy-grabbing commenters, it’s the health nuts who claim that being in unnecessary pain once a month is an essential and even healthy part of a “woman’s” identity (transphobic), and that tools that let her take control of her body are evil because they’re “chemicals” or “hormones.”

    And for the record? I come from a long line of depression survivors and count myself as one. I became depressed right before going on the pill many moons ago, and I think it contributed to the severity. But most women like myself start using BC as teenagers, right around the same time mental illness kicks in across the board. But the IUD? For me, nada. I’m not here to discount anyone’s experiences with that, just the blanket statements that one method is horrible for everyone. We need more studies and better ones. In the meantime, this infertile lesbian will continue to be very, very happy.

  • Jessica Downing

    I have the copper IUD and I love it! I always had bad cramps to begin with and was a little nervous about the IUD making it worse, but for me it didn’t change the intensity of the cramps, just how they felt. It went from initially the regular all-over discomfort to painful pangs of cramps instead. The first period I had after getting it had really bad cramps but they’ve been super manageable and lighter from then on. The insertion sucked, but it was totally worth it to not have to worry about birth control for up to 10 years.

  • Peter

    Ugh when will this conversation include men? Why do women accept that this is their responsibility and not their partner’s? I’m a queer man, so birth control isn’t on my personal radar, but my sister just got an copper IUD and it irks me that her partner isn’t expected to do anything.

    • M Rae

      thanks for caring Peter!!!!

  • CC

    I have one (which didn’t hurt to get up at all!) I’ve been so happy with it. I bleed less on my periods, less cramps and the fact that I don’t have to think about taking a pill or “did we forget the condom” (also because I hate condoms)
    So I’ve been overall happy…
    But.. I’m considering to get it taken out again, 1 because my man can feel it when we’re having sex (he says it feels like a small needle poking him. Auch!) and he has a very standard sized penis, so it’s not about that… but I hate to see him in pain- it is a turn off for both of us – so the thing about that ” they will soften over time” is bullshit. It’s been 1.5 year now…

    2. In the last 1,5 years I’ve had vaginitis 4 times – vagina inflammation if you will. It burns, and it is not very nice, and you have to take pills in a week, that fuck up your system… studies shows that women with the IUD is more likely to get vaginitis than women with another kind of birth control.

    I loved my little IUD, but I’m sad that these two things are so negative for me. It was so easy and good…

  • Robin

    Here a fellow migraine with aura sufferer who had to be taken off the pill because of it!!! It was such a weird situation because my first doctor told me I had migraine with aura (I thought I was going blind or something) and then I read on the internet that pill + mig w/ aura = trouble so I made an appointment, got another doc and she was like ‘GET OFF AS SOON AS POSSIBLE’. She also told me my only option would be the copper spiral and I don’t want a heavier period 🙁 So right now I’m living the condom life which kind of sucks, makes sex way less enjoyable for boys and that way also for me kind of… I wish I could still be on the pill, never had much of a problem with it and my skin was BETTER back then… I only was on the pill for two years though (15-17) so maybe side effects would’ve gotten worse

    • Robin

      I realize I’m saying ‘boys’ here, like I used to be sleeping with loads of guys without a condom but I basically mean my ex-boyfriend and my yet-to-meet future boyfriend (or people in between but then you’re supposed to use a condom, that’s what Amelia tells me)

  • Alexa Evans

    PLEASE READ IF YOU HAVE, KNOW OF SOMEONE OR ARE CONSIDERING MIRENA!!!

    I had the mirena a for 2.5 years… The first year and I half was wonderful!! I lost weight, didn’t get my period at all. However, complete 360 as on majority of this year consisted of getting seen by several different specialists for numerous mysterious symptoms– previously believed to be completely unlinked.

    What you’re not told (by doctors & their drug company counterparts) is that Mirena is in fact not a Progestin, it is a SYNTHETIC hormone called levonorgestrel… And does NOT function as Progestin at all, other than thickening the mucus in your uterus to prevent pregnancy. Not only is this not disclosed, but also hidden is the fact that Levonorgestrel tells your body to stop producing natural Progestin.

    Majority of women remain unaware as to how the intricate balance Estrogen & natural Progestin go hand in hand in maintaining the overall **essential** hormonal balance of the body, going FAR beyond simply reproductive but necessary for proper function of the Thyroid gland (located in your neck) which controls metabolism, aka INSULIN RELEASE, body temperature, and quality of overall brain function! The function of pituitary gland, located in your brain, is also dependent on the body’s balance or hormones. Manipulating this balance bares no consequences? Guess again.

