Guestpost: Reader B’s Experiences with an IUD

Are IUDs the right birth control method for busy women? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a number of the Corporette commenters love (love) (love) their IUDs. I’ve never had one, but I was intrigued (particularly by their fervor!), and put out a general call for one reader to write about her experience for us. Reader B generously stepped up, and this is her account* — thank you, reader B! Let’s use the comments of this post to otherwise discuss the issue. Readers, if you’ve had a positive or negative experience with IUDs, please weigh in.

The Decision

Getting a Mirena IUD was actually a relatively easy decision for me. I have had nothing but complications and woe whenever I’ve tried to take the pill, no matter what form of the pill I took, and I take a medicine for a chronic illness that is absolutely incompatible with pregnancy. I was in a new relationship (since ended), and given the relatively high failure rate of condoms (about 15% with typical use), I was uncomfortable using condoms alone as a method of contraception. So I did some online research about non-hormonal methods, and went to my gynecologist intending to discuss the possibility of a diaphragm or copper IUD (brand name Paragard). I quickly discarded the idea of a diaphragm when I learned that they too have a high failure rate, but when I mentioned my heavy periods and bad PMS, my gyno suggested Mirena rather than a copper IUD.

Mirena is an IUD made of soft, flexible plastic that releases a low level of levonorgestrel, a synthetic hormone used in contraceptives. I was surprised that my gyno recommended a hormone-containing IUD, but she told me that the levonorgestrel is released only locally in your uterus/fallopian tubes/ovaries and does not spread throughout your system like the hormones in oral contraception do. For that reason, she told me that most women who have problems with other forms of oral contraception do not have problems with Mirena. Mirena is 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy and can remain in place for up to 5 years. If in the next 5 years I decided I wanted to get pregnant, it could easily be removed and my reproductive cycles would return to normal immediately (unlike other forms of hormonal contraception, where it can take weeks or months for a woman’s cycle to normalize after discontinuing use).

Three factors contribute to Mirena’s effectiveness. It may thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus, inhibit sperm from reaching or fertilizing the egg, and/or make the uterine lining thin. It may also stop ovulation, but the low dose of levonorgestrel is not sufficient to stop ovulation in most cases. Paragard works similarly by preventing sperm from reaching the egg, but since it is non-hormonal it does not disrupt the menstrual cycle. Although Paragard is similarly effective to Mirena and can remain in place for 10 years, I decided on Mirena because a majority of women using Mirena stop getting their periods within 3 months of insertion.

Before Insertion

Once I decided to get a Mirena, I made a follow-up appointment for the insertion. It can’t be inserted at the same time as your annual exam; you and your doctor will need to take some specific steps to prepare for the insertion. During my annual exam, my gyno measured my cervix to make sure I was a good candidate for an IUD. (Although there seem to be persistent rumors that only women who have given birth can get an IUD, this isn’t true; my gyno told me that it’s very rare that someone’s cervical opening is too small for an IUD to be inserted.) The doctor’s office also wanted to pre-clear the insertion with my insurance. Perhaps most importantly, my gyno prescribed misoprostol, to soften my cervix and make insertion easier, and a muscle relaxant to reduce cramping and contractions. She also told me that I should come in when I have my period, because my cervix would be more open.

The night before the insertion, I inserted the misoprostol tablet vaginally. About an hour before the insertion, I took the muscle relaxant and 800mg of ibuprofen. Since I was a bit woozy from the muscle relaxant and I wasn’t sure if I’d be in any pain after insertion, I arranged for a friend to accompany me to my appointment.

Immediately before insertion, the medical assistant took went over some of the risks with me. The most notable was a small risk of uterine perforation; however, apparently this isn’t as bad as it sounds, because she said that in the event of perforation they’d have to stop the insertion, wait 2–3 weeks for it to heal, and then try the insertion again.

During Insertion

I’m not going to lie; I was terrified before the insertion. I mean, they put an object in your uterus! Through your cervix! That’s gotta hurt! In retrospect, there was no reason to worry. The insertion took about 5 minutes total, the majority of which was no more uncomfortable than my annual exam. She cleaned my vaginal canal using iodine, and measured my cervix again (which felt like a sharp pinch). When she actually inserted the IUD, it hurt badly for about 30 seconds while the insertion tool was in my cervix. I then had about 30 seconds of what I can best describe as uterine contractions. And then it was over. I didn’t have any cramping at all, probably thanks to the muscle relaxant.

I know a lot of women have horror stories about insertion. Insertion was much easier for me than it is for many women. I was very lucky to have a doctor who was aware of the possible pain and took every measure available to minimize it: the cervix softener, the muscle relaxer, the ibuprofen, and scheduling during my period. I also can’t emphasize how important it is to have insertion performed by a gynecologist who has inserted IUDs many, many times before. IUD insertion is a potentially very painful procedure with potentially difficult side effects, and it’s definitely not a procedure you want to have done by a doctor who is not experienced or not a gynecologist.

My insertion cost about $900, of which my insurance covered 80%.

After Insertion

After insertion, I took the rest of the day off of work and slept off the muscle relaxant. I never had any cramps or contractions. My period ended a couple of days later (it is fine to use tampons with Mirena), and I experienced spotting for approximately 3 weeks. I also got a nasty yeast infection about a week after insertion. My gyno told me that this is not unheard of because the insertion can change the pH level in your vagina, but that it was also possible that the yeast infection was unrelated to the Mirena.

I had a follow-up appointment 4 weeks after the Mirena was inserted. My gyno checked to make sure that the Mirena was still in place and that I wasn’t having any complications. Going forward, she told me to check monthly to make sure the strings are in place by feeling my cervix. Other than that, I don’t have to think about birth control at all.

There are some complications that can develop immediately after insertion, including severe cramps and even expulsion of the IUD. In the longer term, less than 10% of women experience minor side effects, and there are some potentially serious but extremely rare complications that can occur including infection or embedment in the uterine wall (the same complications can occur with the Paragard IUD). My gyno discussed these risks with me before I decided to have Mirena inserted.

Sex with the IUD is pretty much the same as sex before the IUD. I can’t feel it inside me, and my partner can’t feel it either. It has no effect on my libido or ability to get aroused. I have read that some men can feel the strings, but in that event your gyno can trim them. Mirena does not protect against STDs, so I still use condoms since I’m not in a monogamous relationship with a trusted partner. I’ve had no side effects, and my periods have gone from 6 days of heavy bleeding to 1–2 days of very minimal spotting. Overall, I’m extremely happy with my decision to get an IUD, and I will definitely get another one if I don’t want kids when my 5 years are up.

* Reader B has no affiliation with Mirena. I have not extensively fact-checked her post; please ask your doctor any specific questions, particularly whether an IUD is right for you. In general, this is not intended to be an advertisement or endorsement for any particular brand or type of birth control (or medical advice of any kind) — just a discussion among friends (similar to the guest post from my friend who froze her eggs). – Kat.

Readers, have you had a positive or negative experience with an IUD? Which birth control form do you prefer? 

Further reading:

  • “Americans Get Reacquainted With IUDs,” Jane E. Brody, NYT, Feb. 27, 2012
  • “User’s Guide: Getting An IUD,” Jenna Sauers, Jezebel, Apr. 9, 2010
  • “The Best Birth Control,” Kate Klonick, Slate, July 29, 2009

Comments

  1. Chicago Moll :

    Ha, I’ve had two inserted and never took any drugs before or after. It didn’t hurt at all. Just a strange tickle. Does Reader B have children? I

    • I also have had 2 mirena insertions. I haven’t had kids. I only took ibuprofen before the insertions and had some pinching and cramping (esp. the first one, the doc had to use a tenaculum to grasp the cervix, ugh).

