By Mikaela Hamilton & Francesca LaPasta
I decided to get an IUD because I wanted one. I’m not in a monogamous relationship so there was no other opinion in the matter; I was just done worrying about being pregnant. I went to Gannett for a check-up and my doctor asked if I was happy with my contraception. I wasn’t.
Scary as it is to admit, I really didn’t trust the people I was sleeping with enough in terms of contraception. A Gannett handout with a picture of a woman in a crop top gave me the facts on IUDs: 99% effective, lasts 3 to 10 years, not noticeable in day-to-day life, lighter periods with the hormonal IUD (the copper IUD may make your period worse, but hey, it’s natural!). Also, with the Student Health Plan it only costs ten dollars at Gannett.
The number of IUDs placed here at Gannett have certainly been on the rise—one doctor remarked, “It’s like an IUD factory in here! I placed five this morning!” Just so we’re on the same page, the IUD—intrauterine device—is a T-shaped device, either copper or hormone-releasing plastic, that sits in the uterus. The IUD appealed to me because I was assured that mood effects are rare—the pill and I didn’t get along in high school—and because of its reliability. More importantly, I wanted to ensure that I would continue having access to reliable contraception in light of our current politics.
So, let’s get to the worst part: insertion. Yes, it hurts. When I get my IUD inserted at Gannett, I bring my roommate (pre-vet, stomach of steel). A doctor with a Russian-ish accent tries to put me at ease, but soon she gets down to business, putting my feet in stirrups and trying to dilate my cervix (whatever that means). I’m holding my roommate’s hand to distract from the constant cramping pain when suddenly she’s on the ground. She nearly fainted. Apparently this is common. A bit later the doctor announces that she can’t dilate my cervix, but I’m not giving up. My roommate and I do research on “cervical ripening.” The Internet suggests sex and pineapples. I don’t have any sex on hand but I eat some pineapple. The doctor calls me and tells me I can pick up some pills and try again the next day. The pills make me nauseous, but this time the doctor manages to get the IUD into me. She’s clearly proud. In the end the insertion only took about 20 minutes. No regrets.
Gannett doesn’t always cooperate with your insurance. Without the Student Health Plan, it could cost over $900 to get an IUD at Gannett. Consider: if Congress stops covering birth control, who can afford $900 for an IUD? Because I had no Student Health Plan, and I didn’t have $900, I went to the doctor in my rural hometown. There were clear attempts to make the situation seem friendlier: butterfly mobile dangling above my head. Happy little clouds on the walls (Bob Ross would be proud). Animal socks placed over the stirrups. This veneer of kindness did nothing to calm me. I think of myself as having a high pain tolerance, so I was not expecting the level of discomfort I experienced. What comes to mind is “dystopian horror film”—cold, strange metal objects inside of me, manipulating my body in unnatural ways—and pain that was both serious and seriously strange. I stared at the red butterfly and tried not to throw up. I thought I was done when my doctor apologetically said, “I have to try again…your cervix is stubborn.” I wanted to give up, but steeled myself for the second attempt. When it was finally over, my oft-queasy sister came into the room, and she nearly passed out just from seeing the state I was in. Soon enough, I felt back to myself, and we celebrated with—you guessed it!—a trip to Applebee’s. While the initial experience was not pleasant, I don’t regret it. Better than childbirth, right?
- Do lots of research to determine which IUD is right for you.
- Leave your emotional support in the lobby.
- Breathe—especially if you have a stubborn cervix.
- Buy a heating pad—it will be your best friend post-insertion.
- Enunciate! It’s an IUD, not an IED (Improvised Explosive Device).
- Get comfortable talking about your own body! Say it with us: “cervix.” “Vagina.” “Uterus.”
- Give yourself time to adjust. IUD life is a transition until things settle down.
- Even if you don’t want an IUD or can’t get one, support other people’s right to choose the form of birth control they believe is best for them.