Bye bye birth control!

I do not know if I mentioned this before, but I had been on birth control (Yasmin) for the past four and half years and that had put me in a moral dilemma in my journey to becoming more natural. First I switched up my diet, then came my beauty care products, and it was a natural progression to start thinking about the other things I voluntarily ingest. Especially after reading articles including this one about the adverse effects of all these extra hormones that make their way into the water supply through urination and how this can sometimes cause involuntary sex changes in frogs(!), I knew I had to make a change because how YUCK is that?

So, I started looking for an alternative and the copper IUD (I have the Liberte brand) seemed like the best option for me. IUDs are most popular with mothers who are in monogamous relationships and do not want to have to worry about hormones/taking a pill, but since IUDs became officially approved for women who have not yet been pregnant its popularity has skyrocketed. Now, I still have qualms with the idea that there is something unnatural inside of me, but I think it is the best option to be the most effective in preventing pregnancy (in comparison with the most natural rhythm method or lady-comp) while also being more natural than birth control pills at the same time. Ultimately, I do not want to get pregnant right now!

Finally, I want to know what it’s like to ovulate naturally again! Is that weird?

I have been on the pill so long I cannot even remember what it was like to have everything work on its own and I wanted to be able to feel that way again :). 

Although the one thing that TERRIFIES me (it’s also super shallow) is the effect this lack of birth control will have on my skin (you can read an amazing/comment filled article about that here from nomoredirtylooks as well as this one about contraception methods in general). So, I will also be reporting on that in another post which will be a series about my b.c. “withdrawal” if you will. Here are two more articles (1 & 2) about the IUD which I found very helpful as well as this amazing livejournal site called IUD divas which is chock full of support and personal experiences that I really enjoyed – everything you have ever wondered about is on there or you can post a question and it will be answered immediately by a bevy of supportive commenters.

Right, onto my actual experience! In this post I will regaling you with my consultation appointment and my insertion. My follow up posts will be about my first one month check-up – it will include checking my strings, my first real period with the IUD, what sex is like with the IUD, etc and I will post other updates whenever something significant or interesting happens!

So, as I said I had been toying with the idea of getting an IUD for almost a year. Since last September actually. The final push for finally getting it was that I am moving out of Canada and to the United States now that I have graduated, and the IUD is WAY LESS EXPENSIVE here than in the States. My consultation was at my University’s health centre and was merely that; there was no physical examination and the doctor and I discussed the risks of the IUD, my relationship status, and why I did not want to take the pill any longer. My doctor told me about many of her personal experiences with IUD insertions which made me feel confident in her experience; the day of my insertion she had already done two others before me! She also did insertions  mainly on women my age who have never had children which was important to me.

The one dilemma that arose was when we discussed the pros and cons of the copper IUD vs the hormonal Mirena IUD. She said “The Mirena is the Cadillac of Birth Control. It is almost impossible to become pregnant with it. The copper IUD is 99% effective, but I have seen women become pregnant with the copper IUD when they have sex without using a second method during ovulation.” 

So that was a bit of a smack in the face for me. I was so set on the copper and wanted to do away with hormones, but the Cadillac of birth control? It sounded super tempting. She followed that up by informing me that the Mirena has a far smaller dose of hormones than the pill because the hormones are released directly at the source and that I would even ovulate on the Mirena, but would probably never have a period because the Mirena thins out the uterine lining so no fertilized eggs can implant. That brings up another issue concerning the primary method used by the IUDs to prevent pregnancy. My roommate who is in med school informed me that the primary method of the Mirena is to prevent fertilized eggs from implanting by thinning out the uterine lining while the copper IUD’s primary method is using copper as a spermicide. The copper is released, similar to the way hormones are released, inside of the uterus. It also causes the uterine lining to become inflamed which prevents implantation of a fertilized egg as a second method. Anyways, I walked away from the appointment making an appointment for the required physical as well as insertion, but unsure of which IUD I would choose.

A conversation with my roommate quickly cleared this up for me. She said, “Your main reason for going off the pill is to not have to use hormones. 99% is super effective so I say you go with the copper.” She was right. I made my decision.

At the physical my doctor gave me a prescription for my Liberte copper IUD as well as a cervical softener/painkiller to take the day before and 3-4 hours before insertion.

My insertion was at five in the afternoon and I was pretty nervous. First she had to check the position of my uterus by inserting her fingers into my vagina with a lot of pressure and pressing down on my abdomen which was no big deal just a bit uncomfortable. Next, things progressed just like a regular pelvic exam, except the doctor had all sorts of intense looking instruments and the IUD set up. First, the speculum was inserted and the area was cleaned with a brownish/iodine looking like liquid. The doctor talked me through the whole process, but I cannot remember the name of this stuff! Next she sprayed my cervix with this great numbing spray and used a pliers-like instrument to situate my cervix to aid with the insertion which I barely felt.

Finally, it was the moment I had read the most about and was most nervous for – the sounding. The doctor uses this long, metal, straw-sized pole to check the depth of the uterus to ensure the IUD can be inserted.

I could feel it touching the opening of my cervix and the doctor said, “So you’ll feel a little cramping” and boy did I ever. Now I have never had kids and have moderate period cramps, but I have never felt something like this before! It was an experience, I even said “Ow” many times aloud which I was not expecting. All in all, however, this lasted a maximum of one minute and I would not want anyone to be dissuaded from getting an IUD because of these small moments of pain. I learned that my uterus is seven cm deep (the minimum requirement for insertions is six I believe) and we were good to go for insertion! I was very happy that all was normal with my uterus; I got to learn so much about my lady bits during this experience and it was all very interesting to me. I also feel I got a little insight into the pain of childbirth during the insertion which was a bit terrifying, but comforting in that now I have some sort of idea of what to expect! Although, mothers who have the IUD say it does not even compare to childbirth. Eek. ANYWAYS, I was pretty worried about having to go through all of that intense cramping again with actual IUD insertion, but the doctor told me it would be less intense than the sounding because the IUD would not go as deep. She was right! The cramping was still bad, but not as bad. Afterwards, she cut the strings and let me touch the excess; they were super fine and fabric-like. I am interested to see what my boyfriend will say when we have sex…

After that I put my clothes back on and was experiencing some pretty intense cramps, think the worst cramps you would have during a period. They were not, however, even near as intense as the cramps I experienced during the sounding and insertion. Then, we talked as I sort of sat and relaxed for a little bit, she told me I did not look faint (this can happen sometimes), told me that nothing was to enter my vagina for at least one week, and I was on my merry way. I even biked home! Though the cramps were bad and I was cursing the whole way.

Then I was home and I just chilled and by the next day my cramps were almost non-existent and I felt fine. I even went to the gym! Which is totally permissible after insertion. 

I got it inserted during my period which is recommended because you’re more “open” during this time and I had bleeding for the next five days which was the normal last day of my period.

So that was my insertion story guys! I hope you enjoyed it and that I do not talk about periods, vaginas, and contraception too much on this blog after that Diva Cup post haha. PLEASE feel free to ask me any questions you may have and check out all of the great links I posted throughout. Have a great weekend! Here the sun is shining and it finally feels like spring 🙂