Disclaimer: Everyone’s body reacts differently to hormones/IUDs/contraceptives, this is just my experience. I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from getting an IUD–they work well for lots of people. Also although birth control pills work well for me, they’re not the right option for everyone–you have to find what works for you.
I decided to get the copper (Paraguard) IUD in the summer of 2016 for a few reasons. Most importantly, I was having trouble remembering to take my birth control pills since I was stressed and going through a lot at the time. I also wanted to try a more “natural” route, and I thought maybe hormones were negatively affecting my body, mood, and sex drive (really though, life/stress was affecting my mood and sex drive more than anything.) I also loved the idea of a birth control method that would last 10 years without hardly any thought on my part–no taking pills or picking up prescriptions.
Having the IUD inserted wasn’t as painful as I imagined. It hurt, but it was quick.1 I had some light cramping immediately after and on and off for a few days.
When I had my consultation for getting the IUD, they warned me my periods might be heavier and my cramps worse–but I figured it was probably worth it. Cramps aren’t fun, but I’m not really bothered by blood and since I use a Diva cup, I didn’t think it’d really affect my daily life much.
Oh, was I wrong.
I’m so glad the IUD is an option for people because it works great for many, but it was terrible for me.
Not long after I had the IUD inserted, I started getting cystic acne on my jawline and on my back. At first I thought it was stress related or from not eating well while traveling, but it never went away. I eventually decided to see a doctor about it, and even after recommended diet changes and topical acne treatments, it didn’t go away. It negatively affected my self esteem and my sex life. I stopped taking self portraits, I didn’t even want to take my shirt off (which is not normal for me–I usually love being naked!) or wear tank tops because the acne would show. I’m not saying acne should be shameful or hidden, but I didn’t feel like myself with this sudden acne all over my back, not to mention that it itched and even hurt sometimes as well.
My periods were also horrific. Like clockwork, on the 7th day before my period, I would wake up with terrible, extremely painful cramps. I continued to have painful cramps on and off the entire week before my period…and then during my period too, which was now much longer and heavier. Before I got the IUD/when I was on the pill, I would bleed fairly lightly for 4-5 days. With the IUD, my periods were 7 days and sometimes up to 10 days. On birth control pills, I could go without my Diva cup at night because I wouldn’t bleed much, and with the IUD/no hormones, I bled a lot more and definitely couldn’t do that.
Honestly I’m surprised I lasted as long as I did with the IUD (a little over a year.) At first I thought I was still adapting and that maybe I’d get used to it, and then after awhile it started to feel like it was normal, even though my pms and periods were far worse than I’d ever experienced. Eventually my partner and even some of my friends commented that they were worried about me because I was always home with cramps, and I only felt ok for 2 weeks or less during each month. Honestly it’s kind of impressive I accomplished anything last year.
Deep penetration was also less comfortable–something I only noticed after a friend was talking about how sex was painful for her with an IUD as well. I had written it off as just my moody vagina–sometimes I’m not in the mood for penetration at all anyways, and my cervix can get finicky around my period, but thinking back I realized I had stopping liking positions that allow for deep thrusting since getting the IUD, and I wasn’t choosing to use any toys bigger than the Mustang either.
I also had a few other minor side effects–like I’d randomly get pains in my vagina. They were mild, but it was a weird feeling, and I also worried about the IUD moving out of place, which I think is rare, but I worry about those kinds of things. I’d check my string with my VagCam and it was still there, but the worry associated with having something foreign in my body always lingered in my mind.
After a little over a year, I’d finally had enough, and I made an appointment to have my IUD removed2, and then immediately got back on hormonal birth control to help my acne (and possibly my cramps as well).
I’ve been back on the pill for a little over 3 months now, and my acne is finally healing. My cramps are much more manageable–they’re much milder and last only a few days as opposed to 14+ days. I’m not sure if my cramps/bleeding were from the IUD itself or from not taking hormonal birth control pills or both because I’d been on the pill before, but either way, my quality of life has improved so much. (Based on what I’ve heard/read, I think most likely my acne was from lack of hormones from the pill and the bad cramps were from the IUD itself.) The only side effect I experienced getting back on the pill was sore breasts for a week or so…and they’re definitely bigger now, all the time.
I admit that it felt kind of defeating taking out the IUD–I really wanted it to work for me and to not have to take hormones, partly because I thought not taking hormones would be more natural/better, but even though the copper IUD doesn’t utilize hormones, it’s not really “natural” either. (The only real “natural” birth control method I know of is monitoring your cycle/not having sex when/around the time you’re ovulating.)
I have a newfound love for my birth control pills, and I could care less if they’re natural or not. By the way–if you know of any cute birth control enamel pins/art, let me know!
PS–It’s possible the Mirena IUD could have worked better for me since it’s hormonal, but I didn’t want that one since sometimes you don’t get periods (I think not having periods sounds great in theory, but not having a monthly reminder I’m not pregnant would worry me.)
Have you had/do you have an IUD? Does it work well for you? Do you prefer the pill or another birth control method? Let me know in the comments!