      The 2nd insertion, the practice I go to insisted that I take cytotec (misoprostol) to “soften the cervix”. I was uncomfortable with this (since I didn’t need it the first time) and my doc “allowed” me to not take it.

      • Chicago Moll :

        Well, cytotec never worked on me anyway. Had it inserted to start labor for both my kids and it did nada.

    • Nope, but based on several discussions of IUD insertion that took place on this website (anecdotes, not data), I don’t think it makes a difference whether you have or not. The consensus seemed to be that if your annual exam is uncomfortable or painful, IUD insertion will hurt too.

    • Anonylicious :

      When I had mine in, they had to hold my cervix open (?) and it hurt like a mofo for a second. (No kids here.) But that didn’t last long. The doc didn’t give me any muscle relaxants or other meds beforehand, though.

    • I HAD the copper IUD (paraguard). I had been on the ortho cyclen pill for 10 years and was fine on it, but decided I wanted to get off hormones, so I decided to get the IUD. Insertion was EXTREMELY painful… perhaps because I have not had children. The pain lasted for a a few days but with advil and a hot water bottle, it was manageable. I experienced that same pain for the first few days of every period, which was longer (7 full days) and much heavier, than when I was on the pill.

      But this I could manage…. until about two months after the insertion, extreme and painful acne developed EVERYWHERE (back, neck, chest, face, head). It got progressively worse for about 3 months before it started to get better. But only slightly. It balanced out to a frequent, continual, never waivering uprising of deep-rooted acne, where I had never experienced any type of blemish. And not only that but my skin changed completely – it was extremely dry (always been moist before) and my color was gone… leaving my skin looking a bit grey.

      My doctors told me that my IUD could not be causing this acne or the skin tone change and that either I had developed adult acne (because I didnt have much in my teenage years before getting on birth control) or that the pill was keeping my skin clear.

      So I believed them. But I finally had enough after 11 months. I had the IUD removed and within a DAY my skin had improved – the small bumps were disappearing, my skin tone was better, and some of the moistness returned. Within TWO WEEKS it was almost perfect again. And NO, I did not get back on birth control. And no, nothing else changed in my life… in fact there was more stress and less sleep during this time.

      This was a cause and effect scenario… not a coincidence. While the IUD is great for many people, it was not for me. Sorry for the long post, but I think people need to know the connection… in case they experience something similar.

  2. I have a ParaGard and really love it. No complaints yet, and my periods have been the same as before. Not sure if I’ll be having any kids, but I want that to be a decision, not an accident, which is why I chose this highly effective birth control.

    • Yay ParaGuard! :

      Love my ParaGard. I don’t react well emotionally to hormonal BC, so it was an easy choice for me. The insertion was much less painful than I thought it would be and I only had light cramping and spotting for like 2 days afterwards. The cervix softener and an experienced person inserting it are a must (I had a nurse practitioner do it, so I don’t necessarily agree that you need the best gyno in the world, just someone who knows exactly what they are doing).

      The only issue I had was that my first two cycles afterward were scary heavy. But that went away and now, 6 months out, they are the same or lighter than they were on hormonal BC.

    • Merabella :

      I have the Paragard as well. The first few months my period was heavier than it had been, but has since returned to normal. I was on the pill for 5 years before I got the IUD, and I was never that great about keeping up with it. I love love love the Paragard and not having to worry about BC. I chose the copper IUD because it has been around longer, and has been tested longer. I basically have the same thing my mom had in the 70s, that gave me some peace of mind.

    • Anonymous :

      I got ParaGuard after giving birth.
      The insertions were not terribly painful. Periods got slightly heavier but cramps did not get worse.

      ParaGuard failed twice on me. AS far as I know, it was properly in place both times. Both pregnancies self-terminated before implantation so the second time it was even possible to keep the IUD in place. Yes, I have stayed on this BC method because it is the most convenient for me. I am older now and hope that my fertility has decreased so I won’t have to worry about it failing the third time. That would be ridiculous, LOL!

      • This is confusing to me. How did you find out you were pregnant before implantation? I thought the idea of the paragard is that it doesn’t prevent fertilization, but it prevents implantation. (I have no idea how long it takes between fertilization and implantation) I have a paragard (love it) so I’d be interesting in finding out more.

        • Anonymous :

          Certain signs of early pregnancy, confirmed by blood tests.
          Maybe implantation did take place but both instances … ended… very soon. The process was monitored, again, through blood tests.
          Be aware that IUD prevents implantation in the uterus, but not in the tubes. And ectopic pregnancy, of course, is very dangerous if allowed to develop. It was freaky when, in the first instance, I got a call from the OBGYN office and the person offered her congratulations… when I was thinking that I was now at risk of a sudden and painful death.
          I later found that there are non-invasive methods of terminating such pregnancies so the situation was not quite as dire as I felt.

          I truly believe that I am an statistical anomaly and I still have a copper IUD because it is optimal in my situation.

          • very confused :

            You can’t have signs of early pregnancy before implantation, can you? As far as I know, the pregnancy hormones do not get into your blood stream before implantation occurs. So I think this is impossible. I also don’t know how you could convince a doctor to give you a blood test if it’s too soon to even pee on a stick.
            Not trying to be snarky, but genuinely very confused by this story.

          • ok, just looked this up bc it was bugging me, too, that i felt like i didn’t really understand.

            So conception usually happens in the fallopian tubes, when a sp3rm fertilizes and egg, and the egg starts splitting into cells as it moves down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG) is the pregnancy hormone present in your blood from the time of conception; it is produced by the cells that form the placenta. A doctor’s test/blood test can detect this hormone within a week of contraception. Home tests can’t detect it for another 3-4 weeks.

            The egg will then move to the uterus and implant. The IUD prevents implantation, so presumably, based on what I’ve just been reading, you could have a fertilized egg in your system, which means you could test positive for pregnancy hormones, and then have the egg continue through the uterus without implanting.

            Does that sound right to other people?

  3. anon re: IUD :

    How fitting! I was just about to post about my experience. The 3x3x3 ibuprofen method did not work. I’m taking vitamin E and an iron supplement because I’ve generally been feeling weak (it doesnt feel/look like spotting, it feels like my period has been continuing at first-day levels since I got the IUD (two weeks ago, 5 days into my period). I have been spoiled that my periods are always textbook regular, and I never have spotting, so this is really frustrating for me to deal with. Also, because I cannot use tampons, I’ve been using pads which has made me feel … just gross. Not like myself at all.

    I think my biggest frustration is that would really like to throw a ladygarden party for the first time with a new guy, and cannot, so I am sad. I’m also unsure of how much to divulge to this new guy about being on a new method of BC, it causes spotting, etc, without him running for the hills – but also we’ve been seeing each other long enough that I think he must be wondering why I haven’t moved in that direction yet (we’ve been on 10-15 dates at this point). I’m afraid I’m starting to pass the realm of “you’re just conservative” and enter the realm of “wow, maybe something is wrong with you.” I know I’m overthinking this and probably imposing judgment on myself that he isn’t, but this is becoming really stressful for me.

    Overall, I haven’t liked the IUD but I’m trying to be open minded that I’ve only had it for two weeks and maybe it will get better. I think I’m just venting.

    • Hon, I’m sorry you’ve had such a difficult experience. I can’t commiserate since I’ve never used that form of BC. However, on the ladygarden parties, I think that if you have been on 10-15 dates with the new guy, you are getting along and feel really comfortable with him (which it sounds like you do), you should just tell him what is going on. If he really likes you he won’t run for the hills and will be understanding. :-)

      • karenpadi :

        Agreed. Every time I’m with a new guy I am shocked by how little they know about the Pill and periods even though they have had girlfriends. So don’t be alarmed if you have to educate him a little (he might not even know what an IUD is).

