Image of an actual IUD

Some trends, like the swoop bangs and skinny jeans look, can be easily spotted while out in a crowd. But others, such as risqué piercings and/or tattoos aren’t so easy to recognize.

The newest covert trend amongst young DC women: the IUD or Intrauterine Device.

Author’s Note: Dear Dad, Thank you for recently subscribing to Broads of the Beltway. I was truly touched. However, you should seriously skip this post. There are things in this post that I want no man to read. In fact, dudes in general read at your own peril. Love, Me

Birth control is a serious consideration for many young, professional women. And there are several viable options out there: pills, shots, patches, rings, and of course, abstinence just to name a few. My girl friends and I have combined probably tried all of them at least once.

My body tends to react like a pirate stripped of his rum whenever I have tried the pill or the ring in the past…with slurred anger and many complications. So when my girl friends recently began telling me about some magical device without hormones called the Paragard IUD, I was intrigued.

(Note: There are currently two IUD brands on the American market. The Mirena, which contains a very low level of added hormones and the Paragard, which has no added hormones. While I know several women who love the Mirena, I will be focusing on the Paragard in this article. And not to go all ex-law-student-worried-about-getting-sued on you, but I am not a doctor—please check with your doctor before deciding which form of contraception is best for you.).

Since my IUD story is slightly atypical I will present mine first, and then follow it with our guest blogger Veronica’s experience. Together, I hope we can accurately provide a complete picture of the IUD roller-coaster of awesomeness.

My personal IUD love story began like all love stories—with an awkward first date. I met my new DC-based gynecologist several weeks ago to make sure everything was in tip-top shape south of my border via an annual pap smear. After getting the medical all clear, I attempted to set up a future appointment for an IUD insertion with my new doctor. But alas, this particular gyno did not offer IUD insertions. My advice, dear readers, save yourself the hassle and verify ahead of time that your doctor hearts the Paragard or Marena.

As I left the IUD-less doctor’s office I wondered where to go next on my quest for easy birth control. When I was struck by the answer, I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. Much like 16 year-old girls in “serious” relationships across the country, I knew it was time to visit my local Planned Parenthood.

There are several Planned Parenthood locations in the Washington DC metro area. The closest location to me, the downtown DC Planned Parenthood, was (no surprise) booked up for quite a while, though, when I tried to call for an appointment. The location in Gaithersburg, Maryland, however, was readily available, open on Saturdays, and accessible by public transportation. So I happily booked my IUD insertion for the week I was going to be on my period since I had learned from internet research that menstruation makes the insertion less painful, and I’m all about less pain.

The day of the insertion, Natalie came over to my place for moral support and together we journeyed deep into the heart of Maryland. After surviving a long metro and bus ride, we eventually arrived at the Gaithersburg Planned Parenthood.

Upon my arrival, the staff had me fill out a lot of paperwork. I’m pretty sure I signed away my kidney on the black market that day. But the women working in the front office were wonderful and super accommodating. I also was given ibuprofen in advance to help ease any future cramps.

I was taken back to an examination room and given the typical paper dress to put on. A nurse practitioner then came in to do my actual IUD insertion. She warned me that because I had not been given some special uterus softening medicine to take the night before, I might not be able to have an IUD inserted that day. After having spent the last three hours on public transportation I mentally willed my uterus to corporate. The nurse practitioner also warned me that the insertion would be more painful for me because of the lack of the special medicine. Once again, I willed my body to “be cool, be cool.”

I laid back and placed my feet in the stirrups, determined to be calm and think uterus-opening thoughts. As the speculum went in, the nurse practitioner suddenly exclaimed, “Look at the dolphins!”

I was momentarily alarmed, as sea creatures and lady parts generally don’t go together, until I noticed a mobile of dolphins hanging from the ceiling. Relieved, I obediently began to watch the dolphins flicker in the AC-induced breeze. It was soothing at the time, but I will never think of Flipper the same way again.

After rummaging around in my tilted uterus for a bit, the nurse practitioner proclaimed it open enough to go ahead with the insertion that day. I mentally high-fived my uterus for its cooperation, and the nurse prepped me for the insertion.

The most common question I get (and the whole reason I wrote this post) is, “Did it hurt?”

