Please Note: Feel free to add comments for others, however, I am no longer personally responding to comments on this post.
Since my original post about my IUD, I've received numerous and regular e-mails in addition to the copious comment chain on that post, which I would encourage you to read if you're interested. Thanks to the magic of Google, it's grown fairly regularly, and there are many interesting stories, questions and comments there.
So, in this space, I'm going to begin an IUD FAQ, starting with the most recent batch of questions from my inbox. If you've e-mailed me about your IUD or with questions, please know I always flag those emails and make an honest attempt to answer them as promptly as possible. Sometimes, that is quite a challenge, and that's why I've decided to start this FAQ.
Effectiveness: I just had my baby and I'm not in a hurry to have another, did your doctor tell you how effective it was in preventing pregnancy?
From Planned Parenthood -
The IUD is one of the most effective reversible methods of birth control. Of 100 women who use ParaGard or Mirena, one or fewer will become pregnant during the first year of typical* use. Fewer than one will become pregnant with perfect** use. Fewer pregnancies occur with continued use.
It is very important to remember that the IUD does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. Use a latex or female condom with the IUD to reduce the risk of infection.
*Typical use refers to failure rates for women whose use is not consistent or always correct.
**Perfect use refers to failure rates for those whose use is consistent and always correct.
With the IUD, the only "incorrect use" situation I can think of is not checking the strings.
Can't Find the String: i saw your website about and IUD and i have one and i love it, its such an awesome form of birth control and its easy to maintain. however, i have one qualm with it, which kind of irriates me. i cant seem to ever feel the string, i go to doctors and they see it and feel it and they tell me its fine and its right there, but whenever i try to search for it i cant find it. my question is, have you ever had such an issue? how do you actually find the string? i already have my IUD for almost over 2 years and i have never felt the string. thanks
I haven't had too much of a problem feeling the string. Certain times of the month it is more difficult, because I think it gets harder to feel when it's more moist. I generally feel it with my finger at the opening to the cervix. I feel it against the cervix opening. Rather than trying to just feel it floating about. Note that I have a Paraguard, so I don't know what the Mirena string is like.
And here's another method from an e-mail I received:
my doc cut mine really short, so to feel them I have squat, use my longest (middle) finger and (Ok, this is slightly gross and TMI, but whatever) then I bear down. Um...yeah. You know. Kind of like if you were going to the bathroom. DON'T GO THE BATHROOM! lol. But it brings the cervix WAY down, and makes the strings reachable (for me at least).
Safety: Is it pretty safe?
Possible IUD side effects include expulsion, perforation, and infection. While serious problems with the IUD are rare, you must report problems to your clinician right away to avoid further complications. Click the Planned Parenthood link above for more information on these side effects.
Insertion pain: My question was about how painful you made it seem to have it put in. I am terrified of pain and wonder if you know of others who have had less painful experiences, maybe you can encourage me. (This reader also disclosed that she has not had children.)
Anyone I've heard of who had little or no pain during insertion has had children. During insertion, the cervix opening must be quickly widened and the IUD popped in. My doctor did this in mere seconds. And those seconds were extremely painful. So yes, it hurt, but yes, it was super quick. The pain that came after was painful cramping - which hurts but isn't the same thing by any stretch.
Anecdotally speaking, stories I've heard of difficult insertions seem to always be about Mirena insertions (I have a Paraguard IUD) or from women with uniquely shaped cervixes. It would definitely be worth it ask your doctor specifically about insertion into your cervix and if he anticipates any difficulty.
Skin Breakouts: My main question is I noticed you said your skin freaked out when you got the IUD. I was curious about this because I've been dealing with birth-control related acne for months and I would not want to get an IUD if it were to cause me to get acne.
I believe that my skin freaked out as a result of suddenly having a regular cycle again after years of being on birth control pills. Even when I went off birth control pills, my cycle did not return to let's call it "high school levels." Now, I have a full 7-day period and my body has absolutely calmed down with the skin breakouts, but for the first few cycles it was rough. I also wasn't prepared with any idea of appropriate skin care, so that didn't help the situation either. Note that I have a Paraguard IUD which contains no hormones, so in my case, there weren't any artificial hormone factors at play.
Weight Gain: I just wanted to know if you have gained any weight from the iud?
Well, I certainly have gained weight since I got the IUD, but then, I was also gaining weight before I got it. The only actual connection I can see is that maybe because I have a regular cycle, I definitely get the munchies certain times of the month.
Mood Swings: And also are you very moody?
Hm. Again, just the normal cycle stuff, which I've become expert at detecting when it's going on, which helps me manage it. Painful periods, particularly the first few months after insertion definitely didn't leave me happy, but then I wouldn't call that moody, I'd call that "in pain" and that has completely gone away for me.
On the plus side, going off birth control pills and having a regular cycle has also increased my libido, which I suppose definitely qualifies as a mood!
I would reiterate that the IUD takes a few months to settle in. Definitely at least three months, and I saw a marked difference and improvement after six, and again after twelve. Since my Paraguard IUD lasts ten years and is hormone-free, that process of settling in was definitely worth it for me.
Finally, here's another great online resource for more IUD discussion and advice: IUD Divas on LiveJournal.