        As women, we really need to educate men on contraception (beyond condoms) and the side effects. They honestly don’t know what we go through.

        • TO Lawyer :

          Agree with this – I don’t know if I was my SO’s first partner to be on the pill (he doesn’t either) but I definitely was the first to be so open about it. When I was experiencing severe mood swings and other side effects, he was very worried and suggested that it wasn’t fair that I carry the brunt of the contraception burden.

          He had no clue though. (Although I have to say, he did a lot of research on side effects and brands along with me).

        • Merabella :

          Agreed with this. I’m always shocked at how little guys know about this stuff. What do they talk with them about in the 5th grade when they split up the girls and the boys?

          • Susan (edna_mode_nyc) :

            I really think they do everybody a disservice when they split them up.

            Very late response– only recently got power restored. Ugh! But others have had it far worse than me, so please ignore that little complaint.

      • anon re: IUD :

        I know he probably will (and by all rights he should – if he goes running for the hills in something that could form a real relationship (not a casual s*x thing) because right now I can’t have sex, then he probably isn’t the right guy for me. But I feel very embarrassed about this – it’s never happened to me before. I think if there was an end date in sight, I might feel better.

        If I could think “Okay, but I will be done spotting on x-date” at least I’d feel like I had some control. But my doctor told me I could spot/have a period like this for six months or more. I think if it’s still this strong at my 5 week follow up, though, I will ask her to remove it. It’s just making me somewhat miserable.

        But who knows – it’s only been two weeks. Maybe a week from now it’ll be completely over. I’m trying to be positive about it but yesterday I just burst into tears (I think it might also be making me more emotional…)

        • About a month and a half into dating my current SO and only days after our first ladygarden party, I started my period … and it continued for 40 days. Obviously I had no idea how long it was going to last. I was uncomfortable bringing it up with him at first, but after about two weeks, I think he started feeling like I hadn’t enjoyed our ladygarden party since we hadn’t had anymore. Finally, I just told him what was going on. He was really supportive through it all, and was relieved to know that it had nothing to do with him personally.

        • Anonylicious :

          Talk with your doc. Also, talk with your dude. If he can’t handle talking about BC, he doesn’t deserve to be invited to your ladygarden parties.

          I had the Implanon implant for about a year, and had my period (well, technically it was just bleeding and not actual menstruation, I think) for nine months of that before I finally went to my doctor and said I could not deal. She gave me a month’s worth of the Pill to control the bleeding for the short-term (which worked) and then at my follow-up, when my period had gone on for too long again, removed the Implanon.

          tl;dr: Talk with your doc, and be patient with new BC methods, but maybe not nine months of bleeding patient.

          • anon re: IUD :

            I didn’t know restarting on hormonal BC might slow/stem the bleeding (even while you have another method of BC inserted). I’ll discuss this with my doctor at the follow up. Thanks!

    • Ugh, I’m sorry! that really would be frustrating and just ugh. I definitely remember having a not great couple of weeks, but luckily I had a job where i could stay in bed with a heating pad for a while. But after just 2-3 weeks, something like that, things started getting much better very quickly. So, hang in there, it could turn the corner any day! {{{Huugggsss}}} keep taking care of yourself, heating pad? Chocolate treats?

      And I think you should just be upfront with new guy, but I’m biased. I am usually TMI pretty fast w/ guys and if they can’t handle it, that’s their problem. Most of them have just dealt with it even if they were a little uncomfortable at first, and in the process I’ve learned ’em a thing or two! ;o) But, I know it can be hard to talk about, so I hope he’s really awesome and likes you just the way you are!

      • anon re: IUD :

        Thanks! I am hoping things turn the corner after next week or at the very least, by my 5 week appointment around Thanksgiving. I’m crossing my fingers that if I get through one “cycle” with this (so about Thanksgiving week), things will level off and calm down.

        Either that or… at some point my uterus HAS to be unlined. Right? Like at SOME point during all this bleeding, I have to have finally shed all the g-d lining.

        • I know, Right?!?! It’s not like a magical bottomless well or Mary Poppins’ bag or something! Jeez! ;o) Ugh, that would be driving me crazytownbananapants, too. well, I will send your uterus lots of ~~~~~’chill out and stop shedding’ vibes~~~~~~~ thru the internets!

    • Why can’t you use tampons? My gyno told me I could put a tampon in as soon as the insertion was done.

      Having said that, have you checked with your gyno to make sure this level of bleeding is normal?

      • anon re: IUD :

        Gyno told me no tampons until 3 weeks out from insertion. I would like to start using them, but I’m nervous. I may start this weekend just because I am just SO sick of pads.

        Gyno said that level of bleeding is perfectly normal, and there isn’t much I could do (short of taking it out now, which might trigger heavier withdrawal bleeding).

  4. SF Bay Associate :

    Is it worth getting a Mirena if you plan to use it for only up to 2 years? Is that too little time?

    • I had mine inserted the summer before law school and had it taken out two months before graduation, so just under 3 years. It was worth it for me. Also, because insurance covered it, my cost to have it inserted was $40. So I only paid $40 for 3 years of BC, as opposed to $25/month for the pills.

    • It took my body about 3-4 months to adjust completely to the Mirena. I think that it would be worth it for just 2 years, but some women spot for a few months and if that sounds like hell on earth to you, it’s probably not worth it.

    • mine was completely covered by my insurance, so I would say it’s totally worth it. Especially considering how much BC pills or even condoms cost in the long run. And my doc said removal is even easier than insertion, so if I was you, I would totally do it for only 2 years.

      but I am a member of Team IUD Evangelicals ;o)

  5. I love my IUD and my experience was very similar to Reader B’s. I actually did not take the misoprostol tablet prior to having it inserted, and instead took a couple asprin and I was fine. I actually got it done in the morning before work, and worked the rest of the day no problem. I did feel that intense cramp for about 30 seconds, but it was so worth it for the peace of mind it has brought me.

    I was always really bad about taking my pill on a consistant basis, and now I feel a lof of freedom and my fear of getting pregnant has greatly subsided. I heard some doctors prefer to only insert it in woman who have had children already, but my doctor said that was primarily because it does not hurt so much to insert. I “phantom felt it” for a couple weeks following the insertion, but now I don’t even notice it.

    I was worried it might affect my ability to have children later (you hear scary things about uteran scarring) but my doctor said it wont. She said it takes two seconds to be taken out, and then (like all birth control) awhile for my hormones levels to even out and I should be able to conveive.

    I am a big, big proponent of the IUD. I call it “revolutionary birth control.” I am not a doctor so everything I learned was via my own experience and research, but its defintiely worth considering.

  6. Did you see this timely article from yesterday?
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/29/iud-implants-birth-control/1644647/

    • Actually, there was an article about IUDs in a recent issue of Vogue, but it really p1ssed me off, bc it was all about the Paraguard, and dismissed the Mirena with one sentence because it is “still hormonal BC.” Rawr.

  7. I’ve posted here before about my Mirena experience (to be fair, I have no idea if I’ve done it under my “normal” user name, but for now I’m using my Anonymous).

    I have the Mirena because I can’t take systemic hormonal birth control, the hormones in the Mirena remain localized to the uterus and don’t have as many potential side effects as the pill or other types of hormones. I didn’t elect the Paraguard because of the risk of other side effects. I have not had children.

