The newest covert trend amongst young DC women: the IUD or Intrauterine Device.
Author’s Note: Dear Dad, Thank you for recently subscribing to Broads of the Beltway. I was truly touched. However, you should seriously skip this post. There are things in this post that I want no man to read. In fact, dudes in general read at your own peril. Love, Me
Birth control is a serious consideration for many young, professional women. And there are several viable options out there: pills, shots, patches, rings, and of course, abstinence just to name a few. My girl friends and I have combined probably tried all of them at least once.
My body tends to react like a pirate stripped of his rum whenever I have tried the pill or the ring in the past…with slurred anger and many complications. So when my girl friends recently began telling me about some magical device without hormones called the Paragard IUD, I was intrigued.
(Note: There are currently two IUD brands on the American market. The Mirena, which contains a very low level of added hormones and the Paragard, which has no added hormones. While I know several women who love the Mirena, I will be focusing on the Paragard in this article. And not to go all ex-law-student-worried-about-getting-sued on you, but I am not a doctor—please check with your doctor before deciding which form of contraception is best for you.).
Since my IUD story is slightly atypical I will present mine first, and then follow it with our guest blogger Veronica’s experience. Together, I hope we can accurately provide a complete picture of the IUD roller-coaster of awesomeness.
My personal IUD love story began like all love stories—with an awkward first date. I met my new DC-based gynecologist several weeks ago to make sure everything was in tip-top shape south of my border via an annual pap smear. After getting the medical all clear, I attempted to set up a future appointment for an IUD insertion with my new doctor. But alas, this particular gyno did not offer IUD insertions. My advice, dear readers, save yourself the hassle and verify ahead of time that your doctor hearts the Paragard or Marena.
As I left the IUD-less doctor’s office I wondered where to go next on my quest for easy birth control. When I was struck by the answer, I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. Much like 16 year-old girls in “serious” relationships across the country, I knew it was time to visit my local Planned Parenthood.
There are several Planned Parenthood locations in the Washington DC metro area. The closest location to me, the downtown DC Planned Parenthood, was (no surprise) booked up for quite a while, though, when I tried to call for an appointment. The location in Gaithersburg, Maryland, however, was readily available, open on Saturdays, and accessible by public transportation. So I happily booked my IUD insertion for the week I was going to be on my period since I had learned from internet research that menstruation makes the insertion less painful, and I’m all about less pain.
The day of the insertion, Natalie came over to my place for moral support and together we journeyed deep into the heart of Maryland. After surviving a long metro and bus ride, we eventually arrived at the Gaithersburg Planned Parenthood.
Upon my arrival, the staff had me fill out a lot of paperwork. I’m pretty sure I signed away my kidney on the black market that day. But the women working in the front office were wonderful and super accommodating. I also was given ibuprofen in advance to help ease any future cramps.
I was taken back to an examination room and given the typical paper dress to put on. A nurse practitioner then came in to do my actual IUD insertion. She warned me that because I had not been given some special uterus softening medicine to take the night before, I might not be able to have an IUD inserted that day. After having spent the last three hours on public transportation I mentally willed my uterus to corporate. The nurse practitioner also warned me that the insertion would be more painful for me because of the lack of the special medicine. Once again, I willed my body to “be cool, be cool.”
I laid back and placed my feet in the stirrups, determined to be calm and think uterus-opening thoughts. As the speculum went in, the nurse practitioner suddenly exclaimed, “Look at the dolphins!”
I was momentarily alarmed, as sea creatures and lady parts generally don’t go together, until I noticed a mobile of dolphins hanging from the ceiling. Relieved, I obediently began to watch the dolphins flicker in the AC-induced breeze. It was soothing at the time, but I will never think of Flipper the same way again.
After rummaging around in my tilted uterus for a bit, the nurse practitioner proclaimed it open enough to go ahead with the insertion that day. I mentally high-fived my uterus for its cooperation, and the nurse prepped me for the insertion.
The most common question I get (and the whole reason I wrote this post) is, “Did it hurt?”
The answer: for about five seconds, yes.
The painful part ironically is not the actual insertion. A five second bolt of lightening went through me when the nurse measured the depth of my uterus. It was a feeling I never want to experience again, but not so terrible that I wouldn’t recommend IUDs in general. And keep in mind, the pain only lasted five seconds.
Immediately after the insertion itself, I felt a big period-style cramp wash over me for about a minute.
And then it was done.
The nurse practitioner gave me a hug and told me what a trooper I was. I did not speak or make a single sound throughout the entire ordeal so she seemed pretty impressed.
I felt a little shaky on the ride home, and was glad to have had a snack to eat. I took the rest of the evening off, and I would recommend that to anyone post IUD insertion.
Answers to some (pretty awkward) FAQs:
1. I’ve had friends report spotting since their IUD insertions. I personally have not experienced any spotting, but my period is slightly more intense since getting the Paragard. I have always had horrible cramps though, so perhaps I am just imagining them to have worsened.