The answer: for about five seconds, yes.

The painful part ironically is not the actual insertion. A five second bolt of lightening went through me when the nurse measured the depth of my uterus. It was a feeling I never want to experience again, but not so terrible that I wouldn’t recommend IUDs in general. And keep in mind, the pain only lasted five seconds.

Immediately after the insertion itself, I felt a big period-style cramp wash over me for about a minute.

And then it was done.

The nurse practitioner gave me a hug and told me what a trooper I was. I did not speak or make a single sound throughout the entire ordeal so she seemed pretty impressed.

I felt a little shaky on the ride home, and was glad to have had a snack to eat. I took the rest of the evening off, and I would recommend that to anyone post IUD insertion.

Answers to some (pretty awkward) FAQs:
1. I’ve had friends report spotting since their IUD insertions. I personally have not experienced any spotting, but my period is slightly more intense since getting the Paragard. I have always had horrible cramps though, so perhaps I am just imagining them to have worsened.
2. No, he cannot feel it.
3. It cost $40 with my insurance and it lasts for 10 years (or until I decide to have it removed). Without insurance it would have been about $475 at the Planned Parenthood.

For more information check out Paragard and Mirena. See below for our guest blogger Veronica’s more clinical look at IUD insertion.

– Lindsay

I ♥ My IUD
By: Veronica, Guest Blogger for the Broads of the Beltway

I went to the doctor (nurse practitioner) about a month ago. After the annual, we talked about birth control and I told them I wanted Paragard. They didn’t try to convince me otherwise, just suggested an IUD with hormones. When I explained that hormones in birth control a) made my migraines even worse from the fluctuating levels and b) caused ovarian cysts that were 3/4 the size of my ovaries and ruptured, making me think my ovaries exploded, they were in agreement with the hormone-less anti-spawn device.

After my annual exam, the nurse practitioner gave me a pill called Cytotec that was to be inserted the night before the procedure to soften my uterine wall, making insertion of the IUD easier. They also informed me that they wanted me to be on my cycle for the IUD insertion as it would be less painful. If I wasn’t on my cycle, I would have had to go in the previous day to get a blood test to ensure I wasn’t pregnant.

When I arrived for my appointment, the nurses were really sweet and nice. They double checked my blood pressure and explained that I would be unable to insert anything in my vagina (read: tampons, penis or any sort of helpful stimulating devices) until I had stopped bleeding from my period and or the procedure. After that, I disrobed and waited for the nurse practitioner, killing time by reading the terrible magazines and texting my friend Janna things like “this is going to be really painful” and “my vagina is going to need a vacation” to which she was helpfully replying “yeah, it’s going to hurt like a bitch” etc…

After the nurse practitioner came in, she had me assume the position (read: butt all the way forward on the examining table, feet in the stirrups like I was having an annual exam). She had already explained the basic steps, but kept explaining as she was enacting the procedure. NP Mumford first disinfected my vagina with Betadine, which is a variant of Iodine, a dark yellow liquid used as a medical cleaning agent. She used giant cotton swabs to do this as she had to reach all the way down my vaginal canal. Note: these things are like a foot long, and you would not want to get them near your ears… they would poke all the way through your brain to the ear on the other side). After the mildly painful disinfection of my insides, and using the same giant cotton swabs to apply a topical anesthetic, NP Mumford then inserted the speculum so that she could measure my uterus and how deep it was. This is when the pain really started. Not to brag or rub it in, but when I get my period, I NEVER get cramps. Read: never. This procedure makes you cramp throughout as it has something to do with stimulating whatever area of the body that inflicts self-torture. I get migraines. Really terrible migraines. But never cramps.

After the excruciating pain of having to measure my uterus (which she had to do twice, by the way, since my uterus is tipped, meaning it doesn’t sit completely level in my body), the speculum is still in place (also not the most comfortable) so that she had a guide to move along to place the IUD. Paragard is a capital T shaped white plastic device wrapped in copper wire. The copper disrupts the ability of the egg to attach to the uterine wall, with 99% effectiveness. It is only for the promise of that effectiveness against reproducing, creating progeny, having an alien grow inside me, etc… that this procedure was worth it. Another note: the topical anesthetic was definitely not working.