    I found insertion quite uncomfortable, despite using a cervical softener. I think next time I do it, to get it replaced, I’m going to request a muscle relaxant and/or some type of pain med. Because I was quite uncomfortable during the procedure — and for a bit thereafter. However the cramping decreased rapidly thereafter and I’ve had minimal problems since. I think for people who had no pain, it depends in large part on the size and shape of your uterus and pelvis, whether you’ve had children, and a few other factors — many of which you can’t really predict until you have the insertion. But trust me when I say I have an extremely high pain tolerance, so this is not a matter of crying wolf — for some people insertion can be quite uncomfortable.

    BUT, all that said, I’ve been happy with my decision (and not just because its basically the only kind of BC I can use). Its good for five years and I don’t have to remember it ever or change it ever, which is awesome. And I no longer get my period, which I must say I enjoy. Now, I am lucky that I haven’t had the spotting or cramping side effects that others on this blog have reported — which would clearly be a deal breaker.

    So…that’s my experience. I hope this is the last time we do this, because I feel like we’ve talked about this A LOT. Possibly more then I’ve talked about it in real life (definitely more then I’ve talked about it in real life.)

    • Merabella :

      I had to have mine replaced because the first one was forced out. It was MUCH better the second time around, I would assume it is because your cervix is already kind of open. The first insertion was painful, the second one was a breeze.

    • The way my Dr explained it is that it’s not a clear 35 yo cut off. It is just that your risk factors increase after that age (blood clots, heart issues etc.). If you are still healthy, it is fine.

  8. Can you continue to use the hormonal IUD after 35?

    I love being on the Pill to control my monster-cramps that render me unable to crawl out of bed. But my PCP has told me that I’m going to have to go off the Pill at 35 to avoid blood clots (never smoked and no other risk factors). My current pill has levonogestrel and I have minimal side effects so the Mirena might work for me.

    Or should I just find a new doctor who isn’t so squeamish about prescribing the Pill to women over 35?

    • Hm, I’ve never heard this. I’m over 35, changed from the Pill to NuvaRing about a year ago, but it wasn’t because my doctor told me I needed to – it was my decision. Before that I was absolutely OK on the Pill and had found one that worked for me – the only reason I changed was that I wanted to reduce the level of hormones in my body. If you are not high-risk, I would do some more research/question your doctor’s conclusion on this point.

    • I think you should go for the Mirena. I don’t know about the pill situation, but I know Mirena is common for women who have decided they are done having children, so i don’t think there are any concerns with it for older women. I got mine put in at 32, with my dr planning for me to have it in for 5+ years, and even talked about replacement. So, obviously she envisions me still having one post-35. The Mirena has DEFINITELY dialed down my debilitating cramps and bleeding, my Shark Weeks are soooo chilled out on the Mirena, so if that is the main thing you are looking for, I would recommend trying it out. I have months that have more cramping than others, but no where near as bad as they were off BC.

    • The Mirena is the first-line medical recommendation for 35+ women seeking to alleviate menstrual symptoms – which I learned while researching it to fight with my insurance company about providing coverage for it (Obamacare rendered that unnecessary in the end). But, then, OCPs are the second; my doctor is totally willing to Rx them for me if the Mirena doesn’t work out (I’m on month 2, so still waiting out the side effects), citing the fact that I have an otherwise extremely low cardiovascular risk profile. So, if OCPs change my risk from .0005% to .001% — doubling it — I am probably comfortable with that. At any rate, it’s an informed decision that I should be allowed to make, rather than have a doctor say “no way, no how.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m still trying the Mirena first, and hope it works out for me (breast cancer risk feels more real to me that cardiovascular risk). But, if it doesn’t, I will be looking hard at OCPs.

  9. I love my Paragard! It’s the best thing ever.

    I go bonkers with hormones, so most things were written off immediately, so no Mirena (despite it’s light dose, I didn’t want to take the risk) for me. I needed a birth control that would just…be there, so any insertion-types were also off the market. The best birth control is the one you use/remember to use. Also, I don’t mind that the Paragard lasts for 10 years, vs Mirena’s 5, since I can’t see myself being in a child-bearing position within the decade.

    I’m in my mid-20’s, no kids, and the insertion was awfully painful. I’m not lying, I cried and cramped for days. I was stunned at the amount of agony I was in. I don’t know how long I lied in the fetal position afterwards, being force-fed crackers since they were worried I’d faint. It actually took a few weeks for it to settle down, with cramps and heavy bleeding that lasted for a long time. But, after that month or so of pain, it’s been the best thing ever.

    It’s there. I don’t need to pay attention to it. Of course, with all new and non-serious partners I always use condoms. I get my periods. My friend has the Mirena and hers are gone, but, as not-fun as periods are, I like the security of them.

    Anyway. As someone who works FT and managed two nonprofits on the side (plus a billion other projects) the IUD is my best friend. It’s at least one thing I don’t have to worry about/refill/retake/etc. I can go camping, to Europe, or anywhere else and never need to remember another thing of pills or whatever.

    Plus, no medication will mess with it, which is one-up on hormones.

    As for telling a new guy about it? I did. I was always very open with it, and none of the guys ever minded or freaked out. In fact, it put them at ease as well! Using two modes of birth control (IUD plus condoms) really makes the butter-churning activity way more enjoyable since we don’t have to worry about it. Then again, any guy who would get freaked out by a conversation about BC or spotting, or hey, even a bit of spotting (provided it’s not early in our dating)…really isn’t the guy I’d want in my bedroom anyway. Man up.

    • Merabella :

      Ditto on liking the security of periods. I think if I didn’t have them I would have to buy stock in Pregnancy Tests because I would constantly be taking them just in case!

  10. I got Mirena about 2 months ago and really have no complaints, other than I am fighting with my insurance to pay for it.

    I have no children and found the insertion to be uncomfortable but not horrible. I had one instance of UGH and that was it. Afterwards I didn’t feel too bad but was crampy for about half the day.

    What I don’t like is the spotting. I was on the pill for many years and never had to deal with this. For me, it’s random and unpredictable so I always have supplies with me just in case. After 2 months, it has subsided quite a bit and hoping it will for good.

    My mom was very much against me getting an IUD since she had a bad experience with one in the 80’s and got pregnant with my brother. I had to explain to her that they are MUCH different now and way more effective.

    • Did you get it before or after August 1st? My insurance used to not cover it, but started covering it effective August 1st, because that is what Obamacare required.

  11. I am happy with the birth control aspect and I had no pain at insertion (and no drugs), but I have to say that I think Mirena is responsible for low libido, weight gain, and acne – same side effects for me as oral contraceptives. I am so sick of having fake hormones in my body – I’m asking my husband to get a vasectomy for Christmas because we are done having kids and I think it’s his turn to be responsible for our birth control!

    • just Karen :

      I gained about 10 pounds after getting Mirena, but unfortunately I don’t think I can blame it on that since I was on oral birth control prior to Mirena…since the overall hormonal dosage went way down, I’m guessing it’s just lifestyle and age. If I knew there weren’t kids in my future, I would absolutely be scheduling a vesectomy for DH!

    • Frou Frou :

      So, this is very unlikely to be related to Mirena. Mirena releases hormones only to your uterus. It isn’t systemic, like oral BCPs. I’m mentioning this not to be difficult, but just to make the point that you might want to look into other reasons your hormones are out of whack. No fun gaining weight and getting acne!

  12. I don’t have experiences with an IUD, but I wanted to share my recent experience with the ring. Like many posters, I was hesitant to go back on the pill due to side effects from the systemic hormones. Like Mirena, the ring delivers hormones in a localized way. It’s easy to insert, you leave it in for three weeks, and DH cannot feel it during ladygarden parties (he was concerned that he might feel the string with Mirena). It has not caused me to break out, gain weight or feel hormonal. I think it’s great. The only concern is cost. It’s monthly, and kind of expensive because there is not a generic. Luckily, my doc has many free samples.

