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    I Got An IUD And This Is What I Learned

    I am older. I am wiser. I have a T-shaped rod of destiny hanging out in my uterus.

    Hello! My name is Kaye and I never, ever, ever want a baby.

    Kaye Toal

    Here is a photo of me, smiling because we live in a time of great blessings, where birth control is free and I never have to have a baby if I don't want to.

    Despite being a nerdy pop-punk piece of shit who never once got laid in high school, I've been on some form of pill-based birth control since I was 14.

    Kaye Toal

    I am 18 in this picture and I can't believe there was a time I willingly wore this sweater.

    I would never have guessed this when I was on the cusp of puberty and thought that all people who had sex were big ol' gross sluts, but birth control does more than just prevent babies!

    I started birth control a year or so after I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, both to regulate my hormones and to make sure I would get my period. (Some people with PCOS, myself included, don't get their period without outside help).

    This year, I chose to get an IUD instead of sticking with the pill.

    There were several reasons, some more thought-out than others. Here are the main ones:

    * Because I am forgetful and I hate having to take something at the same damn time every day.

    * Because I get migraines with aura, and combined oral contraceptives aren't recommended for that, since it may increase your risk of stroke.

    * Because I definitely do not want a child in the next five years, if ever.

    * Because I, uh, I like having sex. (Sorry, parents.)

    I figured there are probably other people who want an IUD and have no idea what they're in for, because Lord knows when I Googled IUDs there is an alarming lack of information on the old interwebs and most of it is super vague and tepid.

    Via webmd.com

    "Oh, some cramping, okay. Sounds chill." — me before I knew the TRUTH.

    So, for those of you on the hunt for your next form of birth control and who might be considering an IUD: here's what I learned.

    Important note: Everyone's body responds differently to different medications and procedures. This is how things went for me. More on that later!

    1. I couldn't just like, roll up to my gyno's office and get one.

    Paramount Pictures / Thinkstock

    For me, it was a two-appointment process: first, I met with my gyno to make sure this was the right choice for me and to get a rundown of the different options available (copper or hormonal, and then a couple of different hormonal brands).

    Ultimately, I went with the Mirena, which is the one being marketed for ~sexy fun moms~ even though you don't actually have to have had a child to use it safely. It's recommended for people with very heavy periods, and it's good for five years.

    Once I’d decided, they had to call and order the IUD, and schedule a follow-up appointment for an insertion. It was kind of annoying, but they do them all the time, so overall it was a pretty well-oiled machine.

    2. It was completely covered by my insurance.

    Paramount Pictures

    FREE BIRTH CONTROL, HELL YEAH. With my insurance, the only thing I had to pay for was the follow-up appointment for an ultrasound making sure it hadn’t gone rogue and wasn’t floating around in my uterus. The actual IUD, and the appointment for insertion, were both free of charge.

    Obviously, this can vary depending on your insurance. Give your insurance company a call before you make any decisions — you might be in for a nice surprise to the tune of free-ninety-nine.

    3. IT HURT LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER.

    Kaye Toal / Via Twitter: @ohkayewhatever

    I don't know how to explain this. I took ibuprofen before my appointment and I might as well have crushed up some placebos and thrown them in the trash for all the good it did me. Nothing could have prepared me for it. Maybe childbirth could have? Like, a person who has actually given birth probably has felt worse pain than I felt getting the IUD. But for me, it was hands-down the worst thing I felt in my life, and I once broke my toe by accidentally kicking a bathroom door in my college dorm.

    Pain is so subjective that it's hard to offer a framework, but I guess try this: Insertion felt like getting punched in the cervix by the Iron Giant, but that only lasted a few seconds. The cramps that followed were the real killer. Imagine the worst cramps you've ever felt. Multiply by fifteen. It'll feel like that for ten to fifteen minutes after insertion, and then (for me, anyway) they fade down into like, top-level but not impossible-to-deal-with cramps.

    It's gonna hurt. Be prepared to take a car home if you normally take public transport and/or have someone else drive you. And, if you're normally very susceptible, you might be interested in Skyla (an IUD by the same company that manufactures Mirena that is literally a smaller size, though only covers for 3 years and does not help with heavy periods). Your doctor might also be able to provide a topical anesthetic. You should ask!

    (If this still terrifies you, please skip ahead to #9 for reassurance that everybody's experience is different!)

    4. *ominous voice* There will be blood.

    Warner Bros

    I initially made an appointment that was not meant to be during my period, and my gyno office called me like three days later. “Is this appointment during your period?” the nurse asked, the same way someone might ask a child if it has recently ingested toilet bowl cleaner. It wasn’t. They had me reschedule. The nurse said that my cervix was softer during my period, and an insertion was easier; cool, fine, whatever.

    I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THE BLOOD.

    After insertion, they let you chill on the chair for as long as you need to as your body turns itself inside out and you are left a writhing puddle of nerve endings and goo on the floor. When I had regained some measure of dignity and stood up, the amount of blood on the chair underneath me nearly made me pass out again.

    It's just period blood. Duh! I had to do it on my period! They had to open up my cervix briefly to get it in there! BUT I WASN'T READY. Don't be like me. Be ready.

    5. *ominous voice* There will be... other things too.