NP Mumford then placed the device inside my body, with a wave of pain that felt like a combination of hitting your funny bone on a door, stubbing your big toe on the sharpest corner of your bed frame, and taking giant pincers with spikes to your abdomen and squeezing them rapidly over and over again. The cramping was continuing throughout the procedure, but the pain reached a fever pitch during this portion, as it took her what felt like 10 minutes to get it placed. In reality, it was probably only one or two minutes.

I pride myself on my high levels of pain tolerance. Let me just put that out there. Various piercing parlors throughout the years have commented on my abilities to handle pain, as have varied medical professionals. This was excruciating. I didn’t make a peep, which impressed my nurse practitioner. She is not the gushy type, and after the procedure was over she just kept commenting “you did SO well! SO WELL!” like she’d never seen someone handle pain like a champ like me. This is a painful procedure, and I don’t want to sugar coat that. However, after it was over, I felt great. I didn’t feel shaky, but they had me lay down and rest for a few minutes, brought me some water, and gave me some free panty liners so that I didn’t bleed on my light grey pants. Bad choice of clothing for that day, by the way.

My metro ride back to work was fine, and I’ve been experiencing cramps for the past couple of days, but other than that, I’m so excited to not have to deal with bloating, weight gain, or babies. My very sweet and understanding significant other picked me up at my metro stop after work, and brought me home to a surprise meal, and gorgeous orchid that he had purchased. He, of course, wanted to dance the horizontal tango immediately, as the device is immediately effective, but NP Mumford suggested that no sexy activities take place until bleeding has stopped- period or otherwise. He understood, and has been very thankful that I went through that pain to ensure our nightime/ daytime / anytime activities don’t create progeny that will take over the world (It’s Pinky, it’s Pinky and the Brain, Brain Brain Brain…).

It was a great decision. Momentarily painful, but a good choice to ensure that my career and my significant other’s career and education will remain uninterrupted for as long as we choose.

About Lindsay Golder

Freelance writer, book-fiend, lover of shamefully bad films regularly featured on TBS or TNT.

17 Responses to “I.U.Delightful”

  1. After my first son was born (at the 6 week checkup) I had the paraguard placed. My husband and I were not planning anymore children for the next 3-4 years and it seemed like a great plan. I had super heavy periods after having it placed (for months) and actually had to see the dr. about it. After a few more months, my periods calmed down and were almost back to normal. After nine months with it in, I started to feel a bit weird. I felt a lot like when I was pregnant with my first born, so my husband and I decided to get a test just to be sure. Neither one of us really thought it could be true, but knowing for sure just seemed smart. I took the test and it was positive. My oldest son was 9 months old, and I was already pregnant again and with the 10 year IUD in place.

    I went in for an ultrasound and the IUD was still in the right location. I had to make a really, really, hard decision on whether to take it out and risk miscarrying the baby, or to leave it in, with the same risk. I did my research on it, on what can happen when you get pregnant with one in and there were awful stories. The IUD, if left in place, can grow into the fetus as it develops. With either scenario (removed or not) you have a high chance of miscarrying, or of going into preterm labor (I did have the second happen), or of having serious complications while pregnant. I decided that my best bet was to have it removed, and I am glad I did. The day I did, I came home and honestly thought I was having a miscarriage because of the amount of blood, but a week later I went in for a follow up ultrasound and I was still pregnant. I also went into labor at 34 weeks or so and had to be given medication to stop it.

    I have met several others who got pregnant with an IUD in place.

    I don’t share this to be mean, or to be negative, but so people can understand that it doesn’t always work and that there can be serious consequences when it doesn’t. I am sure that this goes for most forms of birth control.

    I was lucky and my youngest son just had his 2nd birthday. He is my miracle.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m very glad that your son is healthy and happy today! We always appreciate any feedback, especially concerning such a serious issue.

      There is always a chance of getting pregnant while using contraception. The Paragard IUD has a 99.2-99.4% effective rate, slightly less effective than the Mirena because of the lack of hormones. Both boast of the lowest failure rates amongst contraception on the market. Additionally, IUDs are very environmentally friendly.