    • I had the ring for about a year. We broke up. It was very convenient and easy, though I did have to shove it back up there a few times a week… it would try to come out, so it felt like I had a full tampon and I would have to go to the bathroom to get it back up in there. That was annoying. Bizarrely, it also caused a total drought in my ladygarden. The soil was totally, totally dry at all times. No usual slight dampness to the soil throughout the day, let alone during a ladygarden party. Arizona. And I gained a little weight. When I went off the ring, my ladygarden quickly returned to its previous state and the weight came right off.

    • Anonymous :

      Oh, and if anyone is curious about this, DH has never reported feeling the string during ladygarden parties either from Mirena.

  13. I also have the Mirena IUD. I had a not so great experience with insertion (never given birth) due to the extreme cramping. I do believe I told the doc to stop mid way through insertion. I am glad she didn’t. Took a few weeks to get back to being cramp free, but it’s been almost 4 years since insertion and I absolutely do not regret it. I have very very light periods and no other issues at all. I am somewhat apprehensive about the switcheroo of old to new in about a year, but hopefully the second time around won’t be as intense.

  14. I have implanon, and I am a completely rabid fan of it. Its basically the same concept as an IUD (put something in your body that stays there for years), but its a thin flexible rod they put in your arm. I just wanted to mention it as a similar alternative to the IUD. I got mine almost three years ago, and I’m about due to get another one. After that one, it’ll probably be babymaking time. I plan on using it as birth control for the remainder of my fertile years. It is 4 times more effective than surgical sterilization, I have basically no period, and I don’t have to remember to take a pill or do anything. It’s amazing.

    • +1. I have the nexplanon (basically the same thing). And I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Prior to it, even on oral birth control, I had a super heavy flow and horrendous cramps. Now, there’s nothing, and no side effects. I was in and out of the doctor’s office in 25 minutes with minimal pain (just the stick from the numbing agent). Plus, my period is basically non-existent, it’s not causing acne, and I’ve actually lost weight while on it. I can’t say enough good things. An absolutely fantastic change.

    • Anonylicious :

      I had a horrible experience with Implanon, which made me sad because it is just so perfect and science fiction-y. Like, on paper (and I guess for many women), it’s the next best thing to a hovercar. But it gave me nine month’s worth of bleeding (not just spotting; I spent so much freaking money on tampons, I tell you what).

    • I’m not a doctor or anything, so grain of salt, but… some people do get the non stop bleeding thing. I was actually on the depo shot for 9 months before I switched to Implanon. The hormone in both is progestin, so it is possible that if you are thinking of getting Implanon you could use the shot (which lasts three months) as a test run to see how your body handles progestin. I did really well on the shot, and I’ve done really well on Implanon too. Other people react badly (non stop bleeding, etc) to progestin.

      • Anonylicious :

        I did fine on the shot, is the strange thing. I just had to go off it because I hit the time cap.

  15. WorkingMom :

    Just wanted to add that I’m looking into new BC options post-child, and appreciate you all sharing your experiences! Also, I have never heard the “Ladygarden party” expression before and it’s cracking me up :)

  16. A muscle relaxer and something to soften the cervix is a must for anyone interested in an IUD. I had mine put inserted without either and it was horrendously painful. I actually almost fainted at the doctors office and they had to keep me there for an hour with cool packs on my neck and chest until I was able to move. I experienced severe cramping and discomfort the rest of the day.

    After insertion my partner would say on occasion that he could feel the “strings” of the IUD but it was never uncomfortable or distracting. My period essential stopped for the 5yrs I had the IUD.

    I did have three large ovarian cysts removed during my time with the IUD but the doctor was never able to definitively say whether the two were related.

    I had my IUD removed at the 5yr mark. The removal was slightly more painful than my annual exam and I spotted after.

    Overall a decent experience.

  17. I also have the Mirena IUD, but had a very different experience from Reader B. I took the pill for years and didn’t have any problems with it, but had to find a new method of birth control when I found out I’m susceptible to blood clots due to a hereditary condition. The IUD was really the only good option – diaphrams and condoms are too unreliable, there’s some kind of injection that would work but can cause loss of bone density (not good for me later on, since I’m petite), and the thought of an implant under my arm freaks me out. I went with Mirena rather than the copper IUD because I liked the sound of having fewer and lighter periods.

    My doctor warned me it might be painful because I’ve never had children, but unfortunately she did not tell me I should schedule another appointment to have it inserted. So I didn’t know about or take any of the drugs that Reader B was given.

    The insertion, and the few hours afterward, was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. The cramping was so intense I almost threw up and came close to passing out. The doctor asked several times if I wanted to stop or have it removed, but stubbornly I said no. I figured, it’s been this bad already, so if I get it taken out then all that pain is for nothing. I took as much advil as I was allowed, but it didn’t help much. The rest of the day was excruciating, and the cramps remained very bad (but manageable, especially since I was not working at the time) for about a week.

    I had a lot of spotting over the first two months, basically like having a period every other week. I also continued to have cramps almost every day for several months. I was considering having it removed because the cramps didn’t seem to go away.

    But then my period stopped, and the cramps stopped too. I haven’t had a period in almost two years, and it’s amazing. Since I didn’t have a lot of other options, I think this was the right choice for me, but I’m very ambivalent about it. I am terrified at the thought of having to get another one in three years, but at that point I will be ready to have kids, so I really won’t have to go through this again until after I’ve had a pregnancy.

    Also, I think it is causing dryness and yeast infections, which isn’t great but I can deal with it.

  18. I’ve shared my stories before, but I’ll repeat them for those who might find them useful. I’ve had both Paragard and Mirena, and unfortunately, neither was a good option for me. I found insertion to be incredibly painful in both cases (despite the use of Cytotec with my Mirena insertion), and cramped heavily for about 24 hours afterward.

    With Paragard, I went from short, light periods to 8-10 days of heavy bleeding – it reminded me of when I first got my period as a thirteen-year-old. I am told that this side effect often settles down, but my Paragard started to expel and had to be removed in a hospital emergency room after only three months.

    Five years later, I got Mirena when I was told I couldn’t used estrogen-containing pills due to migraine with aura (I’ve only had one migraine with aura, but that’s a story for another day). The insertion was worse than with Paragard, which is unsurprising, because the device is bigger. 18 months later, I had the Mirena removed: I was spotting heavily enough to require a tampon for anywhere from 10 days to nearly three weeks per month, I was getting acne outbreaks on my back, cheeks, and chest (bad enough to scar – I’d never had bad skin before), and my hair was falling out.

    To make matters worse, the Mirena removal was difficult because the device had started to embed in the uterine wall, and my NP had to call the attending GYN surgeon to get it out. I didn’t have to have surgery, but it was very, very painful.

    Despite all that, I know that my experiences are statistically rare, and I continue to recommend IUDs – especially Mirena – to others. I would suggest, though, that if it’s an option, one should consider trying a progesterone-only pill for a few cycles first. Mirena is expensive, and had I done a trial run with a POP, I would likely have known that I wouldn’t tolerate the hormones well.

    I would also strongly suggest that if you’re having ongoing problems with an IUD, you ask your provider if an ultrasound should be done to check the placement. When an IUD embeds, it’s no longer as effective with regard to birth control. Fortunately (although, erm, unfortunately for my love life), no ladygarden parties occurred while I had Mirena, because my risk of pregnancy would have been higher.