2. No, he cannot feel it.
3. It cost $40 with my insurance and it lasts for 10 years (or until I decide to have it removed). Without insurance it would have been about $475 at the Planned Parenthood.
I ♥ My IUD
By: Veronica, Guest Blogger for the Broads of the Beltway
I went to the doctor (nurse practitioner) about a month ago. After the annual, we talked about birth control and I told them I wanted Paragard. They didn’t try to convince me otherwise, just suggested an IUD with hormones. When I explained that hormones in birth control a) made my migraines even worse from the fluctuating levels and b) caused ovarian cysts that were 3/4 the size of my ovaries and ruptured, making me think my ovaries exploded, they were in agreement with the hormone-less anti-spawn device.
After my annual exam, the nurse practitioner gave me a pill called Cytotec that was to be inserted the night before the procedure to soften my uterine wall, making insertion of the IUD easier. They also informed me that they wanted me to be on my cycle for the IUD insertion as it would be less painful. If I wasn’t on my cycle, I would have had to go in the previous day to get a blood test to ensure I wasn’t pregnant.
When I arrived for my appointment, the nurses were really sweet and nice. They double checked my blood pressure and explained that I would be unable to insert anything in my vagina (read: tampons, penis or any sort of helpful stimulating devices) until I had stopped bleeding from my period and or the procedure. After that, I disrobed and waited for the nurse practitioner, killing time by reading the terrible magazines and texting my friend Janna things like “this is going to be really painful” and “my vagina is going to need a vacation” to which she was helpfully replying “yeah, it’s going to hurt like a bitch” etc…
After the nurse practitioner came in, she had me assume the position (read: butt all the way forward on the examining table, feet in the stirrups like I was having an annual exam). She had already explained the basic steps, but kept explaining as she was enacting the procedure. NP Mumford first disinfected my vagina with Betadine, which is a variant of Iodine, a dark yellow liquid used as a medical cleaning agent. She used giant cotton swabs to do this as she had to reach all the way down my vaginal canal. Note: these things are like a foot long, and you would not want to get them near your ears… they would poke all the way through your brain to the ear on the other side). After the mildly painful disinfection of my insides, and using the same giant cotton swabs to apply a topical anesthetic, NP Mumford then inserted the speculum so that she could measure my uterus and how deep it was. This is when the pain really started. Not to brag or rub it in, but when I get my period, I NEVER get cramps. Read: never. This procedure makes you cramp throughout as it has something to do with stimulating whatever area of the body that inflicts self-torture. I get migraines. Really terrible migraines. But never cramps.
After the excruciating pain of having to measure my uterus (which she had to do twice, by the way, since my uterus is tipped, meaning it doesn’t sit completely level in my body), the speculum is still in place (also not the most comfortable) so that she had a guide to move along to place the IUD. Paragard is a capital T shaped white plastic device wrapped in copper wire. The copper disrupts the ability of the egg to attach to the uterine wall, with 99% effectiveness. It is only for the promise of that effectiveness against reproducing, creating progeny, having an alien grow inside me, etc… that this procedure was worth it. Another note: the topical anesthetic was definitely not working.
NP Mumford then placed the device inside my body, with a wave of pain that felt like a combination of hitting your funny bone on a door, stubbing your big toe on the sharpest corner of your bed frame, and taking giant pincers with spikes to your abdomen and squeezing them rapidly over and over again. The cramping was continuing throughout the procedure, but the pain reached a fever pitch during this portion, as it took her what felt like 10 minutes to get it placed. In reality, it was probably only one or two minutes.
I pride myself on my high levels of pain tolerance. Let me just put that out there. Various piercing parlors throughout the years have commented on my abilities to handle pain, as have varied medical professionals. This was excruciating. I didn’t make a peep, which impressed my nurse practitioner. She is not the gushy type, and after the procedure was over she just kept commenting “you did SO well! SO WELL!” like she’d never seen someone handle pain like a champ like me. This is a painful procedure, and I don’t want to sugar coat that. However, after it was over, I felt great. I didn’t feel shaky, but they had me lay down and rest for a few minutes, brought me some water, and gave me some free panty liners so that I didn’t bleed on my light grey pants. Bad choice of clothing for that day, by the way.
My metro ride back to work was fine, and I’ve been experiencing cramps for the past couple of days, but other than that, I’m so excited to not have to deal with bloating, weight gain, or babies. My very sweet and understanding significant other picked me up at my metro stop after work, and brought me home to a surprise meal, and gorgeous orchid that he had purchased. He, of course, wanted to dance the horizontal tango immediately, as the device is immediately effective, but NP Mumford suggested that no sexy activities take place until bleeding has stopped- period or otherwise. He understood, and has been very thankful that I went through that pain to ensure our nightime/ daytime / anytime activities don’t create progeny that will take over the world (It’s Pinky, it’s Pinky and the Brain, Brain Brain Brain…).
It was a great decision. Momentarily painful, but a good choice to ensure that my career and my significant other’s career and education will remain uninterrupted for as long as we choose.