      Prior to the IUD insertion I spent countless hours researching all the possible risks and side effects. I also talked to the “IUD-less” doctor and the nurse practitioner about any questions or concerns I had. I have over 12 friends that currently have an IUD and I asked them many questions too. I would recommend any female reader considering an IUD do the same research and discuss all her available options with a doctor.

  2. I will share my IUD story. I, too, am a fan of the IUD.

    I tried Paragard and had to have it removed because my periods were still twice as long and 10 times as painful (as with no birth control) 7 months in. They were getting worse, not better. I was never tested for an allergy, but I am guessing my uterus hated copper.

    My insurance wouldn’t cover Mirena at the time, so I used Nuva Ring for a few years after the paragard. Now I’ve had Mirena for about three months and I am really happy with it. I had some spotting for the first month, but that tapered off quickly. I’ve had no pain since the day after I got it. I must admit, however, that the insertion of the Mirena was much more painful than I remember paragard being. I took Ibuprofen before the procedure, but I was not offered any uterus softener or anything like that. I was crampy for a while both times, but a little nauseated after Mirena.

    The IUD is one of the most effective methods of birth control. Nothing is 100%, and devices like an IUD make it more likely that if you do get pregnant, it will be an ectopic pregnancy. It is always best to know all the risks and make the decision that is best for you!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with Mirena! I wanted to include more about it in the article, but strangely enough, only felt comfortable speaking for my own vagina. 🙂

  3. Just so you know, I’m pretty sure those stats are influenced by the number of women who miscarry if they get pregnant with an IU in… they don’t count those as “pregnancies”, so the chance of getting pregnant and miscarrying is much higher than the numbers Planned Parenthood claims. Also, the IU works much better on women who have already had at least one child, that is a real, proven medical fact. So, if you don’t mind getting pregnant and miscarrying, then you are all set. You are right about one thing, you probably wouldn’t actually give birth to a living baby if you use IU. Oh, and just so you know, they can also prevent conception in the future, too, even after they are removed.

    • We truly appreciate any and all feedback at Broads of the Beltway. However, that being said, I cannot let such blatant misinformation with malicious intent go without equal response. Once again, I do not claim to be an expert or doctor.

      1. I would be remiss if I did not point out that the word ‘intrauterine’ simply means “inside the womb.” You referred throughout your comment to an “IU.” As I suspect you are taking issue with the device, rather than the womb, the missing “D” here is of importance.

      2. I did not receive my “stats” from Planned Parenthood. The statistics quoted in the article are widely agreed upon amongst medical professionals. You can find them at the American Pregnancy Association, National Center for Health Statistics, and the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) just to name a few.

      3. The IUD is easier to implant in women who have already had at least one child, because their uterus is larger after pregnancy and childbirth. But there is nothing indicating the lack of previous childbirth alters IUD effectiveness. A simple Google search will show this, so please do not claim this to be a “proven medical fact.”

      4. The Paragard has no hormones in it. You can get pregnant right away when it is taken out. There are many sources to back this up, but here’s one from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals: http://www.arhp.org/Publications-and-Resources/Patient-Resources/printed-materials/Understanding-IUDs.

    • Re: anon

      1. When tabulating the effectiveness rate of any birth control, “they” ABSOLUTELY count the miscarriages/abortions. That’s why it’s called the “contraceptive failure rate” and not the “live birth rate”.

      2. The only reason that IUDs are better for women who have had a child is because a virgin uterus is more likely to expel the IUD. The vast, vast majority of expulsions happen the first three months after insertion. So if you are a nuliparia post-90 days, the IUD will be every bit as effective for you as it would for a woman who has had a child. (Insertion is easier for women who’ve had a child because they don’t usually have to deal with the sounding and their cervixes tend to be easier to dilate, but that has nothing to do with how well they work.)

      3. If you do get pregnant with an IUD, there are very good procedures to remove it (which is recommended). Yes, your risk of miscarriage is higher than it otherwise would be, but to say that couldn’t give birth to a live baby is false, and it was very irresponsible of you to have said that.

      Love, A Public Health Professional

  4. Yep – Anon. sounds like a typical anti-birth control person. People are entitled to their opinions, but the facts are the facts, so thanks for setting Anon. straight.

