TW: This is an article about a medical experience that does involve a short graphic description, including the mention of blood.
When I was eighteen, I started taking the pill. I wasn’t always very diligent about taking it at the same time each day because I, like so many other college freshmen, was an irresponsible mess at that age. There was a constant worry in the back of my mind, however, that I’d forget to take my pill and the worst would happen. After going on and off of it three times in only five years and experiencing negative hormonal side effects, I decided I needed a better method. In December 2015, I found a solution.
I had a consultation with Planned Parenthood to discuss my options. My doctor and I decided that getting an IUD (intrauterine device) was the best course of action for me. Paragard, the copper IUD, doesn’t release hormones and would give me hassle-free birth control for twelve years. That meant I’d be 36 years old when I needed to worry about birth control again. Being a big fan of delegating medical responsibility to my future-self, I was instantly sold on the idea.
I didn’t know what to expect during the insertion. Days before, I was on the fence about looking up medical videos or reading other people’s experiences with IUDs. I decided ignorance would be bliss, and avoided freaking myself out with what the internet would tell me. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t avoided reading about first-hand experiences–but that’s why I’m here now.
I was terrified. I hadn’t even had a pap smear, so I had no clue what to expect during the insertion. My boyfriend at the time drove me to the clinic and texted me encouraging words while I changed into a hospital gown and swung my feet back and forth nervously on the medical table. A nurse came in to offer her own reassurance while she took my vitals. I took a deep breath and leaned back, preparing for the worst.
The most humiliating experience at the gyno is always trying to find a comfortable position in stirrups. This was no exception. I zoned out of the room and tried to focus on the nurse by my head. She chatted with me as if nothing was happening while a doctor frustratedly tried to shove a small metal object into my uterus. I cringed a bit at times but she kept talking softly to me, which made a world of difference. Bless her.
Two years after insertion, I barely remember the experience of the insertion itself. I wish I had written it down then but the simple fact is, it wasn’t worth noting shortly after it was over. It was an uncomfortable procedure, of course, but it wasn’t memorably painful. The worst part of the actual doctor’s visit was when it was already over. The nurse had left me in the room to change.
“There’s some blood,” she said, “so you’re going to want to use this pad.”
“No big deal,” I thought, not realizing this wasn’t a slow-flowing period kind of blood but essentially a fresh internal wound. When I stood up, I was horrified to look down at the floor below me. Blood dripped down my thighs and I instantly felt faint. I took another breath, stuck the pad to my underwear, and got dressed as quickly as possible.
Once outside, my boyfriend asked how I felt. I told him I felt fine, and asked if he could take me to school for a final exam later that afternoon. Things felt great…for about fifteen minutes. When we got close to the university, my body decided an exam was out of the question. I emailed my professor to explain that I wouldn’t be coming in (I had previously told her I was getting a procedure done and would see how I felt the day of the exam, so she was understanding of it) and asked my boyfriend to take me home instead. By the time he pulled up to my apartment, I was in excruciating pain.
My boyfriend, unfortunately, had to go to work so I had to deal with the pain on my own. I managed to get myself in bed with a bottle of cold water and some extra strength ibuprofen. I tossed and turned in pain for maybe four hours. It was a rough time. However, everything I read about people experiencing very mild pain for several days/weeks wasn’t my experience. Instead, my body amped it up to pretty severe pain, but only for several hours. I finally got myself to sleep and woke up from a nap mostly pain-free.
Everyone’s experiences and pain tolerances are different—some people have hardly any issues, while others say it was worse than when they gave birth (but still worth it!). So if you’re considering an IUD, do some research and be sure to talk to your doctor. There are options like “conscious sedation” (being given a hefty pain pill to make things easier) available for those who need it. That being said, I haven’t experienced any pain from the IUD since the day of the insertion. Despite my laughably irrational fear in the beginning that sitting down too fast would cause the IUD to jab me, I don’t notice it at all these days. I often forget I even have an IUD until I’m having sex with someone who could possibly get me pregnant. Then it’s a lovely reminder that my IUD has me covered.