    • Interesting about the acne outbreaks…that has been a problem for me too. I just figured that my skin used to be great because I was on the pill, and the acne problems now are because I’m not on the pill anymore. I never thought it could actually be the Mirena IUD that’s causing the acne…

  19. I jumped on the paraguard bandwagon a few years ago and am happy I did. Pills/ Nuva-ring worked fine for me, but I was getting sloppy and having trouble remembering. I was not really worried prior to insertion because a friend had one and told me it was no worse than menstrual cramps, but I probably should have been. The insertion experience for me it was way worse than menstrual cramps (I should add that although I was on my period at the time I got no drugs whatsoever to open or soften or relax). I had cramps for the first few days that were awful (seriously made me question whether I could ever have kids if IUD cramps were any indication of what labor is like). After that, things returned to normal-ish, menstrual cramps got better over the course of about six months, and are totally manageable now, although on average they are still worse than when I was on hormonal birth control.

    I did have to fight like the dickens with my insurance company to get them to pay for it. None of the “in-network” doctors would do it unless I paid out of pocket, so I was stuck paying out of pocket and submitting a claim, which they rejected (without telling me) for not have the right ICD-9 codes. Luckily, I’m an insurance lawyer, so was able to get it sorted out (with a little help from the state insurance department). Anyway, bottom line- if you have trouble with your health insurance company paying for it (and it is covered), your state’s insurance department is a great resource.

  20. Anonymous :

    I appreicate this discussion of birth control options. It has really got me thinking. I currently take the birth control pill Seasonale. If ladies would not mind sharing, what type of issues did you have the made the pill not an option?

    • anon re: IUD :

      The pill was an option for me (I have always done quite well on the pill) but I liked the idea of a lower and localized hormone dosage, 5 years of worry-free BC and (a big driver) the cost. For me it was a one time cost of $15 (copay), but my insurance doesn’t cover recurrent prescriptions, so it was $35/mo on the pill (generic). So that was a huge factor for me.

    • I’ve tried a few hormonal pill options. Honestly it was everything from weight and sex drive swings to just months of pure depression. I wasn’t on the brink of doing self-harm, but it was definately was harming. Hormones made me erratic, emotional, and clingy. I cried at every little thing. Whenever I got off them, after a few days it was as if a fog of crazy lifted and I was a normal person again. Eventually, I said, no thank you and just used condoms (and often the guy and I agreed that them withdrawing while still wearing a condom was a great second precaution). About a year ago I got the IUD, and love it. I don’t have to think about it for another 9 years…what a relief! I check my strings now and then, but we’re all good. My gyno was awesome and left them longer on purpose. No one who has been up there has ever noticed them.

      Alongside my Paragard love, I’d actually totally pimp the Divacup as well. Not about birth control, but period control. Goodbye tampons and pads! I never run into the issue of not having it, or needing to borrow anything.

    • TO Lawyer :

      I am still on the pill (but had to try a couple) but FWIW, I was very close to giving up due to side effects. I didn’t have any of the more severe physical side effects, but I got insanely emotional and would have ridiculous mood swings – the brunt of which were taken out on my SO (who is a gem for sticking with me when I was really ridiculous). I didn’t feel like myself for 3 months and I felt like I was totally out of control. If the second pill I tried gave me the same side effects, I would have gone off it completely.

    • Anonymous :

      I have a history of a post-surgical blood clot, which makes most regular hormonal birth controls a no-go (in discussions with my doctor we decided that the localized hormones of the Mirena was a low enough risk, considering I had no other history of blood clot problems). I also can’t absorb certain pills, but that’s kind of a minor problem compared to the blood clot issue.

      I know other people just have strong reactions to hormones. Like severe mood swings, cramping, severe periods, lack of desire for ladygarden parties, etc. There are also some health conditions where I believe that hormonal birth control is contraindicated, though I’m far from an expert on that.

      Anyway, those are a few, I’m sure there are others. :-P

    • Non-stop spotting and acne, even with the mini-pill. I was worried that Mirena would cause the same side effects because it has the same hormones as the mini-pill, but apparently because they’re localized, I haven’t had any side effects.

    • I was fine with the pill for years, but then I got switched to a generic and started having crippling hormonal migraines for 5-7 days every month. I switched to the generic version of Seasonale (figuring 4 migraines per year > 12) and then began experiencing terrible depression and anxiety which led to a partial ED relapse. At that point, I was done with hormones, and have had a Paraguard for a year and love it.

    • Maddie Ross :

      I was on the pill for years (am now pregnant) but intend to go back on after I have the baby. I loved the pill and had no problems with it. I was regular as a clock, had improved acne and didn’t have weird side effects. I think my libido may have been a bit lower, but when I went off to get pregnant, I only had a couple of months of “whew, this is fun,” and then it basically leveled out again to the same thing. I was off about a year before we were finally successful and I saw really no difference in my mood, weight or cycle between being on and off. My cystic acne got worse being off. I’m very (very) type A and remembering to take my pill was never a problem. I just write all this to say that there are still people out there who like the pill.

      • I am so glad there is someone else on this board who loves the pill!

        All those crazy mood swings and acne problems and migraines that many women experience when on the pill are what I experience when I’m OFF the pill. Seriously, my normal hormones are mood-swing central to the point I thought I had an emotional disorder, and I have 2-4 migraines (usually more than one day in length) per month. My skin breaks out more, and I’m generally depressed. On the pill, my moods are even, I’m not depressed, my skin is glowing, and I have 0-1 migraines in a typical month. I have used a variety of pills over the years, and had the nuvaring for awhile, but my go to old standby is always desogen. It’s a combo pill, and my doctor says it’s perfectly safe for me to continue taking active pills for months at a time to avoid a period, much like Seasonique/Seasonelle (I took Seasonique for a year, and my migraines & depression came back in force).

        My doc and I considered the IUD because I have high blood pressure, and it was thought that the hormones in the pill were making it worse. I went off the pill for a year as a trial, and my blood pressure remained the same, while everything else got worse. I sat in her office sobbing begging for my pills. She agreed it was the best option. Also, I am extremely averse to any foreign substances being injected or implanted in my body. I don’t like injections, and the whole idea of an implanted thing in my uterus that is not a baby just freaks me out. Babies freak me out, too, which is why I take the pill.

    • Anon for this :

      I was having some serious memory problems due to a medical condition, and I was just plain not able to take the Pill consistently. I was on the Depo shot and it was great, but you can only be on that for a couple of years because of potential bone loss. Plus, towards the end of my time on it, my memory was so bad I was having trouble making and keeping my Depo appointments.

  21. I’ve had Mirena for nearly two years (after the birth of my second child) and I love it. Periods are extremely light, but still there so I know it’s working. My libido did completely disappear for a couple of months after insertion. I’m not sure if it was related to the Mirena or to childbirth, since I had a lot of negative physical aftereffects from having a VBAC. That was disturbing, but it went away and I’ve been very happy with it ever since.

  22. Anonymous :

    Ladies, I am ready to bite the bullet and get one, but a common theme in this post is it is key to find a doctor who is experienced and doesn’t harrass you about getting an IUD pre-children. So, does anyone have any recommendations in the NYC area? I just moved here and don’t have an ob-gyn yet.

    Thanks!

    • Merabella :

      Don’t live in NYC so I don’t have any suggestions there, but don’t forget to check out clinics or Planned Parenthood as well. I know that the PP in my area does do IUDs. Also check with your insurance provider and look up doctors in your area. Key Question to ask: How many of these have you done?

      • Anonymous :

        Thanks! The PP here are truly wonderful, but now that I am a working stiff with good insurance it doesn’t make sense to spend my entire Saturday waiting at PP for something that my insurance will cover. I used to go to them before I had such great insurance, though, and can highly recommend the one in Brooklyn Heights. LOVE them.

