You've heard that an IUD can give you five to twelve years of never-have-to-think-about-it contraception. You've also heard that, depending on which IUD you choose, you can have your period decrease by (on average) 90 percent. You've heard that in real world use IUDs are more effective than the Pill when it comes to preventing unwanted pregnancy. All true!
But nothing worth having is free, and the price you pay for a decade plus* of "fit-and-forget" contraception is that the fitting part and the adjustment that follows can be uncomfortable. Just how much so is hard to predict. On a scale of uncomfortable things we women do to get our bodies just the way we want them, ranging from, say, piercings to Brazilians to tattoos, an IUD insertion usually falls somewhere on the piercing-to-Brazilian end of the spectrum. And then there's adjustment. Some wombs welcome the newcomer from the moment it arrives. A few boot the first one back out into the cold world in the weeks or months after it gets put in. Most grumble a bit before deciding they like the company. Here are 10 tips that can make your IUD experience what you were hoping for when you first dialed your clinic:
No contraceptive method is perfect, and the one that is great for your best friend may not be right for you. But the latest generation of long acting reversible contraceptives, also known as LARCs, offers safety and effectiveness that our mothers could only dream of. Each year, one in twelve women on the Pill gets pregnant. For women with hormonal IUD's that's one in 700. If you're tired of remembering (or forgetting) pills or worrying about condoms or timing your cycle -- if you're tired of missing classes or work or simply feeling bloated and achy for one week each month -- maybe it's time to pick up the phone.
Author's Note: The FDA has signed off on the ParaGard for 10 years, but research now shows that the ParaGard keeps working for 14 years or more; Planned Parenthood and Bedsider.org list it for 12 years. The Mirena has been approved in the U.S. for five years for women who have had babies, but in Europe (where the track record is much longer) it is approved for up to seven years for all women of reproductive age.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.