I have virtually no period anymore. I spot for about three days a month, I cramp a tiny bit on my first day, but the pain is about 20% of what it used to be. I used to cramp so intensely every month that I would seriously consider calling in sick. Now, I don’t even take Advil.
My period is so light because I have a hormonal IUD, a Mirena(R). IUD stands for intrauterine device, a tiny piece of plastic or copper that your gynecologist puts in your uterus. It’s one of the most effective forms of birth control out there: the Mirena has a success rate of 99.8% (and other IUDs also place above the 99% mark). It requires literally no action on my part to remain effective, unlike condoms or the pill.
And yet, I didn’t really know what an IUD was until well into my twenties, once I was already pregnant.
Oh, sure, someone probably breezed past it briefly once in a sex ed class, and maybe it was on some chart in a doctor’s office. But I’m pretty sure no one ever said to me in plain language, “Hey. There’s this thing you can get that will prevent pregnancy for up to five years, without you ever having to do anything that whole time. Want it?” (And copper IUDs last up to TEN years. Ten years!)
For years, virtually all my sexually active friends used condoms or the pill to keep babies at bay. I never went for the pill because I didn’t trust myself to remember to take it every day. And, wonder of wonders, now I don’t have to. More and more women are getting hip to the IUD, and for good reason: it’s awesome.
So here’s what you need to know about getting and having an IUD:
- You can go hormonal or non-hormonal. The ParaGard is a copper IUD that contains no hormones (though copper IUDs can actually *increase* your period flow). There are two forms of hormonal IUDs, the Mirena and the Skyla. The Mirena lasts five years and releases slightly more levonorgestrel (LNg) than the Skyla; the Skyla lasts three years. Both forms put fewer hormones in your body than the pill does.
- I haven’t personally noticed much difference in my body as a result of the hormones from the Mirena. I’ve gotten some harmless cysts, but other than the decreased menstruation, that’s the only difference. Still, as with any medical treatment, definitely check out all the side effects before you hit the “go” button.
- It hurts like hell to get, or rather, it would have if I hadn’t already had a baby. After the wracking pain of childbirth, my cervix was actually in prime condition for IUD insertion, and the discomfort was nothing compared to the pain of pushing out a baby. However, I’ve spoken to other women who have had much more painful insertion experiences–but who also say it was 100% worth it.
- You don’t have to do a thing once it’s in. This is the part that appealed most to me, as an incredibly lazy person. I mean, it doesn’t prevent STIs, so definitely still use condoms when you don’t know your partner’s status. But now that I’m in a monogamous partnership, it’s friggin amazing!
- You can take it out anytime you want to get pregnant. Basically, as soon as your doctor removes your IUD, you can get pregnant immediately, even if it was a hormonal device. As with the insertion, your doctor needs to handle the removal as well.
Bottom line: IUDs are an idiot-proof way to prevent pregnancy, and can even come with some pretty sweet benefits! Ask your doctor and have fun.