The intrauterine device (IUD) is a form of long-term birth control lasting between 5-10 years. It is an object placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. The two types available are copper-containing devices and a hormone-containing device that releases a progesterone.
In this article, I will share my experiences with the insertion and removal process and immediate symptoms that follow. I’ll also offer tips to help you with your procedure. I have experience with both Mirena and Paragard.
I got Mirena during my 2 week check-up after the birth of my third child. This is a common time to get an IUD following pregnancy. Although, getting an IUD before leaving the hospital is an option too. If you haven’t recently given birth, your doctor will base your appointment around your menstrual cycle. It will either coincide with your period, and I hear this alleviates pain (although I’ve never done it), or the week after your period.
I recommend you take Midol or pain reliever that targets the lower abdomen. Pain levels vary greatly among patients and go into it expecting the worst but hoping for the best. I don’t write this to alarm you, but women are often surprised by the pain. I think being ready is better being shocked. You wouldn’t want to tense up and make the process more difficult. A good indicator of how painful your procedure will be is to think of your routine pap smears. Do they cause you pain? Discomfort? Are they usually a breeze for you?
Getting Mirena was a positive experience for me. My doctor checked my cervix, which wasn’t painful as much as it was uncomfortable, and easily inserted the IUD. I only felt pressure and minimal cramping during insertion. He then cut the strings, another trouble-free step. Afterward I had mild bleeding and hardly any cramping. The entire procedure took less than 10 minutes and I was able to carry out the rest of my day with no problem.
I had no negative side effects. My period remained normal for the first few months then stopped entirely.
After 5 years, the maximum time of effectiveness, I had Mirena replaced with Paragard. This time was much harsher mentally and physically. I attribute this to the fact that I hadn’t given birth in 5 years and went through both the removal and insertion process in one sitting.
Since I had no period on Mirena, I was able to schedule my appointment for any time. As is routine, I took a pregnancy test and tested for STDs before beginning.
My doctor began with placing a speculum in my vagina. If you’ve ever had a pap smear, you probably know this device, even if you aren’t familiar with the name. It’s basically a metal tube that keeps the vagina open so the doctor can use both free hands. While I’m on the subject of medical tools, I recommend not looking at them. They are much scarier-looking than they feel and will only make you unnecessarily nervous. She then searched for the Mirena. I can’t remember whether she used her finger or an instrument, but this step was very uncomfortable. It didn’t hurt, but I did feel aching in my pelvic region. Once she found the Mirena, she removed it via tool which felt exactly as you may imagine. I felt the small IUD being pulled through the vaginal canal and this step didn’t hurt. In fact, I felt a huge sense of relief once it’d been removed.
Now comes the bad part. Keep in mind that your experience could be better than mine, so don’t let this terrify you. She inserted an instrument that she swept along the sides of my entire cervix. This was very intense and I felt extreme cramping. I dealt with the pain by biting my lip, grabbing the table, and either closing my eyes or focusing on a picture in the room. Do what you have to do to keep your mind off of it. Try not to overreact but don’t be afraid to voice your discomfort if it becomes too severe. My doctor was compassionate and considerate during this step. She repeatedly asked how I was doing and stopped when I needed. She inserted Paragard in the same way Mirena was inserted. This step wasn’t painful itself, but I was still cramping badly at that point. She didn’t cut the strings at that time, but did ask that I return in 2 weeks so she could check the IUD and have them cut if I chose to. I highly recommend doing this. The downside is that your partner may feel minor prickling during intercourse, but this usually goes away after a few weeks. If you don’t get the strings cut, they are very long and may occasionally exit your cervix into your vaginal canal. That worried me because it felt like the IUD was going to fall out even though it was securely placed in my uterus.
After the process was complete, I had to stay seated for 5-10 minutes. I estimate that the entire procedure took around 30 minutes. I was given a pad and by that point I was bleeding greatly and the cramping had not subsided at all. I had driven myself to the doctor’s office and when I left, I sat in my car for about 10 minutes because the cramping was so powerful and there was tight aching in my stomach. I felt sick and like I was going to vomit. If possible, bring your partner or a friend so you don’t wind up in the same situation.
I spent the rest of my day lying down or sitting on something soft. I wasn’t able to do much more. The feeling improved as the hours passed, but were still present when I went to bed. It’s common for discomfort to continue on through the next day.
The following day, the pain was gone, but I was bleeding a great deal. It’s not uncommon to have small blood clots. Bleeding lasted for almost a week.
After having no period from Mirena, I wondered how long it’d be for my periods to return. For many, it can take months, so don’t worry if it doesn’t come back immediately. I got my period exactly one month after getting Paragard, and have had them exactly a month apart since then. I’ve never had a punctual period in my life, so this is possibly a result from the birth control.
My periods have been incredibly heavy every time. I want to emphasize how normal this is even though it may not seem like it at first. You’ll want to have pads and tampons handy because you will most likely go through a lot. During my first period, I used super absorbent tampons and had to change them every 4 hours or less. If you use tampons, you’ll want to pair it with panty liners or a pad if your bleeding is significant. The good news is that it only lasted 2-4 days, and has lasted the same length of time ever since. The bad news is that every period has been that heavy for me. I’ve read that it normalizes in time, but I’ve yet to experience this myself.
Getting an IUD is sometimes an intimidating and painful thing, but I think it’s worth it in the end. The grief is short-lived but the benefits will last you for years. You won’t have to remember to take a daily pill or get a shot every 3 months. You can rest assured that IUDs are effective in preventing pregnancy and you’ll have that peace of mind for up to a decade. You can also remove it at any time if you decide to have children and pregnancy is possible almost immediately.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to find a good doctor, preferably one you’ve previously seen and are comfortable with. You want someone who will listen to your feelings as you undergo this procedure.
I hope this has helped to clarify what you may experience as you start your new birth control. Happy thoughts and best of luck.