One woman’s tumultuous tale of getting (and getting rid of) her IUD
By Madeline Anthony
Soo... you’re considering getting an IUD? Sit down young grasshoppers, and listen to the tale of an IUD-haver who came before you, and learn from her wisdom. Ok but seriously, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to IUDs (or intra-uterine devices). I’m here to lay it out for you: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s get into it.
I had a three-year Skyla IUD inserted right before my 22nd birthday (like, the day before). At the time I thought three years was sufficient, because by the time I turned 25, I would obviously be so wise, mature, and financially stable that I might want to have a child (spoiler alert: not the case at all), but a girl could dream.
The insertion itself was excruciatingly painful. Not trying to be a drama queen, just telling it like it is. The procedure hurt like hell; partly because I’m a big baby who is ultra-sensitive to pain, and partly because of the way my uterus is placed — tipped backward, pointing toward my lower back — according to my physician, but either way, I could barely wobble into a cab to get back to my apartment, where I nursed extremely painful cramps and felt super nauseous for hours.
[B]ut either way, I could barely wobble into a cab to get back to my apartment, where I nursed extremely painful cramps and felt super nauseous for hours.
After that, though? It was smoooooth sailing. Honestly. I raved to everyone I knew about the IUD. I blew up group chats, interrupted birth-control related conversations I overheard on the subway, and basically inserted myself anywhere I possibly could to assert the Power and Importance of the IUD.
I had no negative side effects. No weight gain, no heavy bleeding, no pelvic pain, and most importantly, at the time — no crazy mood swings. I’m a very emotional person, and keeping myself in a good headspace is paramount to me, which is why I decided to go with the IUD in the first place: compared to other birth control options (the pill, the shot), the amount of hormones injected into the bloodstream is minimal.
Also, let’s not forget that this is a super convenient type of birth control. For a forgetful, sometimes disorganized person, not having to remember to take a pill everyday, especially at the same time, was amazing.
I didn’t get my period at all during those three years. My friends would complain about their cramps or the horrible timing of their periods (re:they wanted to have sex but didn’t feel comfortable), and I was blissfully ignorant. I almost forgot what having period-related blues was like. I felt like a goddess among mere mortals.
I felt like a goddess among mere mortals.
Fast forward three years, and I’m turning 25 (cue quarter-life crisis, which absolutely was not planned and absolutely did arrive right on time). I have to get the IUD out. As time goes on, I’m more and more aware that this thing inside of me is doing me no good, and it’s just taking up precious space in my uterus, which, frankly, is rude. If something is taking up real estate in your uterus, it should really be useful. I make an appointment to have it taken out.
If something is taking up real estate in your uterus, it should really be useful.
As I head to the gyno to have the procedure, I’m not nervous - it is slated to be a typical IUD removal. Very by the book. The MD grasps the threads of the device and pulls it out. I remember how I was told upon insertion: “this is the hard part; getting it out is super simple, and painless.”
I remember how I was told upon insertion: “this is the hard part; getting it out is super simple, and painless.”
Listen, I know I was lucky with a lot of my experience, but in this case I was on the other end of the spectrum.
When the (male) MD attempted to remove the IUD, he couldn’t make any progress. The strings attached to the IUD were nowhere to be found, and the IUD itself was in a stubborn position.
This is more a critique of the nature of much of the healthcare industry, especially in big cities where there is always a room full of people outside waiting, but let’s just say the MD’s attempts to remove the IUD were painful and careless and just more proof than ever that only women should be gynos.
(In case you think I’m exaggerating: while inside me, he realized he needed another piece of equipment and went looking for another tool. Couldn’t find it, and then called someone else into the room to look for it, while I’m spayed open 70’s centerfold style. At one point, the door to the outside was open during all this. Not a great experience.)
Anyway, after all this nonsense, the team of brosephs informed me that I was in the teeny-tiny percentage of people who need surgery to have an IUD removed. They let me know I would be referred to Lenox Hill Hospital.
[T]he team of brosephs informed me that I was in the teeny-tiny percentage of people who need surgery to have an IUD removed.
Anyone who has ever had hospital experience knows that it’s crazy expensive and often unnecessary. We live in a society so quick to jump to hospitals, big pharma, etc. I decided to get a second opinion.
The ugly (aftermath):
In the end, I went to a group of all-female gynos who were amazing. The women couldn’t remove the IUD with basic tactics either, but one of them managed to find an alternative method that didn’t land me in the hospital for two days. I attribute this to the level of care they have for their patients.
The women couldn’t remove the IUD with basic tactics either, but one of them managed to find an alternative method that didn’t land me in the hospital for two days.
I ended up being given a special medication that dilated my cervix, the same meds often given to women during labor. I waited for the drugs to take effect with a heated pad that helped the pain and gave me little electric shocks to soothe my raging uterus. My new and improved gyno talked me through the ordeal with the patience and empathy of Gwyneth Paltrow coaching a water birth. It was bad, but it wasn’t that bad, and then, finally...it was over. I was free.
My new and improved gyno talked me through the ordeal with the patience and empathy of Gwyneth Paltrow coaching a water birth.
After the IUD was taken out, I experienced really intense mood swings and heightened anxiety — maybe the most intense I had ever felt. I became depressed and prone to existential thoughts and thus, existential dread. I don’t know if I can fully blame this on the IUD, since I’ve always been prone to depression and anxiety, but the timing of my downfall was incredibly suspicious. I think it’s extremely possible that my body got used to the hormones and freaked out when they were gone, randomly, after 3+ years of a steady stream.
Aside from the mental effects, I had some physical issues. I bled so much the next time I had my period, I truly considered going to see a doctor. The cramps were the most severe I had experienced in my life, times two. All was not well. In a sentence: I completely lost my shit. I was a bloody, depressed, erratic, irritable, crampy gal.
In a sentence: I completely lost my shit. I was a bloody, depressed, erratic, irritable, crampy gal.
But like everything else in this life, it passed over time: about three months to be precise. During that time I started seeing a therapist, which is something I had literally been meaning to do for years, so my IUD-induced breakdown turned out to be the push I needed to actually make moves. My therapist, a PhD who had been working with patients for over twenty years, asked me why I came to see her now — what had triggered the visit? I told her about a few things going on in my life, and mentioned in passing the IUD removal being a bit stressful. At this, she nodded knowingly.
She went on to tell me that all people — but most commonly women — store trauma in their abdomens and that our reproductive systems being manipulated can trigger severe emotional responses. It made sense to me. I mean, our pelvic area is literally at the core of our being — the center of ourselves. But who knows, I had also just turned 25, so maybe it the Quarter Life Crisis we always hear about.
[My therapist] went on to tell me that all people — but most commonly women — store trauma in their abdomens and that our reproductive systems being manipulated can trigger severe emotional responses.
Either way: painful insertion, crazy removal, mood fluctuations aside — I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. To anyone who wants to take control of their reproductive life: get an IUD, you’ll be okay. A few caveats, sure. But it’s well worth it. I’ll take crippling cramps and a few minor setbacks over worrying about becoming pregnant at a crucial time in my life, any day.
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Madeline Anthony is a former journalist for the United Nations, an editor at Audible and a contributor to the Public Goods Blog, a publication about health, sustainability and people making an impact. Check out her work on the Public Goods Blog.