    After ovulation & before menstration, natural progestin drops, causes PMS when estrogen is no longer balanced. The progestin levels are then replenished post period.

    Beginning about a year ago I found my once extremely healthy 21 y/o self developing a variety symptoms that severely impacted my quality of life. All I knew was that my body was telling me that something was very very wrong with me, at one point I was being seen as a new patient by at least FOUR new doctors:

    —Endocrinologist for: lactating, abnormal thyroid test results, rapid weight gain & hypothyroidism symptoms (physical/mental) caused by… drumroll Mirena telling my body not to produce Progestin leading to insulin resistance!
    —OB: loss of labido, extreme water rentention, severe PMDD, migraines before the period, severe chin and jaw acne, feeling so depressed not wanting to leave bed even at times, and bursting into tears w anxiety attacks which would happen (coincidentally) the leading days up to my cycle’s “period”
    —Psychotherapist: memory problems, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, low energy and DEPRESSION
    —Allergist: increase in histomine (allergic responses)

    My once completely healthy 21 year old body, with no history of the symptoms prior, had stopped producing Progestin to the point where I was suffering Estrogen dominance of a Premenopaul woman, causing my to develop thyroid dysfunction with the classification on an autoimmune disorder.

    All of these different doctors were about to write me off via perscriptions for EVEN MORE medicines for all of these symptoms (Zoloft for PMDD, medication for attention deficit etc). It was an absolute nightmare. I turned to a naturopath who was more helpful at finding the cause of the symptoms rather than giving me more chemicals to balance out chemicals.

    I’ve had my IUD removed since August 6th, and the over the past three months, my thyroid tests have come back normal (thank god), do not suffer physical symptoms of PMS, nor the panic attacks. I’m happy now to get my period because I know my bodies Progestin will bounce back after and am SO much happier in general.

    Women need their period– at least every three months like I had tried w the pill before. I never liked taking the pill same time each day, so tried implanon for a year prior to having that removed due to heavy irregular bleeding and then deciding on Miena. It wasn’t my first rodeo with hormonal birth control but it will be the last. I had never experienced hardly any of my symptoms prior!!

    As of now, my boyfriend & I use a cervical cap (fem cap) w spermicide combined w pulling out as hormonal free contraception.

    I was so relieved when the Danish study was released!! At 75% increase of users since 2008 is not sufficient evidence as to how safe they are to the well being of woman!!! I see big lawsuits making news in the future.

    Please spare the stress on your bodies ladies– trust me the risk is not worth it <3

  • Sarah Odum

    I really appreciate that these discussions are happening here on MR! And for the record, I simultaneously grimaced, nervous-laughed, and put my hair in front of my mouth (do you guys know what I mean when I say that?), while reading the description of the IUD insertion. hahahahaaaaaah oof. Women are warriors, duh.

  • I highly recommend the Depo injection contraceptive. Although I’m from the UK and for us it’s free (it’s covered by the taxes we pay), I don’t know how much it is for the US. I used to be on the pill since I was 14 years old. My period started at 11 years old, they we’re very heavy, and would last about 2 weeks long each month. So I started the pill at 14 to help combat the excessiveness. Now 22 years old, I’ve had the injection for 2 years now, I have no periods whatsoever, and it’s fantastic! I have the injection in my butt check once every 3 months and ta-da, that’s it! It doesn’t even hurt, just a normal injection. The injection is ideal for people who suffer from migraines and can’t have the pill.

  • katie

    I had a terrrrrible experience with the IUD and would not recommend it to any of my sisters or friends. ( i had mirena) miserable experience, filled with pain and other body issues..