    • If you don’t get recs, I would just say to find an OBGYN who’s recommended by your friends or coworkers, and ask her a lot of questions about the IUD, including how often she inserts them, before you make the decision to have her do it.

  23. Anonymous :

    Another Mirena fan here.

    My first experience with birth control was with Norplant. No side effects, and worked out well enough for me that I after the initial five year period, I went for another Norplant insertion. After that, I went on the Pill.

    The Pill was horrible for me – weight gain, moodiness, etc. After two years of that, enough was enough; I talked to my gyno at length, and decided on Mirena.

    Mirena insertion was a little uncomfortable, and I had some cramps the first and second day. Spotting occurred for the first two months. I had two periods following that. Now, six months later, I get PMS symptoms once a month (water retention, tender breasts, etc.), but only very mild spotting for maybe a day. There has been some acne on my back and under my chin, but it’s manageable.

    Unfortunately, my insurance did not cover this at all.

  24. Reader B’s experience with Mirena was definitely not the same as mine. Insertion was extremely painful, I had months of spotting (although I was breastfeeding at that time and that can contribute), no regular cycles, and to top it off my strings were cut too short and I had to have a transvaginal u/s to locate it when I’d finally had enough and wanted it removed. The hormones, while a much lower concentration than oral birth control, do make their way into your system. It seems like a lot of HCPs push Mirena on women who go in specifically asking for a non-hormonal IUD, and I think this is disingenuous.

    • My doctor didn’t ‘push’ it on me. She had been working with me on different BCPs for years, but every one would give me the same horrible side effects, and besides my anxiety about remembering to take them, were consistently causing nausea and vomiting. So, after trying a few different options, she said, well, the next option is to go with an IUD, there are two options: and explained the differences between the Mirena and the Paraguard, and some anecdotes about the experiences of her other patients. Because she had a lot of data and anecdata that women who had my reactions to BCP did NOT usually have the same reaction to the Mirena, I decided to go with that one. She never pretended that it didn’t have hormones, but I didn’t say specifically that I didn’t want hormones, just that I didn’t want the side effects I was having, and I left it to my health care professional to describe my options.

  25. Since we’re sharing stories, I had a copper IUD after the birth of each of my 3 boys and LOVED it. I loved not having to worry about taking a pill (I had used the pill off & on before). I didn’t have any major issues with it being inserted (but this was after I had children). My periods were lighter & cramps pretty much nonexistent – again – probably because I’d given birth. I knew it was 100% effective because I had temped before TTC #2 & #3 and I got to know my cycle pretty well. I got pg with #2 on the 1st cycle after removal and #3 was the 2nd cycle after removal.

    I’d probably still have an IUD if my 3rd hadn’t fallen out on its own. I said to dh “You always said you’d get a V – and since we’re done having children, why don’t we take care of that now so I don’t have to get another IUD?” And he did. Oh, and dh said he could tell the strings were there during our garden parties, but they didn’t bother him at all. He felt it was totally worth it.

    Now, I do have a niece that was the result of a failed IUD, so I know they don’t work for everyone, but for me the IUD was fantastic.

  26. I love, love, love my Mirena. Contraception/sexual heath care is free in the UK, so cost wasn’t an issue. The insertion was incredibly painful (I actually fainted on the train home!), but after messing around with pills and the related hormonal issues, it’s been so excellent to not have to worry about birth control at all. My periods have gone way, way down too, and I used to have some pretty epic ones – now I just spot a little for three or four days a month.

  27. Anonylicious :

    I freaking love my Mirena. The insertion was kind of painful, and my periods are actually longer (a textbook 7-8 days as opposed to 4 or 5), but they’re lighter. I do have acne, but I’ve had acne on every form of hormonal BC I’ve tried. It’s worth it.

    The one problem is that I can’t reach my strings to check them, but my gentleman friend can apparently feel them when we’re partying in my ladygarden, so it’s still in place. (That expression is really hilarious to me, btw.)

    The absolute best thing about an IUD is that I can’t forget it. I am the Queen of Forgetfulness Mountain, so that’s a godsend.

  28. I have posted about my experience with Mirena before, but will do so again, since it is in stark contrast to Reader B’s experience:

    My doctor told me that she prefers to give them to women who have been pregnant before because insertion is much easier, but that she had done them in the past on women who had not been pregnant in the past and that it was fine. I went in for the appointment and had not been advised to take any medication beforehand and (if I recall correctly) she used the cervical softener on me while I was on the table, just prior to insertion. It was incredibly painful. There was a lot of blood and I immediately vomited and then passed out and woke up and vomited more. I remained in a state of high pain for the next 24 hours. It was much worse than cramping. The doctor’s office told me it would subside. (I am not a wimp, btw. I have gotten tattoos and had other procedures without issue, and before the insertion, I had no pain with my yearly exam.) The pain lowered to a dull roar and that lasted for three months. I was constantly taking pain medication, which seriously messed with my system during that time. Forgive me if this is TMI, but I always felt like I had to have a bowel movement, and would get stomach cramps and then period-like cramps… and then nothing would come of it. At times, the pain would increase to a level that would make me have to,m for example, pull my car over to let it pass. After three months, I had it removed (completely painless, btw, but I was terrified going in) and all the problems disappeared. Now, I am scared that there may be long-term side effects that I have yet to discover. I have not TTC yet, but worry that perhaps the insertion was incorrect or that it migrated once inserted and did some damage.
    All that being said, all of my friends that have either had children (or had to terminate a pregnancy) that have an IUD have never had any issues and love it. I am considering trying again after having children, because it would be so much more convenient for me and I could avoid the side effects of other methods… but I am not sure about a Round 2. Only one other friend of mine has had Mirena that has not had children and her experience was quite similar to mine, though she does have some unrelated issues with her reproductive system that could have been at play as well.

    • I don’t think your doc used a cervix softener – if she did, she used it incorrectly, because you have to use it about 12 hours in advance. She probably used local numbing agent, which my doc also used. 3 months of pain sounds awful – was there anything wrong with the IUD when they took it out? I did research when writing this post and I didn’t find anything on side effects lasting that long.

  29. I have the Mirena, too. I’ve had it about 3.5 years and love love love it. I basically have no periods now, and only a bit of spotting at first. That said, the insertion hurt like hell, and I bled all over the place during the insertion. Scared the daylights out of me, honestly, and felt like I’d been punched in the uterus for the first 1-2 days after. I don’t think they gave me anything ahead of time, and I wish they had. But it has been a godsend for me, really no side effects, my hormone levels are normal, and I don’t have to remember to take BC pills while life is super busy. Mr. Anonia and I planning to start TTC in about a year, so it’s been perfect timing with the 5 years.

  30. I had a terrible experience with Paragard. I loved, loved, loved it at first (even though I would always have one day a month when the cramps were so bad I literally couldn’t walk–and this from someone who’s NEVER had bad cramps before in my life).

    And then one day it failed. It was traumatic. I’d had it in about 2 years by that time, and I checked the strings religiously each month. And one day a condom broke, and I got pregnant, and it didn’t naturally terminate, even after a few months. It was the most traumatic experience of my life.

    Sounds like my experience was an anomaly, but fyi, Paragard is absolutely not foolproof.

  31. Mirena: Extremely painful insertion that left me on the couch barely able to move for a day and a half. I suddenly had massive acne, gained ten pounds that I couldn’t lose until about six months after removal, developed heavier and longer periods that had vastly increased amounts of cramping, and had crazy mood swings. The doctor told me I shouldn’t be able to feel it, but I could for the entire year and a half I lasted before yanking it (the doc and I tested to determine whether that was all in my head; it wasn’t). As in, I could feel exactly where it was during sex, standing, sitting, working out, etc. Yeah. That was fun.

