Warning for my readers (especially the guy readers): This post is about my experience getting an IUD. I’m not shy describing stuff so just know that if you read today’s post.
With the liver tumors, there isn’t much for me to do between now and my next MRI in the spring. I just have to hope that my body will decide the tumors should shrink so things will be easier. I don’t have to change pretty much anything in my life because of them with one exception. I had to stop taking my birth control pills.
I’ve been on the pill since I was 18 and it was weird to stop taking them. But knowing that the hormones in them were what caused the tumors (literally a one in a million complication) made it a non-negotiable thing for me to stop. Ironically, I had to stop hormonal birth control but right now pregnancy could be extremely dangerous. I needed something to make sure I won’t get pregnant before my surgery (even though that is not really a concern for me), and non-hormonal options are pretty limited. But since hormonal options will be out of the picture for me for the rest of my life, I figured now is the best time to figure out what I want to do.
I have a very open relationship with my family. It helps that my dad was an OB/GYN and there is no shame or embarrassment to discuss things with him or anyone in my family. And everyone in my family agreed that I should get an IUD. Several women in my family have them and love them. And since there is a non-hormonal option (the copper Paragard), my OB/GYN agreed and scheduled me a time to come in and get one. While getting an IUD was something I thought about doing for a few years, I wasn’t too happy about having to get one. This wasn’t totally my choice, but I knew it was the best thing for me.
Of course, I reached out to all the friends and family I know who have an IUD to ask them about their experience. Mainly, I was terrified about the pain I might have with the insertion. I’ve read it can be very painful when you haven’t had a baby yet and I’m not a fan of pain. But since my OB/GYN knew how scared I was, she prescribed me some things to make it easier. I already have prescription motrin for my hip, but she also wrote a prescription for 1 dose of Valium to keep me calm and 2 doses of Codeine to help with the pain before and after.
Since I was going to be pretty loopy going to my appointment (I had never taken Valium before so I had no clue how I’d react), I had a friend who has an IUD drive me. I knew she’d be able to help keep me calm and would be a good person to have with me after if I was in a lot of pain. So this week, I had my appointment and I wanted to share my experience because I think it is important for people to know what it is like.
I took the painkillers about an hour before my appointment and felt fine with them. I’ve taken those painkiller before and knew I wouldn’t have any weird reactions. But when I took the Valium, I got loopy right away. I was shocked how fast it got into my system but was grateful that it did calm me down significantly. But when my friend picked me up, I knew I was acting weird. My brain and mouth felt disconnected and I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say. I was slurring (my friend said I sounded drunk or someone who was in the middle of dental work) and I couldn’t think of words that I wanted to use. I don’t like being out of control like that, but I knew it was for the best.
I was still nervous when I got to the appointment, but fortunately my OB/GYN is a family friend and was willing to work on making this as easy as possible. After doing a pregnancy test (they are required to do it even though I knew there was no risk of me being pregnant), my OB/GYN decided that the best option would be for me to get a shot of lidocaine. Most OB/GYNs don’t do this because getting a shot in your cervix can be very painful and can be worse than the IUD insertion. But for me, I didn’t really feel the shots. I didn’t know she did the first one and for the second one I didn’t feel pain but did feel a slow mild shock going up one side of my abdomen (it was on the side that the shot was going in on my cervix).
After the shot, we had to wait about 5 minutes for it to take effect, so we were just chatting and catching up on random things. I also told my doctor that I was totally going to be blogging about this so she took the IUD out of the box so I could get a picture of it before it went inside me.
You can see that the IUD is pretty small. The device it is in is the thing that is used to put it in your uterus (the arms get folded down before insertion, but I wanted the picture of it before it got folded down). Even though I knew IUDs are small, seeing it before the insertion did make me feel better. I don’t know why I needed more reassurance, but knowing that it was tiny and the device to insert it is smaller than a straw was good.
After I was numb, the next step was to measure my uterus so my doctor knew how far to insert the IUD. They used a device to hold my cervix open, but I didn’t feel it at all. I thought I might feel some pain or pressure, but when my doctor told me it was on there I was shocked because I had no idea. When she used the sounding device to measure my cervix, I felt that a bit. But I only felt it when it hit the top of my uterus and it was a little pinch (less than a shot or needle stick for an IV). I jumped a bit when that happened, but again it was significantly less than I thought it would be.
Finally, it was time to get my IUD. The IUD is loaded up in the insertion device and then it was placed in my uterus. I didn’t feel it at first, but as my doctor was placing it and getting the arms to pop out that was a weird sensation. I don’t know how to describe it. It wasn’t painful but it was odd. It almost felt like something was trying to pull my insides out of my body. It lasted maybe 3 seconds and then it was done. Then my doctor trimmed the strings of the IUD (I felt nothing) and the worst was over.
The final step was having an ultrasound to make sure the placement looked good. My doctor turned the screen so I could look at it too and she pointed out where the IUD is and where my uterus and ovaries are. It’s not easy to see in the image, but the long straight line in the center is the IUD.
The placement looked good to my doctor and we were done! If you don’t count the 5 minutes we waited for the lidocaine to take effect, the entire thing was probably less than 3 minutes. And I’m aware I had more painkillers than most people and I got the lidocaine shot too, but this entire process was pretty close to painless. Getting an IV for my liver MRIs were more painful than this process.
I have to go back to my OB/GYN in 6 weeks to have the placement checked again, but if everything looks good I’m protected against pregnancy for 10 years! There are no hormones in the copper IUD so it won’t affect the tumors at all. And if I want to have kids within the next decade, it’s pretty easy to have this removed.
I know that most people have much more difficult experiences than what I had. Even after the lidocaine wore off, I wasn’t in much pain. I have a small cramp in my lower abdomen, but it’s a pretty dull pain. I am still taking motrin as a precaution and after getting the IUD in I used a heating pad that night. But this was not unbearable at all. I know this could get worse later, but I’m not too worried about that. The thing that scared me the most was the insertion and I was laughing after it was done about how easy it was. If I had known that before, I probably would have gotten this years ago.
While I still wished that this was more of my choice and not something that was my only option, I’m glad I did it. I’m glad that I was able to manage the pain with the options I was given and that the experience was easy. All of the stress and worry I had before was so much worse than anything I experienced in the appointment.
I want to thank everyone who shared their stories of getting an IUD with me when I reached out for advice. You were all right that it wasn’t bad and that I was worrying more about it than I needed to. And if you are considering an IUD, know that while it can be painful that pain is usually over pretty quick. And maybe you will be lucky like I was and have an almost pain-free experience. Feel free to reach out to me through the comments or the contact form if you have questions or want to contact me about this. Obviously I’m an open book and happy to share whatever I can with you all.