At the beginning of summer, I had a long talk with my gynecologist about my birth control options. As birth control is an empowering choice for women to control their reproductive power, the NuvaRing provided my first experience: positive and simple maintenance. It required easy self-insertion; I still had a regular menstrual cycle each month; I rarely felt the ring inside my vagina; and I never felt a sense of discomfort. As I was able to decide when and if I wanted to have a child, I experienced better intimacy, less anxiety, and a liberating sex life.
But then, I had a travel opportunity arise. I decided to move to Salvador, Brasil to pursue an artist-in-residency program to strengthen my creative focus and develop a longer piece of creative work. While I was excited career-wise, I became worried about my birth control options in Salvador. Between my insurance restrictions and the NuvaRing’s availability at local pharmacies, I wasn’t sure if my birth control purchases would be as convenient. Expressing these concerns to my doctor, I was presented with a plethora of options: get off birth control and rely solely on other protection, take the chance of finding the NuvaRing, switch to another form of birth control, or consider getting an IUD.
The truth is that IUDs continue to have a stigma. They’ve become associated with all types of infections and reproductive complications, including pelvic inflammatory disease. The first IUD was founded in the 1970s, which had a multifilament string that absorbed bacteria and provided a passageway for bacteria into the uterus. Since then, the IUD has made dramatic medical advancements, using monofilament strings and better composition materials.
While there are two types of modern IUDs that women can choose, hormonal (Mirena) or copper, I chose the Mirena, a soft, flexible IUD that releases small amounts of hormone locally into your uterus and protects you from pregnancy for up to five years. The Mirena is made of plastic with less than 1% of users developing pelvic inflammatory disease and 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Additionally, within a year of removing it, 8 out of 10 women were able to get pregnant.
After learning all the statistics and doing the research, I still felt nervous about the IUD placement procedure. I’d have to sign a release form, come into my gynecologist’s office, and allow her to stick a long, thin device through my cervix and place the Mirena. It was like a mini surgery, anesthesia not required, but nonetheless scary. As my insurance would cover the procedure and purchase, leaving me with a $30 co-pay for the Mirena device and $15 for the procedure, I did the math and realized that five months of paying for the NuvaRing at $10 per month would amount to the same as getting the IUD inserted and having it last for five years. Five years versus five months, I decided to go with the procedure.
I laid on the exam table, legs propped up, and near delusional after taking 800 mg of ibuprofen an hour before. My gynecologist had recommended that I take two aspirin before I came, but of course, I had to be extra with my dosage to ensure the least amount of pain as possible. Funny enough, I did not feel one ounce of pain, just discomfort and a bit of nausea. I’m sure that psychologically I freaked myself out thinking about this long, thin device moving around my uterus to place the IUD. According to friends, the device going through my cervix into my uterus should’ve felt like the equivalent of childbirth. I maybe winced from the insertion because it felt awkward, but really no pain.
All in all, the procedure took approximately five minutes, and I was able to walk out of the doctor’s office without feeling a thing. The 800 mg of ibuprofen did have a wearing affect on me, as I felt extremely tired and ready for a nap. But once I slept for a few hours, I was good as new, out celebrating a friend’s birthday and drinking a glass of wine.
If you’re considering an IUD and have gotten the health clearance from your doctor, I’d say do it. I’m excited that I can travel without having to consider the location’s access to birth control, and right now, five years baby-free sounds quite appealing. Moreover, if the IUD does present any complications or issues, your healthcare provider can take it out.
Have you ever experienced an IUD placement? Or do you have an IUD and love it? Share your story.
Arielle Loren’s IUD placement was done at NYU Trinity Medical Center by Doctor Samantha Dunham.