It’s been a month since I got my first IUD. I am a 41-year-old woman who had been on the Pill for nearly her entire adult life. I switched birth control pills about a year before after being informed by my nurse practitioner — quite scarily after the fact – that skipping my period (aka the placebo week) on my previous prescription was a pregnancy waiting to happen. The new pills were the worst. I was spotting all the time, which can be bad for one’s sex life, and especially nerve-wracking when one is dating again for the first time in 20 years.
Luckily, I had understanding partners.
Fast-forward to September 2015. I had been seeing my now-boyfriend for about a month. We were cruising along in NRE (new relationship energy) overdrive and decided we wanted to be fluid-bonded – after paying a visit to the local STD clinic, of course. In the polyamorous world (which I previously wrote about), it tends to be a big deal when partners decide to become fluid-bonded, aka no more condoms.
Knowing I didn’t want to bother with the Pill, I explored other options. Weirdly, the IUD (intrauterine device) didn’t come to mind right away. Now, I consider myself a relatively well-educated, on-top-of-her shit, feminist, pro-birth-control woman. So why weren’t IUDs at the top of my list?
Well, there are several reasons. First, there is the myth that doctors won’t prescribe them for you if you’ve never had a baby. Not true. I had heard they were expensive, even if you have good health insurance. Not anymore. (Thanks, Obama!) And I vaguely recalled stories from the ’70s about women dying after being implanted with an earlier version of the IUD. Totally happened.
But after doing a little bit of research (did you know IUDs can last 3-12 years and are 99% effective?) and making sure my insurance did cover the cost, I made the appointment with my OB/GYN.
Two days before, I anxiously called my doctor’s office to make sure it was OK I would be on my period. The nurse told me they prefer it. Who knew?
The day before, I had an impromptu conversation with my boyfriend’s ex-wife, who had worked at a women’s health clinic. I wasn’t scared or nervous about the procedure until she asked if I faint when I get blood drawn. What was I getting myself into?
The day of my appointment — after the always fun, pee-in-this-tiny-cup-and-make-sure-you’re-not-pregnant routine – I was called into the exam room. My doc and I discussed whether to go with a copper or hormonal IUD. (I went with hormonal after she started throwing around words such as “perimenopause” and “heavier, longer periods.”) Then she asked how well I tolerated pain. “I am pretty tough. I have tattoos,” I answered, half-jokingly. I quickly realized those words would come back to haunt me. When she finally inserted the teeny-tiny piece of plastic into my uterus, it felt like the worst cramp I’ve ever had in my life. And I’ve experienced some pretty fucking terrible cramps, people. I couldn’t run fast enough to the bathroom afterward. Now, I still don’t know if that was because of the newly inserted foreign object, my period or the period-induced McDonald’s breakfast I consumed that morning. But it suuu-uucked.
I went to work, but left early and went home to nap for a few hours. I was a little crampy, pretty tired and my back hurt the rest of the weekend. Looking back, that could have been due to my period or the fact that I am a 41-year-old dating a 34-year-old with the stamina of a 25-year-old. Speaking of which, I realized my doctor hadn’t given me the warning about using a condom for a month that I had always gotten when starting a new birth-control pill. So as soon as I woke up from my nap, I Googled “Is an IUD effective immediately?” Much to my and my boyfriend’s delight, the search results offered up a resounding “yes.”
So will the number of women who get an IUD grow now as more of us learn how convenient, safe and affordable they are? The jury is still out on that one.
As for myself, I am now an IUD convert. I might even start wearing a button that reads, “I got an IUD. Ask me how!”