    I’ll preface this by saying I have a high tolerance for pain and don’t complain much.
    Let me tell you- I have NEVER experienced such pain in my life. (i have not yet had children). It was almost unbearable! Upon insertion, it felt like I was being stabbed in my uterus…an intense heat swept over my whole body head to toe and I broke out into an excessive cold sweat but was overheating at the same time and had goosebumps. My mind was doing flips and my vision had spots in it. I was trying to move around to find comfort but I really couldn’t and the only thing my brain was capable of doing was shouting “F*CK!!!!! F*CK OMG FUCK!!!! IM SORRY! F*CK! SHIT! SORRY! F*CKKKKK!!!!”
    For a solid few minutes, those were the only words my mind could formulate and verbalize because I was blindsided with pain. The doctor thought it was funny I kept cursing and writhing, and i wanted to kick her in the tit. Why didn’t anyone warn me about this or tell me to take pain meds?!?!
    I laid there, unable to stand up because I felt like I was about to faint. A good 10-15 minutes passed before I could “stand” to get to my car. I say “stand” because I literally could not stand-up straight for about 5-7 days after. It felt like I was having contractions (or what I imagine that would feel like). It felt like Satan himself, with his long spindly sharp fingers, was incessantly SQUEEZING and PULSING and CRAMPING my insides as if he were using a stress ball. It felt like a demon put an electric mixer up my hoo-haa and scrambled away at my cervix. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to stand upright ever again. I called the doctor a couple days in to see if my intense pain was normal or maybe my body was rejecting the IUD….and my dr. said to take 4 advil at a time, every few hours. …….Oh, so now I’ll just destroy my liver right?
    Anyway, fast forward …My periods were wonky at first but calmed down after a few months. The first couple of months weren’t so bad to be honest…just spotting and stuff, but the insertion pain was gone.
    Sure it was nice to not have my period hemorrhage out of me each month but the COST??? Oh let me share my fun:
    So…it was extremely painful after sex almost every time. My fiance could feel the strings poke him. Totally ruins the mood and takes away from the intimacy of the moment, when right after you curl up in the fetal position *in tears* because it feels like someone thrusted a baseball bat up through your cervix. Yes, that painful. And the doctor checked the strings and kept telling me “it’s all good!”
    Then came the CYSTS….. oh good god! I developed lumpier breasts, had unrelenting/unfixable CYSTIC ACNE all over my face, and ovarian cysts. (I never dealt with acne or bad skin before the IUD. in my mid-late twenties was a *fantastic* time to test drive acne!!)
    The facial cysts would stick around for MONTHS without disappearing, and my face looked like a topographical map of the Rockies. It was terribly embarrassing, depressing and really deeply affected me.
    I had an ovarian cyst burst, and once again it felt like I was having contractions which left me curled up in the fetal position crying in pain. I actually thought my appendix was bursting. Couldn’t move, couldn’t drive, couldn’t do ANYTHING kind of pain. I went to see a doctor the next day (when I could stand up and get to my car) and she floofed it off like it wasn’t a big deal. I believe at this point I had already asked two times to have this godforsaken thing taken out of me….and two times I was (stupidly) *CONVINCED* it was the only option for me given my migraines.
    I eventually insisted on having it removed. OMG. Even the removal was mind-numbingly painful!! Seriously, EVERY STEP OF THE WAY was pain, problems, complications.
    After the removal, I had to work closely with a dermatologist for over six months on rounds of antibiotics, special cleansers, and topical ointments to get a rough handle on my cystic skin. My derm was the ONLY one who acknowledged the link between the cysts forming in my breasts, ovaries, and especially the cystic acne..and the IUD. My derm said he sees this ALL the time, young women in their mid-late twenties with NO history of skin issues…all of a sudden being plagued with deep cystic acne (especially a “beard” of it- super cute!!!) and it coinciding with IUD. It took months for my body to return to a somewhat “normal” state after having the IUD for 2.5 years.
    I had an awful experience with Mirena and hope no one else has to endure.. Also, when you think about it it’s NOT NORMAL to not have your period for years on end. Your body has cycles for a reason, your body has processes for a reason….we shed our lining and cleanse and restart…it’s a NATURAL cycle. Especially in these child-bearing years (when most women get IUD’s)…I decided not to f*ck with nature, as annoying as a monthly visit is from Aunt Flo, I know it’s supposed to happen. Ovarian cysts, cysts in my breasts, cysts under my skin, and pain after sex is NOT supposed to happen and is not natural.

  • tunie

    After reading through these comments, what stands out is that women are apparently expected to endure what appears to be a radically painful insertion without ANY anesthesia. WHY is this and WHY are we just passively accepting it? Several people here mention nearly fainting from the pain yet still “driving themselves home” after a quick 15 minutes to compose themselves. What???

  • Becky Slattery

    I’ve been on the pill since 16 minus a brief year stint where I got the copper IUD inserted. I thought it was a match made in heaven until the acne on my face, back, arms, everywhere really, got too much for me! I’ve tried 5x types of contraceptive pill in my time and finally settled on one that works for me – the oestrogen is low and I really dont find it disrupts my hormones or gives me mood swings like some of them did!! And I still have my period. I think the pill unfortunately is the only real option for me at this time!

  • Kristen Slivorski

    Thank you for this post!

