My Experience with the Mirena IUD

Some might consider this to be TMI. Tough. It's a woman's blog and as a women, reproductive health definitely falls under a fitness consideration. Every woman has to take her cycles and preferred form of birth control into consideration when she trains or competes for anything. 

I also wanted to write this because when I did information searches there was so much bad and terrifying information out there. I get that one should be aware of the risks, but I think people only come forth and discuss issues when they are bad or go wrong. I suppose it's human nature to vent publicly when it's negative, and wax poetic privately when things go well. 

What is an IUD and what options are there?

IUD stands for IntraUterine Device. A small T-shaped device is placed in the uterus to prevent pregnancy, either hormonally or non-hormonally. 

First there is the PARAGUARD, a copper IUD and the only non-hormonal option. The copper ions prevent sperm motility, impeding pregnancy, and lasts up to 10 years. Many sources say that your periods often get heavier and cramps worse with this option, but hey, no hormones! 

Then there is the MIRENA, a plastic IUD with a time release progestin medication. Progestin thickens the cervical mucus membrane to prevents sperm from getting to the egg, and thins the uterine lining so even if sperm get through, there is no where to implant. Lasts up to 5 years. Many sources say they experience lighter periods, less cramping, and sometimes the complete cessation of periods with this method. 

Just recently the makers of MIRENA released SKYLA, also a progestin time release IUD but this time it is smaller and lasts 3 years. Works the same. 

Why I chose the MIRENA. 

1) I'm a spazbot. I will not remember to take a pill everyday at the same time. I could barely remember to change out my NuvaRing on a regular monthly basis. I'm lucky I haven't had any severe side effects of this, other than some acne issues and irregular periods. 

2) I hate periods. I took both my pills and used my NuvaRing in such a way to either minimize the number I had or not have any at all. It didn't affect my ability to make weight at competitions, so whatever! 

3) There is no estrogen in MIRENA. As a strength athlete, I have to believe that extra estrogen is the antithesis of what I want to accomplish. Too bad there is no progestin/ testosterone combo out there. 

4) I get migraines with visual abnormalities.  That means using a BC method with estrogen puts me at a greater risk of stroke. Scary. 

5) My insurance doesn't cover SKYLA yet because it's so new. 

Issues that I was warned of (by doc and friends). 

First, every gynecologist that I saw basically heavily pushed me away from the IUD option. Anything but the IUD! You see, I've never had kids or been pregnant so my uterus is all small and it would be NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE to get the IUD in there. It will be so much more painful and you'll be much more likely to get a perforated uterus! You'll pay for a device ($800!) and then it won't fit! No way, anything but that! 

Then I met my current gynecologist, Dr. Sandy Spencer. I will refrain from waxing poetic about what a great doctor she is and what amazing bedside manner she has. You can look her up on Yelp, I'll be writing a review update there. She is based in San Mateo. 

Dr. Spencer's first words were "I think the progestin IUD would be a fantastic option for you! But here's what you need to know." Laid out the facts (no pregnancy shit) for me without the scare tactics. Turns out she's put IUDs in plenty of nullipara women. In fact, she teaches the technique to other. Score! 

I was also warned of how much it hurts. The procedure, no matter how much ibuprofen you take, is incredibly painful. Some women find the initial stages too painful to even have it inserted. Many women experience intense cramping after insertion, some so much they return after a few days to have it taken out. 

My experience. 

I'd like to say this: every woman's experience is going to be different. Mine might not be comparable because I'm part wolverine. Think I'm kidding? My surgeon and physical therapist were both shocked at how far healed I was at two weeks out of surgery. I can handle pain… if I even feel any. 

Being at the gynecologist is always unsettling. You're in a pretty vulnerable position in front of what is essentially a complete stranger. That much should be a given. There is the speculum and the cleaning process that is much like getting a really thorough PAP smear. 

And the rest, while yes it is uncomfortable and the sensations are sharper than a tickle, really weren't THAT bad. You get a paracervical block, which is just a local anesthetic. That is pinchy because, after all, a needle is injecting you. Definitely ask for the paracervical block. Once that takes effect in a few seconds, the sensations are of some sharp cramps, once when they measure your uterus and determine the placement and direction, and once when they insert the device. It was over so fast I actually asked, "is that all?" 

Afterwards, I had some mild cramping and discomfort, but in the essence of full disclosure, I had been dealing with gas cramps for a few days. (Damn you, delicious cheese!) I went home, laid down and dozed for about 2 hours and then felt like a million buck. Packed my stuff and when to the gym to get a workout in. 

Yes. Several hours after getting an IUD put in, I was feeling so great I went to workout. 

It went so well for you, why are you writing this?

Between dozing and the evening after I got my IUD, I browsed around the internet for various experiences. 99% of them were negative, the other 1% were informational. I could NOT find one blog or story or first person article about a good, uneventful experience. I had one. I think I should share it because just maybe there is someone in my position (young-ish, not interested in procreation, looking for long term options, never had kids, etc.) and I'd like them to know it really can be as easy as the product site says it is. Or easier, as in my case. 

Granted, its only been a few days. Maybe I'll develop cramps. Acne. Weight gain. But birth control properly used has never had that sort of effect on me. I make weight for sports all the time, on and off birth control. You just have to know how your body works. Snowflakes and whatnot. 

Thanks for your time!