Friday, February 10, 2012

TMI pt 2

**Warning male readers...turn back now**

So, months back I wrote a blog post entitled TMI and I urged my man friends not to read it.

One good friend emailed me and said "Uh....I shouldn't have read that."  And I said "I warned you."  And he said "I know, but I was curious."

I'm sure he thought it was going to be a post giving all the secrets to pleasing a woman sexually....and then he was severely disappointed to read that it was about menstrual cups.  :)

Well, here is my warning again, in plain English: Men do NOT read this post.  Unless you like reading about vaginas.  The inside of vaginas.

Okay, if they haven't turned back now, it's their own fault!

So, today I'm going to talk about IUDs.  IUDs, if you don't know, are contraceptive devices that are inserted through your vagina and up into your uterus. They are left there for YEARS! to prevent pregnancy.  (5 years for Mirena*, 7 years for Paraguard*)

I'm not going to get all medical on you here.  If you want to know more about IUDs, you can google them or read about them on wikipedia.  And if any of the facts I give you are wrong, sorry, I'm not a doctor.

I'm just going to share my own personal experience here.  In my layman's terms.

First, I'll tell you what birth control we have used and why we stopped.

The Pill.  I used the pill for 10 years with great success. But for some reason when I restarted the pill after I stopped breast feeding, I just kept forgetting to take it.  I tried to take them when I brushed my teeth in the morning, but I was even forgetting that sometimes (don't worry, I keep a back up tooth brush and paste in my desk at work just for this reason).  I thought the habit might come back if I just gave it time, but I was on it for about 6 months and STILL kept missing pills.  This was no bueno for a couple that got pregnant with twins the exact month she went off the pill.

Nuva Ring*.  I actually really liked the Nuva-Ring.  My doctor gave me 3 or 4 rings to sample, and I was very happy with them.  I especially liked the "set it and forget it" convenience that I so badly needed, and I experienced none of the possible side affects.  But it was $45 a month.  Not to be crass, but Superman and I were just not having $45 worth of sex a month.  I know, I did the math.  We needed to up our monthly copulation averages, or find another route of contraception.

Condoms. I was surprised that Superman was willing to go for this method, considering we had dumped condoms long ago into our courtship (we were monogamous and got tested for all the STDs first young ladies!), and I always just assumed men hated condoms.  But this was a cheap method that was pretty effective (we used it for over 2 years with no pregnancies!). However, there are some draw backs.  Just to name one....While we typically had a healthy supply in our bedside table, we were terrible about having them with us outside of the house.  And there were the occasions where we felt spontaneously amorous, but lack of protection kept us from being able to act on those impulses.  (Hey, we are married, not dead!)

I had heard about IUDs before, but had heard mostly negative things about them.  I had a few friends/acquaintances who had used them and complained of terrible cramping and lots of break through bleeding, and in the end had had them removed. (Actually, one said hers came out!)  So while the concept sounded great (insert a device, minimal hormones, last for 5/7 years) I couldn't bring myself to look past the bad reviews.  But overtime, the more I thought about the IUDs the more I thought: if they are as bad as my friends say, why are so many women still using them?  Then I thought back to all of the negative reviews I'd read about the Nuva Ring after I had already started it.  I had experienced none of the symptoms and complications those women reported.

So I decided that the only way to know for sure if the IUD would work for me, was to give it a try.

At my next annual visit to my OBGYN, I let her know that I would like to try an IUD.  We talked about the pros and cons of Mirena and Paraguard, the two leading IUDs and she sent me on my way with literature and instructions to call me when I started my next period.  (The IUD is inserted during the last days of menstruation, since the cervix is softer.)  Also, during this time, her office staff would contact my insurance to find out what they would cover for each of my two choices.

