Or rather, IUD insertion fail. The IUD is probably fine, as it never came anywhere close to my body.
A few months ago, I started thinking about getting an IUD as part of an overall shift away from medication. I have a family history of breast cancer, and getting off hormonal birth control is a high priority. I’m better about remembering pills than I used to be, but it’s still a hassle. And I’m pretty tolerant of pain, so though they recommend IUDs for women who have had birth because of the insertion process, I thought I could probably handle it, especially after the pelvic marathons that were my experience with gyne instruction.
Photo by +mara
Here are some things I learned about IUDs:
- They’re about the size of a toothpick, and shaped like a T (see above).
- They’re typically recommended for women who have had children, in part because the insertion process is easier if you’ve had a vaginal birth.
- They don’t provide any protection against disease or infection (duh).
- Getting pregnant while you have one is very dangerous.
- There are strings that dangle down into the vagina, but they’re only minimally noticeable during sex.
- During the insertion process, it’s possible for the IUD to perforate the wall of the uterus, in which case you’ll have to go to the hospital and get stitched up.
- Many women experience minimal-to-no periods, which works by delivering a localized low dose of progesterone.
- Break-through bleeding and spotting and PMS-like symptoms occur in the first 1-2 months, but typically drop off after that.
- It’s good for 5 years. The nurse helpfully reminded me of that, and suggested I put the Mirena info packet in my lingerie drawer so that I’d remember to have it removed in 2017.
- There are no hormones; instead, the copper does something to prevent pregnancy.
- Since there are no hormones, women who have been on hormonal birth control often experience heavier and more painful periods, as the hormones were previously controlling some of the normal period side effects.
- You can’t use it if you’re allergic to copper.
- It’s good for 10 years
So, prepared with my research, I went to the doctor for the initial consult. She told me all of the above, and did a swab test so that they could check for disease or infection (none, thank you very much). I was told to come back at the end of my next period. Done.
I went in today for the actual insertion which, as you might be suspecting, didn’t go as planned. First, they took my vitals, and I confirmed that I am 5’10” rather than 5’10.75″, as I was in high school. They had me pee in a cup, though I have no idea why. I was moved to a room with an ultrasound machine, and told to undress from the waist down. I filled out some paperwork, and talked to the doctor about the procedure.
My gyne instruction experience prepared me for the cold stirrups (cute kneesocks!) and for proper placement of my butt off the end of the table. The doctor performed a gentle pelvic exam in order to determine the size (a kiwi!) and orientation (slightly anteverted) of my uterus. She inserted the speculum, and then used something that looked like hot dog tongs to GRAB my cervix.
Here’s where it got awful. I’ll spare you too many of the details, but my cervix wasn’t open enough to allow the doctor to insert the device that would direct the IUD into place. She tried, and I tried to breathe through it, and we both stopped. She tried a series of frightening instruments, each of which were more painful than the last, as I bit my thumbs and took deep breaths and tried to continue talking. She stopped, explained what was happening, and asked if I wanted to try again. She tried one more time, and I yelled out in pain.
The cervix is like a valve or a cylinder, and mine apparently is too narrow or too constricted on the uterine end to allow the device to be inserted. So instead of getting an IUD, I got all the cramping and none of the pregnancy prevention! I’m frustrated and disappointed, but ultimately, I have to listen to what my body is telling me. My body can do many wonderful and amazing things. It just can’t currently permit a device the size of a drinking straw to pass into my uterus. And I don’t have much choice other than to be OK with that.