Please Note: Feel free to add comments for others, however, I am no longer personally responding to comments on this post.
I have never liked birth control pills. For one thing, they make me nauseous. Because of this, I took to taking my pill at night. Because of that, several times a week, FOR YEARS, I would have to get back out of bed to go take my pill. Or I would take two the next day. Not good for *several* reasons. One of which was even worse nausea.
Then there's the fact that when I'm on the pill, I often don't get my period. This is considered a plus, and believe me, it has its obvious benefits for sure. Unfortunately, it also completely removes the monthly confirmation that you are indeed, not pregnant. I'm pro-choice, but I'm also pro being on top of these things so that they can be taken care of promptly if that's your choice. No period equaled a home pregnancy test every few months, FOR YEARS.
And they're a monthly expense by themselves.
But most important to me, the idea of taking hormones every day really rather bothers me. I went off birth control pills twice in my life. Both times I can only describe it as having a dampener lifted off me that I wasn't even aware was there. Everything felt a little sharper.
It felt like, when I was on the pill, the angst of PMS was spread out bit by bit throughout the month. So that, I never had PMS when I was on the pill, but I never felt as good - as clear - as I do most of the time without it. It was always a huge relief to not be taking them.
This last time was soon after I moved to L.A. I think I knew I had a long life-adjustment phase coming, and one day, I simply wondered why I was taking them. I certainly wasn't having sex, and I wasn't in any position to deal with dating either. And I was broke. And I hated them. So I stopped.
This time, as the veil lifted, I realized, I didn't want to take birth control pills anymore. Ever. There had to be something else, and in the back of my mind, was a thought of getting an IUD. Which I researched on the Internet, reading websites and bulletin boards.
IUD is an intrauterine contraceptive device. It is a small T that is inserted into the uterus through the cervix by a doctor (it opens into a T after insertion). A microfiber string remains out of the cervix so that you can confirm that it is there and in place. You can't feel a thing unless you're trying to. The kind I have - the one on the right in this picture - is wrapped in copper and provides the most effective form of birth control, without hormones. Yes, it's more effective, and clearly more reliable than the pill. And it works for up to 10 years. Hormone free.
Lest the picture seem too rosy, it turned out that getting an IUD in America was a Herculean task for several reasons. Firstly, IUDs are not popular in the states because of a faulty IUD in the 70s, the Dalkon Shield, which caused several deaths. Basically, IUDs have a bad rap in our collective memory. And because they're not popular, finding a doctor that carries them and does the insertion is a bit of a trick. It was covered by my insurance (completely), but I had to find a doctor who wouldn't charge me up front because he had them in stock already. But now, my birth control is in place, and my monthly expense is $0.
In addition to that, there is a serious concern if you engage in unsafe sex. Because the IUD goes into the uterus with a string that hangs out the cervix, if you get an STD, the chance of pelvic infection increases greatly. The cervix ceases to be a natural barrier. And a pelvic infection can mean that you can't have children. Because of this, doctors in the United States adher to guidelines that IUDs are not recommended for single women, or women who have never had children and would like to. If you engage in unsafe sex - ever - an IUD is not a viable choice for you.
It's hard to argue with doctors about this concern. It's true, and it's serious. I had to be firm that I - a single woman who had never had a child - wanted an IUD, and I wasn't taking no for an answer. I don't engage in unsafe sex, but being cheated on definitely enforced their concern and made me feel like a fool for how confident I'd been when insisting on it. I didn't do anything wrong - in fact, I did everything "right" - and there I was, waiting to find out if one lying man had left me sterile.
It was life-shaking. But I still knew the IUD was the right choice for me. Even though I'm not having sex at the moment, it's something I like knowing is there. Decided. Covered. My choice.
One great thing about it is that if I decide I want to have children, I can go to the doctor and get it taken out and could potentially get pregnant that night. There's nothing that has to leave my system. There's nothing in my system that could harm a baby or me. I like that.
Also, removal is - I hear - much less invasive than the insertion.
The insertion - which I thought would be a breeze - was a little taste of giving birth. The doctor opens the cervix for a split second, the IUD goes in, and although many woman (particularly if they've given birth) feel nothing, I felt the single most exucrutiating pain of my life. And then I was horribly cramped for the next 24 hours. Like I could only lay in bed and groan, and I REALLY should have had someone there to drive me home. I had thought I was going to make my salsa lesson that night! Not so much.
It takes three months for your body to adjust and accept the IUD. It's hard to imagine, but it is particularly susceptible to falling out during this time. I also had THE WORSE PERIODS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE. And my skin went crazy. It was like puberty on crack. For months after I had really bad periods (definition of careful what you wish for), and I thought that they would simply be like that forever, but coming up on one year, I can now report a complete absence of any monthly cramping. Though I am still having a very "healthy" cycle to be sure. And I get PMS, usually one to two days a month, although sometimes it's worse, and then the next month, no PMS. I'm pretty good at telling that that's why I feel crappy, and I just try to lay low if I can. Or I just work through it. The PMS is really a function of not being on the pill, though, as opposed to being a result of the IUD.
And once, the month that I got the IUD, I had a small uterine contraction during yoga class. Yeah, that was disconcerting! But apparently, just my body adjusting and perfectly normal.
I'm sharing this, because I think that IUDs are a really great form of birth control. I went through a lot to get to this point, but I now have a method of birth control in place that effects me not one bit and costs me not one cent and lasts for years until I choose to have it removed. It's not for everyone, but it is an option. A good one.
If you have any questions I can answer about my IUD experience, I am available to you. If you live in Los Angeles, and you're looking for a doctor, I know a great one in Glendale. Simply e-mail me.
UPDATE - I've started an IUD FAQ here.