I wrote this post early last summer but have been hesitant to publish it. Since then, I’ve come to appreciate that there is no shame in talking about ways to maintain your childfree status. In addition, the uncertain fate of the Affordable Care Act (AKA ObamaCare) has caused many to seek out birth control methods while they are still provided at no cost.
The least I can do is share my story.
Why an IUD?
In a little less than one week, I’m having a small, plastic t-shaped device inserted into my uterus, voluntarily I should add. I am ready and even willing to pay for this procedure but as it turns out, it’s completely free. Thanks Obama. No seriously, thank you.
As so many women are busy growing babies in their uteruses- uteri? seriously, what is the plural here?- I am on the quest to keep this womb closed for business.
While most twenty-one year olds are busy sucking back margaritas and jello shots, I was getting diagnosed with hypertension. I attempted to stabilize my blood pressure through diet (see also: zero margaritas) but it seems my genetics weren’t having any of that.
Without improvement of my diastolic blood pressure, I began having severe migraines. I also experienced a momentary loss of blood flow to my brain causing sudden, and thankfully temporary, blindness.
Sufficiently freaked out, I decided to do whatever the doctors recommended.
And this is what they came up with:
No more birth control pills!
Although I was more so childless than childfree at that time, I still wasn’t exactly thrilled with this plan. Though, a stroke scared me more than a pregnancy and so I did what I was told.
My body adjusted well enough to being on hypertension medication and I started getting comfortable with life post-pill. And that is when the monstrous menstrual cramps and hormonal cystic acne set in. Not so fun, not so pretty.
I learned to manage the cramps with time but the acne was much harder to conquer. For several years, I tried and failed to solve my skin woes with homeopathic remedies. Eventually I switched to medication to keep my hormonal acne at bay. The problem? Pregnancy is seriously ill-advised while undergoing treatment. And since I have adult-onset acne (yay me!), I may be looking at a lifelong prescription.
Knowing how tragically harmful these medication-induced birth defects can be, I knew I had to find a more effective form of birth control than the hope and pray method. Since I was no longer a candidate for the pill, I didn’t think I would have many options. I was wrong. Very wrong in fact.
After exploring the array of choices, I selected Mirena, a hormonal IUD, for the following reasons:
It is considered rare for a doctor to authorize a tubal ligation for a young woman, especially one who hasn’t had children. This has caused a ton of controversy in the childfree community but for the most part, doctors’ minds remained unchanged.
It’s not all bad news, however. IUDs, even the non-hormonal variety, are equally as effective as having your tubes tied. Bonus: no knots!
IUDS are also completely reversible and thus, regret-free.
When I discussed birth control options with my gynecologist, I had already researched IUDs quite a bit. I told her, quite emphatically, that I wanted Paragard, a hormone-free copper device.
It works much the same as the Mirena only copper is used in place of hormones.
My doctor was polite and simply reminded me that with Paragard I could experience heavier periods and worse cramps than I already experience. Not what I wanted to hear, of course. My naivety kicked in once again as I explained to her why I can’t take hormonal birth control. Turns out I was wrong, again. I’m sensing a pattern here…
My gynecologist informed me that it was the estrogen in birth control pills that prevent me from taking them. Progestrin, on the other hand, is the only hormone in Mirena and is considered very safe. Plus, the amount of hormone is minimal.
It helps to think of this analogy when comparing the hormone levels in birth control pills with hormonal IUDs. You can essentially view the pill as general anesthesia and the Mirena IUD as local anesthesia. Instead of hormones coursing all throughout your body like they do on the pill, only a small amount of hormone is released at a slow and steady rate directly into your uterus, with very little entering your bloodstream. This is, of course, my analogy, so I wouldn’t doubt if it only makes sense to me.
Lighter or non-existent periods
I’m not going to lie, this was the main reason I was so excited to be able to get Mirena as opposed to Paragard. According to Mirena’s website, 20% of women stop having periods all together within one year of having the IUD inserted.
Um, yes please!
[clickToTweet tweet=”IUDs are the everlasting gobstoppers of reversible contraception.” quote=”IUDs are the everlasting gobstoppers of reversible contraception.”] Mirena prevents pregnancy for up to five years. This means I can go half a decade without having to nervously pee on a stick just in case.
And if you do opt to go the Paragard route, it will work for an entire decade. Plus, when it’s time to have the device removed, you can have a replacement inserted during that same appointment.
Full disclosure, I am nervous about the pain. I have read accounts of some women having very little discomfort and others compare the pain to contractions. Either way I figure it can’t be as painful, or as life-changing, as childbirth, right?
I’ll be sure to update you on how the appointment goes but in the meantime, I’d like to know your opinion. Are you considering an IUD? Why or why not?