    Walt Disney Productions

    Your uterine lining will start to shed, because one of the several things a hormonal IUD does to keep you from conceiving is thin your uterine lining to make it difficult for an egg to attach to your uterine wall. My doctor didn't warn me about this — or maybe she did and I missed it because I was writhing in agony — but yeah, it'll happen. For me, it looked totally different than my period normally is. For one thing, there was significantly less blood, so what I was getting were bloodless, slightly mucusy clumps of tissue. They were reddish beige in color. I got these of varying sizes (the largest about the size of a thumbnail or quarter, the smallest about the size of the head of a nail). They came in ones and twos, never several at once.

    The first time this happened, I had a panic attack because I thought my cervix was falling out. It, uh, wasn't. And then I felt very silly.

    I did mention it to my gyno when I went in for my six-week check, and she said it was fine. You might not have this experience; two of my friends didn't, but two did. If you're worried, call your doctor!

    6. Adjusting will take time.

    How much time? Depends on who you are as a person. According to my doctor and also the internet, it takes about three months to adjust. According to everyone I've talked to, it can take 6-8 months for the symptoms to completely go away. Here's what I felt:

    Thinkstock

    The first day was hell. Me and my electric blanket and my tears and many, many episodes of Friends. It was ... pretty similar to a bad period, actually.

    I cramped pretty much continuously for the first week, but they were like, normal period cramps. Nothing that disrupted my life.

    After 30 days, I was still cramping mildly probably once or twice a week, for a couple of hours or a day at a time. My uterine lining shed continuously during this time, but still without a lot of visible blood, so every time I used the toilet there'd be a delightful little reddish-beige chunk waiting for me. I didn't get a regular period. Instead, I spotted and bled lightly pretty much the entire time. During one week — what would normally be my period, according to my tracker — I bled enough to require a pad/a light tampon, but for the most part I used panty liners or, honestly, nothing at all, and didn't ruin any underwear. That's how light it was. During this time, my breasts were fairly tender, and my libido was all over the place. So, you know. Mild PMS, but for a month.

    After 60 days, cramping steadily declined, but I was still bleeding and spotting, though less regularly — I'd go five to seven days at a time without cramping or bleeding, then have a day or two of both, then another four days, etc. You get where I'm going with this.

    After 90 days, I cramp only when I'm supposed to be getting my period, but I haven't gotten an actual period since getting my IUD. It's kind of nice, actually.

    One symptom has continued since insertion and is annoying. But according to my doctor, it should go away in the next month or two. I cramp after sex almost every time. It's not bad enough to keep me celibate and hasn't affected my sex drive at all, but I will admit to being ready for it to go away.

    7. Finding the strings can be a struggle.

    Via imgur.com

    Depending on your body, it might be super easy to do a thread check or it might be next to impossible. I've even asked my partner to help me hunt for the strings a couple of times because ~I have a high cervix that's hard to reach~ (don't hate me 'cause you ain't me) and both times he's gotten this look of intense, desperate concentration, exactly like the people trying to put together the statue of the Silver Monkey at the end of Legends of the Hidden Temple, and then given up. "It just all feels like, you know, tissue."

    He was fucking right. I couldn't find it either. (This is not uncommon.)

    But I did once! And I will again, hopefully! It turns out that as you go through your cycle, your cervix changes — and that could effect how easy it is to find your strings. The Beautiful Cervix Project has images of a cervix during an entire cycle with an IUD, if you're interested in that kind of thing.

    Some gynecologists recommend only having your strings checked at your annual exam exactly because it can be tough to find them, but a general rule of thumb is to check for the strings once a month. It may take a few months to figure out when you can feel your cervix and when you can't. If you can't find your strings but you can feel your cervix, try again in a few days. If a week goes by and you still can't, or you can feel the tip of your IUD, see your health care provider ASAP, because the IUD might be in the wrong place.

    8. Talking (yelling) about it helped a lot.

    Via Twitter: @the_rewm

    The second I posted about it on Twitter, a dozen people popped up to commiserate and talk about their experiences. My friends texted me to say they'd gotten one, too, and wanted to talk. We should talk about this more! It is super freeing! #DEMYSTIFYTHEIUD

    9. My experience is super duper not universal.

    Thinkstock

    Before I got my IUD, I asked four friends I knew who had one how much it would hurt. They all had a different answer. One said that she was able to hop off the table and go thrifting immediately after, two said that insertion hurt badly enough that she needed to call out from work the next day, one said she was laid up for almost a week. Your experience could be totally different from mine!

    If you decide to get one, know that there's a baseline of expectations — insertion will not be fun, and you will take some time to adjust to it — but how your body reacts to the IUD is going to be pretty specific to you. I found that one of my closest friends and I, who have similar body types and experiences with periods/sex/the whole nine, had pretty similar IUD experiences. If you have a friend like this, ask them!

    10. It was so, so, so, so, so worth it. (SO WORTH IT.)

    Kaye Toal

    The IUD has been mad freeing, y'all. Despite the pain, despite the adjustment period, it is over 99% effective and it lasts five years. Pretty much everyone I've talked to about it has agreed that it's the best thing they could've ever done for themselves. It's definitely the best thing I've ever suffered through cramps for.

    I genuinely feel so hashtag blessed to live in this world of five years of no pregnancy, and can't wait until technology advances this shit far enough that it doesn't feel like getting shot in the uterus.

    Have you gotten an IUD? Tell us about it in the comments.

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