Admittedly, I never had any intention of posting this, haha–I realize you do not typically come to GG for more information on birth control methods! (And if you are not one of the readers who specifically requested more info on this topic, rest assured, we will be back with regular programming tomorrow–haha!)
However, last week, after I posted about how much my skin cleared up after going off the pill, I got a FLOOD of direct messages and emails about my experience with the copper (non-hormonal) IUD, that I recently switched to in lieu of the pill.
When I was personally researching the copper IUD, I had all of these questions and more, and the only legitimate information I could find was on sketchy internet forums from 2005. (WHY!?) So, when I heard from all of you, I knew I had to write this post!
As it turns out, so many of you are in the same boat–wanting to get away from the synthetic hormones that come along with the pill, and starting paying more attention, in general, to what I’m putting in my body–from birth control, to beauty products, to food.
Now, let me preface this by saying, I am fully aware that the pill is a godsend to so many women. If what you’re doing right now is working wonderfully for you, by all means, keep doing what you’re doing!
My reason for posting this is not to convince anyone to change their habits (and I am CERTAINLY the furthest thing from a healthcare provider!) There is no right or wrong method–it truly depends on your body. But, I realized there is a lack of information out there in general about this particular subject, and if I can help just one person by sharing my story–well, that is so worth it!
So, below, I’m answering all your questions about my experience with the copper IUD!
How and why did you choose the copper IUD?
I had been on the pill for more than a decade and always struggled with a lot of negative side effects. I had tried so many different kinds with different hormone levels, and most recently was on the lowest dosage possible.
What I didn’t fully comprehend was how much it was affecting my skin in particular due to what I now know was a hormonal imbalance. (Again, I wrote more about that here).
I also didn’t like that the pill puts synthetic hormones in your body, which I know is widely accepted and there are so many benefits to being on the pill for many women, but something about the whole fake hormones thing just didn’t sit right with me personally. (Again, personally being the word here.)
What are the pros & cons to the copper IUD?
For the sake of time, and because I am not a doctor, I am not going to list all the pros and cons here–these should be discussed at length with your healthcare provider, but the main pros and cons that stood out to me were:
Pros: No hormones (which can be a pro or a con, depending on your own body!) it’s the most effective kind of birth control out there, you set it and forget it for YEARS, and it stops working as soon as you remove it. Insertion process only takes a few minutes, and its virtually undetectable if placed correctly. It’s also free, and can save you thousands of dollars in the long run in comparison with the pill.
Fun fact: IUD’s are popular in Europe–but are still regarded as mysterious in the U.S.
Cons: Yes, periods are heavier and longer than on the pill, and many women experience a lot of pain when it’s inserted. Also, while this is the opposite of what I experienced, many women actually see improvement in their skin while on the pill because the pill helps balance hormones that might be out of whack. (Although, the pill can also IMbalance your hormones, as in my case!) Essentially, since the IUD doesn’t have any hormones, you won’t experience any of these “good” side effects that are associated with the pill, either.
Was the procedure painful? How long did it take?
This is where experience varies GREATLY from person to person.
I will be open and honest in that I have come to realize that I have a higher pain tolerance than most people, so I wasn’t really that nervous going into it. (Which, is maybe what helped!)
The procedure for me was definitely uncomfortable, but I would not describe it as “painful.” On a scale of 1-10, I would probably give it a 3-3.5. It just feels like a really bad period cramp, and then it’s over in a few minutes. Not bad at all. On the flip side, I also had a friend that fainted on the table from the pain–so, obviously, again, take all of this with a grain of salt!
One thing that I think made a HUGE difference: My doctor had me come in on ultrasound day for her patients that were expecting, and used the ultrasound to ensure she had it perfectly measured and placed. From what I understand, a lot of the discomfort comes from improper placement. She also advised me to eat breakfast (pain on an empty stomach does nobody good!)
A lot of you said that you had heard IUD’s are more painful if you haven’t yet had children, which is up to interpretation–I’ve heard arguments both ways, and I think there probably is SOME truth to it, but my doctor didn’t really think there would be a huge difference. This really varies from person to person regardless of whether or not you’ve had a child.
How long did it take to feel normal after getting it inserted?
The first day is definitely the crampiest, but it’s nothing that isn’t tolerable. I drove myself home right after and then we walked to brunch. I took an Advil and it was fine! The rest of the day I took it easy on the couch and avoided any physically exerting activity, but felt totally normal after a few days.
Are your periods more painful and heavier?
Where the IUD gets the worst reputation is from the side effects of painful and heavy periods, however, one thing to keep in mind is that most women go from the pill directly to the IUD, without really knowing what a “normal” period feels like. I went about three months in between the pill and the IUD, so I can say I experienced several “normal” periods, and my “IUD periods” aren’t much different. Are they heavier than being on the pill? Of course they are! Are they terribly worse than my natural period? Definitely not. This might be TMI–but to me, going through a few extra tampons is worth not having the side effects of the pill.
Also worth noting: My doctor did say that your first few periods are the worst, and that they ease up as time goes on.
How much does it cost?
The best part–the copper IUD is free on most insurance plans!
Who is your gyno in Chicago?
Her name is Dr. Jahedi at Advanced Gynocology. She and her staff are absolutely INCREDIBLE and I cannot say enough amazing things. Her office is located in Skokie (I used to work up there, thus why I started going to her) but I refuse to move doctors because I love her so much. Every time I go there I feel like I’m catching up with my girlfriends instead of going to the gyno. (I mean, who else can say that?) I’ve even paid to uber there one time when Neal had the car for work–which I realize is just as expensive as ubering to the airport, and it’s still worth it for me!
Personally, I’m absolutely, 100% happy with my decision. While it’s common to hear about “pain” and “heavy periods”–in my experience, it’s uncommon to hear that someone had to to have it removed altogether. Even my friend I mentioned above who passed out on the table when she had hers put in? She loves it now, and says it’s one of the best decisions ever. My doctor said she’s put tons in, but only had one she had to take out because of the side effects!
However, keep in mind, I am by no means making a recommendation one way or the other–it’s always best to talk over the facts with your doctor to determine what is the best fit for you and your body.
I hope this post was helpful! If you have any more questions, feel free to leave them below! Remember, you can submit ANY and all questions for future “Ask Jess” posts on this form!