Here is a break down of my choices:

  • A plastic device that uses a very low dose of progesterone locally into your uterus.  Now, my doctor wanted me on very low or no hormone birth control, so originally I was not considering Mirena because of this, but it turns out that Mirena is okay because it doesn't use estrogen, and because the hormone is distributed locally and very little of the hormone gets into your actual blood stream.
  • Lasts for 5 years
  • Because it uses hormones, majority of users report lighter periods (less cramping, lighter flow, less days) and many users report that periods go away completely after about 6 months.
Para Guard
  • A plastic device that has copper coils.  The best I could understand was that no one knows exactly why the copper works, but that they think it kills sperm.
  • Lasts for 7 years
  • Many users report that their periods are actually heavier and longer than before insertion.

Both devices are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.  And as it turns out, both were covered 100% by my insurance company.  All I had to pay for was my actual appointment for the placement (just a doctor's visit co-pay) and the cost of my 6 week post-placement check up exam (another doctor's visit co-pay).  So for me, that was $80 for 5 or 7 years of birth control!

So, I decided that I was going to try Mirena.  The idea of lighter (and possibly no) periods just sounded too good to pass up.  So, the first day of my menstrual cycle in December, I called and made my appointment.

The actual placement was not too bad.  It wasn't pleasant, but I wasn't screaming or crying or anything.  Imagine if you will a pap smear, but instead of the swabbing portion taking 10 seconds, it took a minute.  It really wasn't a long amount of time, but it seemed like forever when I was naked from the waist down and my hoo-ha was being held wide open by a plastic crank.  The first thing they did was insert a speculum and opened it up, just like a pap.  Then, she measured my uterus, to make sure it was big enough for the device.  I don't remember exactly how much mine measured, but she assured me that it greatly surpassed the minimum. She said I could thank having twins to stretching that bad boy out.  (I think this is also why IUDs used to only be recommended for women who had already experienced a pregnancy.)  Then, she inserted the device using a special tool-thingy.  It didn't take long, just about 30 seconds of pressure and a slight pinching feeling.  Then she cut the string that was dangling through the cervix into the vagina.  Then she was done.

Afterwards I did have a funny pinchy feeling.  It is difficult to describe, because it wasn't quite in the hoo-ha, but it was "down there" in that region.  I had been forewarned of pain by the literature, so I was prepared with a bottle of ibuprofen.  I took two, then headed back to work.  I felt kind of crampy, like normal menstrual crampy, but otherwise I felt fine.

When I got home, I was curious, so I felt for my string.  It didn't feel like a string at all, it felt stiff, more like fishing wire.

Later than night, Superman and I decided to celebrate our condom-free lifestyle by taking it out for a spin. (Another bonus to the IUDs, they are effective against pregnancy from the moment of insertion, no waiting a few hours or 30 days.)  I was curious if he could feel anything, but of course he couldn't.  I've read some women say that their partners were poked by the stiff string, but we didn't experience this.  I actually was a bit uncomfortable, and certain positions were down right bad.  A small part of me worried that certain positions would have to be taken out of our rotation for good, since they actually shorten the vaginal canal and allow the penis to penetrate deeper.  (I did title this blog TMI, y'all!)  Looking back, I should have just waited a few days before trying to have sex, and that is what I'd recommend to others.

Since I was already on the tale end of my cycle, my bleeding was incredibly light.  It could best be described as spotty.  I did expect it would get heavy again after the placement, but it didn't.  But the spotting did last a big longer than if I'd had a normal cycle.  I think I had to wear a pantyliner for like a week afterwards.

By a week after my placement, my spotting was gone.  I could no longer feel any cramping or pinching.  And by this time we had tried having sex again and no positions were off limits.

A month later I had my first post-placement menstruation and it was mostly normal.  I normally have one day of bad cramping (usually the 2nd day), 3-4 heavy days where I use my menstrual cup, and then 1-2 days where a panty liner suffices. For this period, I did notice that my usually heavy days seemed a little less heavy, and by the 3rd day it was almost light enough that I didn't need the cup.  Almost.

I had no breakthrough bleeding.  No non-menstruation cramping.  Things were going so well that for just a second I worried that maybe it had fallen out, like the woman who'd warned me about her bad experience.  I decided to try and feel for the string just to check.  I couldn't feel it.  I enlisted Superman to help (there was a lot of bribing for this!) and he couldn't feel it.  I wasn't panicked enough to call the doctor though.