    I’ve had a Mirena for about 15 months now. I never had children, so the insertion was painful. No one thought to give me anything to dull the pain in advance – my GYN told me that next time, she’ll prescribe a Valium.

    I always tolerated the pill very well, and Mirena has been the same. I have not had a period AT ALL – not even any spotting. Needless to say, I am quite pleased by this development.

    If your doctor won’t give you one because you’ve never had children, that doctor is working on old news. Find another doctor. Long ago, that was standard, when IUDs were different and, I suspect, when doctors all assumed that all women would have children. Now, not having had children – or, wanting them, but not for a while – should not disqualify you. There may be other reasons for you not to get it, but by itself, child-status should not DQ you.

    In short, although I realize I haven’t been, I am sold. This IUD is phenomenal. And by all means, get it at Planned Parenthood if you can. The Mirena cost $750 – my insurance wouldn’t cover the device, just the insertion (go figure) – and I had to pay that $750 up front. Ugh. Still, when I compared it to the cost of the pill over the same length of time, it was half as much, so I went ahead and bit the bullet. So glad I did.

  5. In the 70’s I had a copper 7 IUD. I read that the copper T is a variation of the copper 7. It was extremely painful to put in. It also hurt all the time that it was in. They stopped selling it because it caused a lot of infections and made women infertile. I really dreaded having it taken out because it hurt so bad putting it in. It didn’t hurt at all when they took it out. I figured that I would never have children because of it. I didn’t get pregnant until I was 32. I was surprised I did because I never did before that. Then I didn’t get pregnant with my son until I was 42. After him I had my tubes tied. They didn’t give you anything back then to soften the uterus or any pain medicine.

  6. I have the Paragard as well; it’s interesting to hear your guys’ experiences and opinions as I am the only one of my friends using an IUD. My insertion experience sounds similar to Veronica’s, only she sounds a lot tougher than I was. I got mine inserted in April, without any cervix opening medicine while I wasn’t on my period. And oh my God, it HURT. SO. BAD. I have gotten tattoos, piercings, and stitches, and none of that compared to how bad this hurt. I was able to grit my teeth and get through it, and the nurse also praised me and gave me a hug, but I swear it traumatized me. In fact, when I got a pap done last month, I was so tense that I was making it painful for myself, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the IUD insertion. I know, I’m a wuss, but I can’t help it.

    Anyway, I really wanted to get the Mirena because the idea of really light or no periods appealed to me, but I’d heard the Mirena can affect your sex drive, which seemed kind of self-nullifying, so I took the hormone-free route. I’d be interested to hear about people’s experiences with Mirena, and hear whether they had any side effects.

  7. Thanks for posting, love my paraguard! I’m on year 4, and the intense periods have slowed, I’m pretty darn regular and without complaint. It’s fabulous to not worry about missing a pill, outstanding to have no added hormones!

  8. I realise this is off topic but while your site looks good, it could be far much better if youll be able to use lighter colors too within the design. This will encourage a great deal more readers come to check it out more often!

  9. I have had my Paragard IUD in for almost 4 years with nothing but success!!! I had been wanting an IUD since I was 28 and knew that my husband and I were not going to have children. My OB/GYN insisted that it was not a smart choice for me because I was still young and had also had never had children. When I turned 30 it seemed my birth control pills were making my overly emotional and making me feel psycho. My husband encouraged me to look into the IUD again, especially since we were in a new city and I needed to find a new doctor anyway. On my first appt with my OB/GYN I asked her about Paragard (after doing lots and lots of research on both brands) and her first reaction was “Sure we can get you set up for and IUD insertion”. Did some prep and like you the insertion hurt for about 5 seconds and I have not had any problems since then. My periods were heaving for the 1st six months but then went back to what they were before I went on the pill. I also could sense my body resetting itself over several months from years of being on the pill. To know that I don’t have to worry about birth control again till I am 41 is very comforting for myself and my husband.

  10. You both have interesting stories as far as choosing to get IUDs go. One for Paragard and Mirena, but before I can recommend that anyone to gets an IUD I would always advise them to research their planned contraceptives first. It should always help a lot in the long run, especially in preparing you to deal with the expected side effects.


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