So I guess the only place to start this is by saying, vaginas are weird. I love mine, but they are weird and magical places that well, even in my thirties I’m still trying to fully discover what mine is all about. When I was a teenager, I figured by this age, I’d have it all figured out. But nope – here I am, still figuring it out.
Back in late 2014, I had a stroke. Yes, completely unrelated to my vagina – but don’t worry, we’re getting to that in just a second. My stroke took me completely by surprise, one minute I was out for brunch for a girlfriend’s birthday and then the next minute I was in the back of an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Life’s weird, right? At the hospital, one of the questions the cardiologist who kept visiting with and testing me was: are you on birth control?
Now if you’re a child of the Internet much like myself, you may have read the statistic that show women who were taking oral contraceptives (a.k.a birth control) are more likely to have a stroke than those who are not. Sadly, birth control didn’t cause my stroke, but now due to my heart condition, it meant that oral birth control was off the table for future contraception methods.
At this point, I was feeling a little bit lost. I mean, inside myself all I kept thinking was: “Oh shit, now I’m going to get pregnant” and as much as I love my partner neither of us wanted kids at that moment. A dog, maybe. Kids, not quite. It’s not like we didn’t have other options – condoms are still a thing – but I didn’t want to feel like that was the only option we had available to us. Thankfully, in this same period of time, I kept hearing and reading about people talking about the IUD (Intrauterine Device).
Everything from obscure t-shaped IUD earrings to one woman documenting her IUD insertion via Twitter, to my friends raving about their super positive experiences on Facebook. I consulted with Dr. Google (because, obviously) to make myself a pros and cons list of what getting an IUD would mean for me and my sex life. The pros list definitely outweighed the cons list (hello, five years child-free and reduced cramping. Sign me up!) and while the device was kind of expensive ($550 CAD), I then decided to take my research to the next level and chat with my family doctor to see if the IUD was even still an option for me.
When I first talked to my doctor, he was really supportive and applauding all the research I had done. He told me that I was able to get the IUD but he was unable to do the insertion – but luckily someone in his office (a female doctor) could. I may have done a “Yay, No Babies” dance right there in his office.
So, prior to my doctor and I setting “the big date”, I had to prepare my body, so to speak. First and foremost, I had to get a pregnancy test, pap smear and STI test beforehand. It all seemed so serious and I didn’t really understand, but my doctor explained that an undiagnosed STI can cause for some major pelvic inflammation. I left the doctors and nurses to poke, prod and jab away at my vagina until my body was ready.
A few weeks later, I got the green light to head in for my appointment and have my IUD inserted. I had decided to go with the Mirena®, the hormonal IUD. Many of my friends swore by it and my doctor recommended to me that since I already had such heavy periods with severe cramping, I would probably want to avoid the copper IUD as it makes periods heavier and cramps worse. Uh, no thanks. Definite hard pass on that one. The date was set for March 24, 2015. Welp, here goes nothing!
To prepare me for the appointment, the doctor sent me home with a prescription for a drug called Misoprostol to insert into my vagina. This purpose of this drug (the night before the procedure) was, as my doctor described it, “to open up my cervix” so the IUD insertion would become much easier. What I wasn’t told is this drug, used in combination with another drug (mifepristone), is typically what’s used in abortion clinics. Regardless, I shoved the teeny, tiny tablets into my vagina as far as I possibly could, reaching nearly my cervix.
Within minutes, my entire body began to react and not in a way that felt comfortable to me. The cramping came in waves, from severe to mild as I found myself toppled over the toilet bowl in our bathroom. I put my Diva Cup in to capture all of the blood flowing out but well, the Cup she runneth over with mine period blood. As I looked down into the toilet, I couldn’t stop crying as blood was everywhere: the toilet seat, the bathroom floor and all over my hands.
The worst part of this whole thing was that it reminded me so much of when I lost my very first pregnancy and all the emotions that were tied up in that day. I carried myself over to the shower and tried to wash as much of the blood away as I could and wash away some of the memories that were coming back to me of that one failed pregnancy.
As I dragged my weary and worn body to the doctor’s office on March 24, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted. I had asked the doctor handling my insertion that day why no one had told me the side effects of misoprostol and how I could have better prepared for that evening. Her response to me was a blank, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” It left me feeling so cold and as if my feelings were so unwarranted, as if I was overreacting. Yea, because everyone always expects to spend their evenings hemorrhaging out of their vag the night before their IUD insertion. Also, research has shown that Misoprostol is totally unnecessary for an IUD insertion, so there’s that. The whole insertion process feels like a bit of a blur for me, but that’s probably because I was so upset going into it. I felt no pain and it took less than 15 minutes. I’m probably not the ideal candidate for if or how to judge what the insertion of an IUD is like.
But now that it’s been a year since I’ve had my IUD and well, was all that really worth it? The fact of the matter is: I’m still undecided. Since that day, my body has reacted in the complete opposite way it should have for someone who had a hormonal IUD inserted. For example: I have my period almost three weeks out of the month, sometimes heavy and sometimes not. My sex drive has gone down to the point where I barely have a recognizable sex drive and boy, do I miss sex. Is this all related to the IUD? I have no idea, but it’s something I’m now seeing a gynecologist about and we’re trying to work through. Until I figure it out, I would say: be cautiously optimistic when approaching the IUD as your birth control method of choice. Everybody’s body is different and although it may work for 99% of people you may be that weird 1% it doesn’t work for. Apparently I fall into that weird 1% and I’m totally okay with that.