Over a year ago, I began working on a post about my journey with having an IUD. A family history of breast cancer urged me to get off of the birth control pill I had been on for well over 9 years to lower the artificial estrogen I was pumping into my body every day. It has taken me so long to refine this post and ultimately have the courage to post it because it’s obviously very personal. While this is my personal blog, it’s really not a place I share that kind of personal detail. Ultimately, after telling my experience with countless friends it was clear that many women really didn’t know what to expect and were very curious about other forms of birth control. So, 14 months after insertion, here’s the full, dirty, uncensored truth about what it’s like getting an IUD, from start to one year later.
After a consultation with my gynecologist we decided on the Mirena to make sure my painful cramps did not return post insertion. I came back about 2 weeks later for the procedure. That afternoon I took a pill to soften my cervix to help with insertion, and by 5pm I was on my way to the doctors office. Once in the chair, the first part is no different than a routine gynecological exam. Next, a bit of iodine is swabbed on the cervix which feels like nothing much. After this, the needle is grabbed from the table which, in all honesty, looks like something you want really far away from your vagina, or any part of your body for that matter- it’s freaking huge. As soon as she went to poke it into the cervix I jumped back and tears started slowly rolling down my cheeks. Not necessarily from the pain (yet) but because I love overthinking things and working myself up, it’s my specialty in these situations. My doctor decided it would be best if the nurse I like came and held my hand for the remainder of the procedure.
The needle is hands down the worse part of the entire thing, but without it delivering the numbing medication to the cervix, I’m sure the other part would have been much worse. It feels basically like the worst period cramps you’ve ever had with a bit of a pinch. The entire needle part was about 30 seconds, although it did feel much longer while it was happening. Next, they measure the length of the cervix, which again just feels like a bad cramp or two, no real pain other than that. After this, they insert the device through the cervix and again, some bad cramps. When it’s all said and done, I remember looking at the doctor and thinking that I was a huge baby for crying and that the actual insertion was a breeze compared to the needle. They then did a quick ultrasound to confirm it was in place and sent me on my way.
While in the uber on the way home, the real cramps started in, hard. I’ve always experienced bad cramps with my periods, but these were much more intense than any I had ever had. It was full fetal position on the couch binge re-watching Grey’s Anatomy kind of cramps. I took some extra Aleve right before bed to try and put the cramps at bay, but they were still painful for the rest of the evening.
The next morning they were more manageable, still there, but back down to a normal “bad cramps on my period” level vs “bad cramps someone just ripped out my uterus” level. While there were a few intense ones in the afternoon at work, they were tolerable, I mean, after all, we are women and our pain tolerance is built for childbirth, so we can handle it. After about 36 hours the cramps were gone and the spotting had mostly subsided. Occasionally I would have a slight pain or cramp here or there for the next 2-3 months- I was constantly convinced I could feel it up there or that it was out of place. So convinced, that I once went back in for another ultrasound to confirm it was in place- it hadn’t moved.
I’ve never had a full period since getting it in, but for the first 6-8 months would spot for a few days once a month or once every other month. Now, I get a touch of spotting very rarely, 98% of the time there’s nothing. One change I did notice was hormonal acne. I never had horrific breakouts but there were always a few blemishes on my face growing up. In college, they were more at bay but still an occasional bad cystic one here or there. After the IUD, my acne has returned and in places I’ve never had it before like on my lower cheeks and chin. It’s gone back and forth from being barely noticeable to horrific and I’ve switched my products a lot to try and combat it.
The acne is the one thing that makes me think “maybe I should get it out”, but when I think about the other benefits (not having a period, not having to remember to take a pill, lower estrogen in my body etc.) I keep it in. I’ve also tried a few new things to help with the acne and acne scarring, which, I’m hoping will really make this adult acne run for the hills- so more to come on this in the next few months. Right now, the only things that help it are heading to Bliss for their Triple Oxygen Facial and Microdermabrasion (I see Asia in their Soho location) and this really is a miracle for my skin when I get them done, but not the most economical to get it all the time. For at home, keeping up with regular facials has helped (I love this mask and this one) but I’ve still had a lot of scarring on my cheeks from the blemishes. My 2018 goal is to have perfect skin and not have to wear make-up everyday- so I will certainly be sharing more on this subject in the months to come as I test and find products that work. My challenge is that I’ve really been trying to use more organic and natural products but haven’t found many that truly deliver.
So the short answer from all of this is that, one year later, I would get it in again without even thinking if the acne part was off the table. Even with the acne part, I’d probably still get it again. For the health benefits alone having a family history of breast cancer it’s worth it, not to mention the convenience of it. When traveling, it’s one less thing I have the chance of forgetting at home and once less thing to have a reminder on my phone about everyday.
I realize this post was totally outside of the scope that Bonjour Blue runs in, and while I certainly don’t see this being a common occurrence going forward, I felt it was really important to help other women realize there are other options for birth control and also give the real version of what happens when you get an IUD.