    I’ve recently (6 weeks today) had the Copper IUD implanted- Specifically b/c I spent the last year receiving the Depo-Provera shot and ended up hating everything around me despite having an incredible life… Also it’s ¼ the cost and lasts twice as long. I truly do not want to go through the insertion process again if I don’t have to. Your description was apt! Other than during the insertion process, I haven’t had the displeasure of experiencing cramps before- if that is what PMS feels like, I have a new found respect for women out there who go through that regularly and are still able to function.

    As your friend had mentioned about a heavier cycle, there has been a noticable difference with mine- Something which has been basically non existent my entire life (I’m talking biannually on average), now exists and is noticeable enough to warrant the use of tampons. Alternatively, I’ve chosen to use a Diva cup considering I am an active professional who values hygiene and efficiency. Once I got over the original awkwardness of the cup, it became well worth its weight (and volume) in gold… or even Copper in today’s market. What ever, it’s worth recommending!

    The most noteworthy point is that I no longer hate everything and am able to get along with my thoughts easily now. I’ve been off the Depo (progesterone) shot for almost three months and am finally, happily feeling just fine again.

    P.S; You’re a riot- “It’s fine.” = Motto of all ladies everywhere. So super true 👌🏼

  • Malenelie

    Thanks for that article! I am actually never commenting on the internet but yeah…birth control is depressing the hell out of me! No birth control means dying from hellish pain ones a month and hormonal control means crying ones a week about a sad movie, my ex-boyfriend, having no groceries in the house or general sadness of life.

    What I don’t get…humanity makes robots, flies to the moon, develops self-driving cars -but an innovative birth control that does not expose half the earth’s population to unknown side effects :no sir!

  • Rachel Wong

    Three weeks into the Paraguard here. Was convinced that my IUD had punctured my uterus the other day right before I hopped on a 3 hour plane, went to ER after I got home, and no biggie, turns out it was just sharp cramps. Psyched myself out. I’m hoping that the pain gets better in a few months – still on the trial period. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, but the constant dull ache is annoying as hell, and I haven’t properly exercised for almost a month, even though the doc says it’s okay. I’m gonna reassess to see if things even out in time, and if not, I may reconsider. Also!! I learned the hard way that there is totally a correlation between coffee and copper IUD cramps. Do not make the same mistake I did and spend 3 hours at work doubled over in pain.

    Not trying to scare anyone off, but this is just my experience thus far. And it’s early. Everyone’s different.

  • pennyjenny

    I DO want hormones pumped into my body… As a medication for adult acne, it works wonders. (A big reason I wouldn’t consider an IUD.) Birth control is just a pleasant side effect for me. And why not take antidepressants if they work for you? I have a family history of depression, and I was depressed long before I ever took a birth control pill.

  • PP

    You wrote “implantation” earlier in your essay and then switched to saying “insertion”. Insertion is the appropriate term as implantation kind of sounds like it was embedded in the uterus!

    I never got an anti-BC vibe from this article. The truth is BC is not perfect and that many women have to deal with side effects, some of which are serious. I think the contraception narrative needs to include men. All I hear is about empowering women through BC, but I think we’re missing a big piece here. Men at this point have zero responsibility when it comes to contraception. It should be a shared responsibility. How is it empowering if we’re both benefitting yet I’m the only one dealing with the mess?

  • CMF

    Can someone tell me WHAT hurt so much? I’ve heard there are only a few nerve endings in the cervix, so I’ve been wondering if it was my uterus. One of the shocking aspects of the near-cosmic pain was that I DIDN’T KNOW WHERE IT WAS. That was scary for some reason. It felt like it hurt quite a while (more than a few seconds) and I know she “sounded” my uterus, incredibly painful too. So I feel like it MUST be the couple-inch-long cervix.

  • Natt

    I have a contraceptive implant in my arm- I guess it’s similar to the IUD but it’s not as frightening of Ann insertion. This is my second implant- they last three years. The first time it was great, I had 3 periods a year (huzzah!) and no real side effects- but this time for some reason it’s been hell. I have a month long period, with only a week in between. I’ve honestly sat on my bathroom floor and cried so many times because I don’t know what to do! The pill made me depressed and bitchy at everybody, condoms hurt me and I’m really reluctant to try the IUD because, as stated, there’s a chance that it may make periods worse. It’s times like these that I’m so frustrated that there isn’t any male contraception available. We probably won’t see that anytime soon, and if that’s the case, then for the love of god please please fix these side effects. So many ladies go through situations like these and it really feels like contraceptive manufacturers just don’t care. “Look you can’t get pregnant, what more do you want?!” (Apologies for pouring my contraceptive-fueled hormones out here haha)