My Honest Experience With The Copper IUD, 12 Months In
I’m writing this at my most honest: heat pack on my belly, six Ibuprofen down, on day three of my period.
I just turned 25. I’ve now had 10 solid years of concurrent birth control, in some form or another. While I’m sure many women out there have just as much or more experience, it’s prompted me to reflect on what a decade of pregnancy prevention has taught me – and what I can teach to women currently considering their birth control options.
My Birth Control Journey
Like most young women, I started out on the pill. For four years, I successfully evaded pregnancy but also experienced a string of side effects (including significant weight gain). While we’ve long known that a daily dose of hormones can be associated with some less-than-ideal outcomes, research on the negative effects of the pill continues to mount. Combined with how impractical it was to take a pill at the same exact time each day, I decided it was time to try something new.
I’ve never been the squeamish sort. For practicality’s sake, I figured something more permanent might work. This led to me the Implanon. Which led me to five more baby-free years, but less than a dozen periods in the meantime. The few periods I did have often lasted for four months or more. Joy.
This brings us to one year ago. I was 24. While not yet ready for children, my feelings toward eventual motherhood had started transforming. Slowly, I’d begun evolving beyond my college-aged attitude of “ew, babies” into someone who recognized the remarkable value of parenthood.
Suddenly, I valued my fertility again. Even though I wasn’t ready now, I would be someday. But what if my birth control choices made it more difficult to conceive when that someday rolled around?
What if my birth control choices made it more difficult to conceive when that someday rolled around?
Why I Chose the IUD
I was ready to ditch hormonal birth control completely. I wanted my cycle back – to feel like a woman again. Supposedly you’re able to conceive right after IUD removal, which appealed to me.
Besides this, immediate birth control effectiveness was still very important. I wasn’t ready for motherhood yet, financially or emotionally. The IUD is 99% effective, and personal misuse is impossible – unlike forgetting to take a pill. The decision was made.
I hunted out a fertility clinic that offered IUD insertion under anesthesia. I’d read enough stories from other women to decide I wasn’t even going to attempt it on the table.
The pain immediately after waking was intense, with hours of white-knuckled cramping and severe nausea. I was given a sheet of ibuprofen to tide me through the first few days, which did exactly nothing. Considering how severe the pain was after waking up, I was grateful for my decision to do it under anesthesia.
We’ll start off with what I like about the IUD.
No Hormonal Side Effects
I’ve successfully lost 41kg/90lbs on the IUD. While this was due in very large part to diet and lifestyle changes, I strongly believe getting off the Implanon has made a difference. My skin and scalp are much less oily than they’ve ever been. In general, my skin feels a lot more balanced, with less acne and irritation.
My Sex Life Is Mostly Unaffected
I can’t feel the “tail” of the IUD, and neither can my partner. This was a really big concern of mine, but luckily it hasn’t impacted intercourse. That said, my cervix is definitely more sensitive. If my partner accidentally taps it during sex, it hurts much more than it did before.
The Implanon absolutely devastated my cycle, so this has been a huge benefit of the IUD. It took a few months for things to settle and for the Implanon hormones to move out of my system, but since then, it’s been back to a normal, reliable menstrual cycle. I haven’t had any spotting between periods, which I was warned might happen. So that’s a bonus!
There’s a lot about the IUD that I’m grateful for. But as with any artificial chemical or material we put in our bodies, it isn’t perfect.
Heavier, More Painful Periods
I’d been blessed with manageable periods before my IUD. As long as I kept on top of a moderate dose of Ibuprofen, they really didn’t bother me much. This has changed dramatically since having the IUD implanted.
The first few periods were rough. None of my periods in the past came close to comparing. They were also extremely heavy, and I was going through 7-10 tampons in a day on average. This has settled down some, after a year. But my periods are still heavier and more painful than a single one I’ve experienced pre-IUD.
My periods are heavier and more painful than a single one I’ve experienced pre-IUD.
No Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I have a good relationship with them. I find tampons pretty irritating, especially near the end of my period when my flow is lighter and things start getting a bit scratchy. Unfortunately, IUDs and period cups are the mortal enemies of menstrual products. Apparently, the suction from a cup could be enough to shift or dislodge an IUD entirely – ouch.
Persistent, Random Episodes of Cramping
This part really sucks. No matter where I’m at in my cycle, I’ll often experience little jabs of pain that centralize in my cervix. They come and go, ranging from intense to annoying, and I’ll experience a few a day (at the least).
I’m not a doctor, but the best way to describe the pain is that the IUD doesn’t feel “settled.” It’s like I’m acutely aware there’s something foreign in there, and my body occasionally clenches and cramps around it. It’s not enough to impair my day-to-day life, but I’ll often have to stop what I’m doing and breathe through it.
I should note, I’ve now had two separate ultrasounds that confirm my IUD is in the right place. It hasn’t deviated or perforated my uterus, so that’s good – but it still bothers me daily.
Would I Get the IUD again?
Currently, the IUD serves its purpose. I’ve avoided unwanted pregnancy, I’m not taking hormones, and the side effects are tolerable. Once I start trying to conceive (hopefully within the next two or three years!), I’ll be having it removed and won’t be returning. The IUD has been beneficial in many ways, but it has started to distort my relationship with my period as something very painful, very heavy, and pretty unpleasant overall. Once I’m done having children, I’d like to try the fertility awareness method as a natural form of birth control.
Is the IUD Right for You?
This is an entirely personal decision between yourself and your doctor. But looking back, I wonder if I’d have made a different decision with the knowledge I have now.
If there were only two pearls of information about the IUD I could drill home, it would be this:
Most women who remove their IUD early or spontaneously do so because of menstrual pain, pain outside of menstruation, and spotting between periods.
For the large majority of women, many negative symptoms caused by the IUD will improve over time.
There is no way of knowing how your body will respond to an IUD. For most women, the side effects are moderate, manageable, and often improve with time. But with any foreign material we’re putting inside us, hormonal or not, side effects should be expected.
If you’re considering an IUD, my suggestion is to plan for the worst but hope for the best. Consider what side effects you’re prepared to live with for up to 7-10 years. Be realistic about what you’d do if you experienced the rare, more unpredictable symptoms.
Ultimately, I’m not for or against the IUD. What I do support is women making informed decisions about their health – especially in topics like birth control, which is often clouded by agendas and political viewpoints. It’s my hope that reading this has helped share an honest picture of what life with the Copper IUD is like: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If it helps even one woman confused about her choices, then I’ve done my job.
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