When I made the decision to get an intrauterine device (IUD) last year, I felt fully equipped. I had conducted extensive research, perused countless articles, and consulted with my OB/GYN regarding the procedure. However, there were unforeseen events that occurred during the process that caught me off guard.
1. It's ridiculously quick
From start to finish, my IUD appointment, which included friendly conversation with my nurse practitioner, lasted no more than 10 minutes. I anticipated a longer process involving thorough preparations and adjustments to ensure a seamless insertion, but to my surprise, the appointment was briefer than my routine yearly gynecologist visit.
2. You have to provide a urine sample
To avoid discomfort during the car ride to my appointment, I decided to use the bathroom beforehand. Unfortunately, that decision proved to be a misstep as my healthcare provider required a urine sample for a pregnancy test prior to insertion. Consequently, I found myself spending an extra 10 minutes in the bathroom trying to produce a urine sample. To prevent a similar situation, it's best to hold off on urinating until provided with the appropriate plastic cup.
3. Not all IUDs will alter your periods
Although IUDs are considered long-term birth control options, they can still be tailored to your individual preferences. If you want to alleviate intense periods, a hormonal IUD like Mirena may be suitable. Conversely, if you're concerned about hormone effects or desire a more extended duration of protection, ParaGard may be preferable. Consult your physician to determine which IUD aligns with your needs.
4. Your uterus is going to get pinched
During the procedure, I was caught off guard by the array of instruments laid out on the table. The most alarming one, in my opinion, was the tenaculum. My nurse practitioner clarified that the extended pincers would grip my uterus to keep it in place while inserting the IUD. To me, this was the most unsettling aspect of the process, as the thought of a clamp latching onto one of my organs was distressing. Although it was primarily a psychological discomfort, the memory still gives me chills.
5. It hurts Really bad
Despite being forewarned by others about the pain associated with getting an IUD, I believed I had a high pain tolerance and assumed I would manage. However, I was incorrect. When the tenaculum clamped onto my uterus, the sensation was excruciating and resembled the most severe cramps I had ever experienced. I began sweating profusely and had to grit my teeth to prevent myself from vocalizing the pain. My nurse practitioner had to remind me to relax to prevent cervical tension. Although the pain subsided quickly after removing the tenaculum, the preceding minute or two was challenging.
6. You might feel sick
Despite my confidence that I could handle the IUD insertion, I felt dizzy and queasy afterward. My nurse practitioner reassured me that this was a common reaction and advised me to notify the clinic staff if the symptoms worsened or persisted for more than ten minutes. Fortunately, my discomfort only lasted a few minutes, and once I was confident that I could drive safely, I got dressed, drank water, and left the clinic without any issues.
7. Expect blood
Following the procedure, you will be provided with a sanitary pad to place in your underwear. My nurse practitioner explained that the bleeding was likely due to the tenaculum but cautioned that getting a hormonal IUD might cause your period to start early or even result in an additional period until your body adjusts to it. While I only needed one pad, the amount of bleeding can vary for each person, and it is normal to experience more or less bleeding than others. Therefore, there's no need to panic if you experience different bleeding than someone else.
8. You'll probably deal with cramping afterward
Despite being warned of "light cramping," I experienced stronger cramps around the same time each day and after eating a heavy meal. I assumed it was due to pressure from my digestive system on the IUD. To reduce the pain, I started taking ibuprofen before the cramps began. Consult with your doctor to find the best pain management system for you.
9. Your periods might get weird
I was aware that my periods might change if I got a hormonal IUD, but dealing with the spotting was still bothersome. My periods were unpredictable and inconsistent - I would experience cramps before they started, have heavy bleeding for a day, followed by light spotting for three days, or have a period that lasted almost a month. However, I found that using a menstrual cup was helpful during this time as it eliminated the need to worry about pads, tampons, and stained underwear until my periods stabilized.
10. You might have to go back in for adjustments
Your IUD may shift after insertion, which can cause discomfort or pain. The device has long strings attached to it to assist with adjustments and removal. However, some people may not be aware of how long these strings are until their partner brings it up. If the strings are uncomfortable during sex, you can have them trimmed by a medical professional.
11. It's so, so worth it
Despite the initial pain and discomfort, getting an IUD has been worth it for me because of the lighter periods and five years of no pregnancy scares. And if I ever decide to have children, I can easily get it removed and start trying to conceive right away. Even with the pain, I would still encourage anyone seeking hassle-free birth control to consider an IUD.