At the end of January, I went back for my 6 week post-placement check up and crossed my fingers that it was still there.  She examined me and said everything looked great.  She said the reason that I couldn't feel the string was because it had curled up (I've read they tend to curl up and soften over time), but that it was still perfectly in place.  I was cleared as good to go until my next annual pap smear.

A few weeks later, I started my second post-placement menstruation.  And this one was so not normal.  I've had no cramping.  None!  And I had two very light days, followed by one day that I used my cup (but never got a significant amount of stuff), and then four days of light-pantyliner bleeding.

So, in the end, I've been using Mirena for almost 3 months and I have experienced no side effects.  I have experienced no breakthrough bleeding (this was a major problem for a good friend of mine who tried it before), no cramping (I heard a lot of this prior to my placement), it hasn't fallen out, it's not affecting our sex life, my blood pressure has not been affected by the hormones, and my periods are less intense and getting shorter. (Knock on wood, but I'm hoping my next post-placement menstruation will be even lighter than this last one was!)

So, my recommendation to anyone who is interested in the IUD: give it a try.  Remember that everybody (and every body) is different. Just because it wasn't a good fit for your best friend, that does not mean it won't work well for you.  And don't spend a lot of time looking for opinions on chatboards...remember that people generally run to those after bad experiences.  Most people having good experiences don't feel the compulsion to share it with the world.  Which is exactly why I wanted to write this blog and share my good experience.

I promised myself pre-placement that I would give the IUD 3 months.  If after 3 months I wasn't happy, that I would have it removed.  But, I think based on the last 2.5 months that the Mirena has surpassed my expectations, and I predict that I won't be going to have it removed until December 2016.

I hope that you've found this blog useful in helping you make a decision.  If you have, please leave me a comment, and share your experience with an IUD here.  Especially if you've had a positive experience.

*I have not been solicited or paid or in any way encouraged to mention any of the products on this page, this blog is completely and totally my own opinion.


  1. After Bryce was born in 2005, I too could not remember to take "the pill" regularly. (I'd been on the pill for 7 years prior). I thought about the birth control patch, but OB/GYN said absolutely not. My OB/GYN recommended the Mirena. I LOVED IT!! Had no problems, it totally lightened my period if it ever came at all and I had no cramping. When we decided to try for baby #2, I went to the OB, had the Mirena removed and in just 3 short weeks (without a full cycle) was pregnant with Maggie. Maggie was born via emergency c-section where I chose to have a tubal ligation (BIG MISTAKE)...if I had to do it over again, I'd get the Mirena again instead of the tubal. I hope your time with your Mirena is as lovely as mine. : )

  2. Thanks for the response Sarah! Sorry your tubal has been a regret. I know you've told me some about it in the past...

  3. Hooray it let me! Thank you so much Amber for this!!!

    1. Glad it could help you with your decision. You'll have to come back and let us know how it goes for you.

  4. The part I regret is that the tubal has thrown my hormones out of whack and at 32 have been in "early menopause" for the past year or sucks! I don't regret choosing a 'permanent' form of birth control though, with that decision I'm still satisfied. The doc recommended I go on hormone replacement or birth control to regulate my hormones, but that seems incredibly me and my sheet soaking nightsweats will have to get to know each other...

  5. I also have the Mirena and I LOVE IT! I'm on my second round - I had the first one for 4 years and I'm on year 2 of the second one. In both cases, my period was eliminated. No tampons! No pantyliners! Woohoo!

    Just a few other things to mention... My husband felt the string with my first Mirena. He complained about this so when I did my follow-up, my NP cut it shorter. This caused my OB/GYN some concern about removing it but in the end, he didn't have a problem. My husband never felt the string with my second one. Also regarding insertion, I had the first one inserted within weeks of giving birth and it was easy peasy - no pain. The second one though mucho hurt. I wasn't expecting the pain so I was a bit shocked. It's totally worth it though.. I love my Mirena!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience Natalie. I would bet right after birth would be less painful, since the uterus is nice and stretched. I got mine 4 years out, but I think the reason mine didn't hurt too badly was because she said it was nice and big from having twins. :)