There was a time when I had a pregnancy scare. In fact, there were many times that I’ve had pregnancy scares though, in reality, they were all made up in my head. Though I took my oral contraceptive pill every single day for seven years straight (perhaps missing only two tablets in all of those years), the thought of pregnancy absolutely terrified me. I was so uptight about preventing an unplanned pregnancy that, at random, I’d decide to be momentarily abstinent or use condoms with my long-term partner “just to be safe.” These episodes of unwarranted paranoia usually stemmed from learning that someone had “become pregnant on the pill,” and it would send me pacing into the pregnancy test aisle at my local pharmacy, sweaty-palmed and heart throbbing.
One thing was for sure: I did not want to become pregnant. Another thing that was for sure was that I wanted to continue having sex with my committed long-term male partner, as it was an important part of our relationship – and frankly, I enjoyed it. It would, however, create an unsettling environment for my partner and me, as he tried to understand – logically – my illogical fear (I was taking the pill as directed, I was protected), while still supporting my superstitious demands (no sex this week, I don’t know why, it’s just a “feeling”). Yes, I will admit it, I was neurotically afraid of an unplanned pregnancy.
So when I began working for Planned Parenthood, I learned the ins and outs of birth control: what was most effective, what most people use, and what the failure rates actually look like. I realized that the majority of pill-pregnancies are due to user error (not taking the pills), not failure of the method itself. Though facts subdued my irrational fears, I realized that there was another method available that could replace my daily pill-taking and better cure my unplanned pregnancy fears!
Folks, I present to you: the Mirena IUD/IUC (Intrauterine device or intrauterine contraceptive). Mirena is a small “T” shaped contraceptive device that is inserted by a clinician into the uterus, where it remains for up to five years (it can be removed at any time before). It is made of plastic and includes the hormone progestin, which works to cut down on menstrual bleeding. What’s the best part? It’s 99.3% effective in preventing pregnancy for FIVE WHOLE YEARS! No more daily pill routine! No more paranoid trips to pregnancy test aisle! For me: no more pregnancy scares!
I am a Planned Parenthood employee, supporter, advocate, donor and yes: patient. I have first-hand knowledge of the cutting-edge quality care that our organization provides, so I asked a Nurse Practitioner that I work with if she would insert my Mirena. Excitedly she agreed, and I booked an appointment for a couple of weeks ahead, when I would be menstruating (FYI: we recommend inserting IUD/IUCs while on one’s menstrual flow).
The morning of, I was consumed with adrenaline-shaped butterflies, nervous that the procedure would hurt or that the dreaded “XYZ” of my imagination would go wrong. Luckily, my dear friend and colleague E.G.Hannah was there to assist the clinician and calm my nerves. I took 800mg of ibuprofen before I arrived. I put a maxi pad in my underwear in case of any post-insertion bleeding. I also took a medication to prepare my cervix beforehand since it had never been dilated before. Heart pumping, hands sweaty, I undressed from the waist down, dragged the crumply paper drape over my quivering thighs, and prepared for five years of security.
The insertion process itself was uncomfortable, but to be truthful, the worst part was my anxiety. I was intimidated by having anything inserted into my uterus, as I’d never encountered that sensation before, and I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be a cakewalk. However, I’d seen them inserted many times prior and the vast majority of women did totally fine, with minimal complaints. I remember looking down and seeing my legs wobbling, shaking so hard with anxiety, I felt really ridiculous. Lucky for me I was surrounded by supportive and understanding people who talked me through it and I was done within five minutes. Yes, it was uncomfortable. It felt like pressure and menstrual cramping for about three minutes. I’m pretty sure I uttered some profanity and then, within a matter of minutes, it was over. I had five minutes of discomfort for five years of freedom. In my book, it was a remarkable trade-off.
I went home and took some more ibuprofen throughout the day, as I had menstrual type cramping that lasted through the afternoon and into the night. The next morning I woke up feeling completely fine and no – I didn’t have any bleeding.
I waited about a week before I had sex. My partner was able to feel my strings a couple of times but I had them trimmed a month later and he hasn’t complained since. I haven’t had any menstrual bleeding since the day it was inserted three years ago. Better yet, I haven’t had any pregnancy scares!
This method, for me, has absolutely changed my life. Mirena has given me freedom and confidence. I now have the luxury of separating intercourse from pregnancy in my mind because I know I’m covered. Once a month I feel inside myself to confirm the soft tiny strings are still accessible (they curl up around the cervix and are needed for eventual removal by a clinician). Three years ago I “set it” and now I can “forget it.”
In two years my Mirena will need to be removed, and at that time I plan to have another one put in its place. For me, Mirena was an absolute dream come true: no periods, no pills and no unplanned pregnancies!
As a reminder, the Mirena is not for everyone and there are certain health conditions that are contraindicated for its use. Speak with your trusted health care professional to see if you’re a candidate for this method. Also, you can check out more information about this long-acting reversible contraceptive method below:
● Mirena info on Bedsider (includes user testimonials)
Readers, have you ever used an IUD/IUC? What’s your favorite birth control method?