    I know this post has a disclaimer about how it’s not an ad for Mirena, nor a recommendation, etc, but that’s sure how it comes off. May I suggest dual posts on issues like this, from opposing sides? Not everyone reads the comments, or reads the multitudes that posts like this receive.

  32. Speaking as a doctor: An experienced family doc, NP or other skilled practitioner can put in an IUD – does not have to be an OB/gyn. I would look for someone with plenty of experience, who knows how to make it more comfortable if you’ve never given birth vaginally, for example. Planned Parenthood is often great because their NPs do so many IUD insertions. You can make an appt if you don’t want to wait.

  33. Also speaking as a doctor: I have seen women pregnant using every form of birth control, from tubal to vasectomy to pill to IUD. If it is essential that you avoid pregnancy, I always recommend adding a second method, or abstinence (which no one is ever interested in).

  34. I have to add this, just so people are aware. I’m glad so many people have positive experiences with an IUD. I had mine in over ten years. Never once did it occur to me that anything could be wrong, ESPECIALLY that it could be creating an odor. But after a ton of embarrassing comments, trying all kinds of supplements, I realized it could be my IUD. It just never occurred to me. I’ve had it taken out and the Dr insists it probably wasn’t related to the odor. Just an unrelated bacterial vaginosis. But if you google odor and IUD, you’ll see that lots of people do have this problem, and I’m a little embarrassed it took me so long to figure it out. If you’re not having a problem, great, then I think IUD’s are the easiest form of birth control. Just be more aware than I was….

  35. I just elected to remove my Mirena in September. I am beyond glad that I did – these past 2 years were hell, and it took me forever to realize it was the iud.

    I got the iud since I have migraines with aura and can’t have anything with estrogen. Didn’t want more kids yet….seemed like a no brainier.

    Putting it in was no biggie. I had a few moments of ringing in my ears (they told me I might) and obviously spotty but otherwise really no problems.

    However, since implantation I have had many more migraines, a seizure, weight gain, and general hormonal responses like the puffy face/jowels like when pregnant.

    I had all sorts of tests run with neurologists, sleep specialists, had sinus surgery to help with supposed sleep apnea treatment…a real nightmare of a time. Finally I thought of the iud and researched if anyone had bad side effects. I found many happy women (which is GREAT), but of those that had side effects, they mirrored my experiences.

    Since removal, I sleep better, my face immediately returned to a less puffy appearance (a symptom which my OB said meant the hormones were effecting me systemically, which happens occasionally), I have a more typical migraine frequency for me, and most fun…….I’m stuck finding a BC method in an even more narrow field! (Paragard is out if one has metal allergies such as past issues with jewelry, and to be honest, after having to be at someone else’s mercy to remove this iud when I needed to, not sure I like the idea if something implanted again.)

    I am certainly glad for the good experiences had, but I wish I had made myself aware these things could happen so that I wouldn’t be put through such a ringer if they did. Best of luck, ladies!

  36. I, too, love love love my mirena IUD. I had tons of problems with the pill and it was actually my husband who brought up the IUD since his ex-wife had had one. Very humbling to have my DH inform me about BC options! ;) I wanted to avoid hormones and went against the advice of my husband and my OB/GYN and got the copper IUD. Insertion was painful and for the next 6 months I bled for at least 10 days a month. I usually have heavy periods and cramps that leave me curled up in the fetal position and I never thought my periods could get any worse, but I was sooo wrong! I wouldn’t have made it through without using a DivaCup (which you aren’t really supposed to use with a IUD but tampons just weren’t cutting it). I finally got so fed up I went back in and got the copper IUD taken out and a Mirena IUD put in. The difference was night and day! Within a couple of months I stopped having my period completely, which is such an improvement in quality of life for me. The only problem I have had with my Mirena, which is going to happen with any IUD, is that since I ovulate I get follicular cysts pretty much every month, which can be painful. I don’t know if I was on the pill so long that my body just isn’t used to ovulating any more, but it seems to be getting better. We are thinking about trying to have a baby next year, and it is comforting to know that once we decide there is no lag time between getting the IUD removed and being fertile, especially since we are both in our 30s.

  37. I had the IUD after my second child was born. For me insertion was quite painful and messy, but I’ve had two cesareans. I got it at my 6-week post partum appointment when I had just finished bleeding for five weeks and then I bled regularly (and sometimes heavily) for the next four. So that was a bummer.

    I liked having the assurance of the Mirena, but I did notice that I wasn’t losing the baby weight after my second the same way I did after my first. I only lost half of the weight, when with my first I lost all of it + a bunch more. But, I was nursing and not particularly trying, so I didn’t think too much on it.

    Anyhow, after having it in a year, in June I started spotting and it lasted for about five weeks. My doctor had me come in for an ultrasound and it turned out it had embedded itself in the uterine wall and wasn’t working anymore. It needed to come out. Removal was painful and there was more bleeding and lots of bloating. But once I had it out a couple of weeks and the bleeding stopped, I felt much better. Even better, I’ve dropped the other 20 lbs of baby weight since the end of July. Without trying much at all.

    I am sorry that it didn’t work because since I’ve had kids, remembering to take the pill is not my strong point. I”m currently without birth control since I wanted to let my body regulate itself, but will have to think of something soon.

  38. Well, I’m not from US, but in some European countries doctors would not let you have IUD before first pregnancy. Exactly because of that small risks of loosing ability to bear the child whatsoever (even small cervix damage which may occur during putting IUD in/out can prohibit woman from sustaining pregnancy). I’m a bit confused, since a lot of you don’t have child and were given IUD by the doctor… Though, personally, I’d probably prefer to stay away from IUD for a few years more, till I have my baby and put it then, in my 30s.

    • Honestly, that just doesn’t make sense according to what i’ve heard from every doctor/health care professional that i’ve talked to about IUDs, all of them women who have spent their careers working on women’s health and I trust to not make any recommendations lightly. In fact, I had a large chunk of my cervix removed in surgery, and have been assured my multiple doctors that i should have no problem giving birth to a child after that. So, I can’t imagine how a tiny little plastic device could have a much worse effect.

      As one doctor described it to me: the cervix is extremely resilient tissue, it dilates to several centimeters to give birth, and then returns to it’s previous shape. So, the insertion of an IUD barely affects the cervix compared to child birth.

  39. I got pregnant on Paragard. Do your research…it happens more often than you’d think.

  40. I am one of those women that think getting an IUD was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I tried the Pill for a while and realized hormones were not for me. They made me sleepy, hungry, cranky, depressive, etc, etc. So, getting the copper IUD was a no-brainer. It has an incredibly high effectiveness rate. Most of the risks associated with it are partly myth, such as the one that says venereal diseases will travel up the string into your cervix. This is a myth that was started after several cases of failed diagnosis and improper insertion that injured and infected patients.
    The only complication I experienced was when my doctor was worried she had perforated my uterus during insertion. Once she did a follow up ultrasound she discovered my uterus is just very long and tilted, and no damage was actually done. Insertion was a minor discomfort, not worse than a few moments of sharp cramps. I have noticed my periods are heavier nowadays and I will have very low iron levels during that time of the month but the liquid iron supplements I take completely revive me. Also, full disclosure: yes, it’s true that sometimes the strings will be positioned in a way that they can “poke” your partner, but it is possible to reach in and brush them aside so that they curl in the opposite direction and no one feels them.
    In short, I’m a BIG BIG fan of the copper IUD and would highly recommend it for women in a relationship and single women who always use condoms.

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