Now this may look like my first blog post, and what with it being the first post on this blog I can see why you’d think that, but you’d be wrong. I had a blog that had been going for a year or so and I just managed to delete the entire blog and backup all at the same time because the world is cruel place and I’m apparently not very good with technology. Not ideal (slight understatement – there may have been tears and tantrums) but as an incentive to start again I now have a fancy new theme, so every cloud and all that. Now, time to move on to the post!
I have an IUD and I work in sexual health, so I’d like to think I’m a reliable source on the subject. As a little disclaimer this might not be your experience (we are all different!), and I’m not suggesting you necessarily do the same thing as an IUD is not the right choice for everyone, but at this point it was the right choice for me.
A bit of background – The IUD
So firstly, if you aren’t sure what an IUD is, it’s a form of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC), which means that once it’s in place, you don’t have to think about it every day or each time you have sex. I love LARC methods because I think for so many people they are a fantastic option. An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse, it is a non hormonal form of contraception. You can read loads more about them here on the helpful NHS site.
I had previously used implants as contraception but decided I wanted to switch and finally settled on an IUD. I wanted another form of LARC as I love not having to think about contraception for years at a time and I wanted to try something non-hormonal.
I chose to have my IUD inserted by my GP as I’m really comfortable with her and knew she’d make me feel relaxed and she is also very experienced at fitting them, as she does several every single week. If you are considering having your GP do it I think it’s important to find out how many they have fitted, and how regularly and recently they have done it, as the more experienced the fitter is, the less painful and quicker it often is for you. If your GP isn’t super experienced at fitting IUDs, or in fact even if they are, I’d recommend considering your local sexual health clinic as a place to have yours fitted as they are very experienced.
Now something I should mention is that for the few days before my appointment I had a stomach bug, meaning my stomach was pretty crampy before I started the process. I considered re-arranging the appointment, but didn’t want to wait another month (my GP is a very popular place to get IUDs and IUSs fitted, so there was a waiting time). Probably not sensible, but I went with it anyway. I took some Ibuprofin an hour beforehand, as I had been recommended to do when I booked the appointment and wore loose, cool, comfortable clothes. I also packed a pad in my bag because I wasn’t sure how much the spotting would be afterwards and a snack and some water for after in case I felt dizzy. I like to be prepared! Also snacks are great and to be honest no handbag should be without them.
When I arrived at the appointment I had a chat with the doctor, and the nurse who would be helping her with the insertion, to check I understood and was happy with everything. Next they asked me to undress from the waist down and hop on the bed, lie down and then allow my knees to fall out to the side. My doctor then inserted two fingers into my vagina and put her hand on my stomach to figure out the size and position of my uterus. This felt a little strange but not painful. Next she inserted the speculum into my vagina to open me up which was also fine. I know some people tense up when this happens and this can make it uncomfortable or painful for them, so if you get one fitted try your best to relax, and maybe try some yoga breathing. I was chatting along with the doctor and nurse which was nice and probably also helped me feel relaxed.
Next she inserted an instrument to measure the length of my cervix, I had been warned it would hurt and would feel like a pinch, she was right, it did hurt. It was like a deep sharp pain, almost like a period cramp, but unfamiliar at the same time, but then 5 seconds later it was over. Next. it was time to put the IUD in. This did hurt a bit, but I just kept doing my yoga breathing and tried to stay relaxed. During this time my stomach felt pretty crampy, but I’m not sure if this was the IUD being put in, or a mixture of nerves and left over stomach bug cramps. It probably took a minute to do, but normally it should take about 15 seconds if your cervix isn’t tilted like mine (a fund fact about my body I learnt during this process). I found the minute painful and was glad when it was over, but completely bearable. Then she trimmed the threads, took the speculum out and I was done!
The nurse then took my blood pressure, I think to check I wasn’t too dizzy to stand up, and then drew the curtain so I could get dressed. I was a bit wobbly getting up, but by the time I put my underwear and trousers on I felt much better. I put a pad in my underwear and then was good to go. The cramps then started and they were pretty bad. I’d booked the afternoon off work, so went home, put my pyjamas on, hugged my hot water bottle and watched films. I’ll be honest I felt pretty terrible for that afternoon, but I still wasn’t well from the stomach bug and due to the contraception I’d been on before (an implant) I hadn’t had a period cramp in maybe 8 years and I’d almost forgotten what it felt like. I think my poor little body was just feeling a bit overwhelmed.
If you are considering getting an IUD it’s perfectly possible that afternoon after you get yours put in won’t be as bad as mine, particularly if you are sensible and don’t do it when you are already feeling unwell. Even if it is as bad as mine I can honestly say an afternoon of feeling unwell for me at least was 100% worth not having to worry about contraception for the next ten years. Ten years!
My first period after the insertion wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, it hurt and I had cramps, but I think it was made worse because I hadn’t had them in so long and just wasn’t used to it. The IUD has made my periods slightly heavier and more painful than they were before, but it’s really not that bad, and after about 6 months of having it inserted it got a lot better. I know this isn’t or won’t be the case for everyone, so it’s worth considering how you’d feel about potentially having heavier and/or more painful periods if you are thinking about getting an IUD.
Having had about a 18 months to reflect on the process I can hand on heart say the IUD was a great choice for me. Yes it hurt, but a day of pain is completely worth up to ten years of not being pregnant in my opinion. If we decide we’d like children before then or if I want to change contraception again, I can get it taken out at any time.
One more little disclaimer, IUD’s and all other forms of contraception, other than condoms, Femidoms and dams do not protect against STI’s, so please use a form of barrier method too.
Have you considered getting an IUD or IUS fitted? If you’ve got one, how did you find the fitting process?