Stupid F'ing Birth Control
September 25, 2006 7:24 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about your experiences with getting a Paragard IUD.

I have decided to switch to an IUD and I would like to do so asap. But I have several trips planned for the next few months and would probably have to go on a long trip within a week or two of getting it put in. Is this a terrible idea? Will I have horrible cramps and be miserable? How soon do you know it's not going to "take"?

My doctor is being annoyingly noncommital about the whole thing so I'm looking for real world experience with recovery times to help me decide if I should go for it or wait a while. Thanks!
posted by fshgrl to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I recently had the Paraguard IUD inserted. I was told it would be a fairly painless experience with minimal recovery time -"a little pinching"- Boy was that far from the truth.

The doctor had some trouble inserting it. I have not had children and had a taut cervix--he had to use a dilater to open me up a bit, it hurt.

After the procedure I was in quite a lot of pain. I was given a precription for Vicodin which helped some. I also bled quite a bit.

I was under the impression that I could return to normal activities fairly soon and that I would be back to normal within a day or two. In reality I was laid up on the couch for about four days- hurting, sleeping, and moving hurt. I also bled about one pad's worth of blood two or three times a day and passed some blood clots.

I did experience a lot of pain during and after. I actually had an abortion a few years ago and must say that this was a lot worse, pain wise.

However bad it was the pain did eventuall cease and I'm very very pleased with my decision. Overall it was well worth it.

(I realize you didn't ask for the above mentioned info but I wish someone had told me. I was expecting nothing so this was espcially difficult--perhaps if you expect the worse you will be better prepared)

As long as your trip is planned one week after the insertion you should be fine, don't plan much for the first few days after. I would also suggest taking off work for at least the day after if you can.

Feel free to email me with any specific or additional questions you may have.
posted by click at 8:05 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Everyone is different blah blah blah.....

For me, it was a piece of cake. The only thing uncomfortable was that lying on the hard table was hard on my back. I had no cramping after insertion, I don't remember if I spotted. I'm sure I went right home and picked up caring for my kids as if nothing had happened. I've had two children, birthed vaginally, and was breastfeeding but not menstruating at the time of the insertion.

I think I have had heavier and longer periods since the insertion last November, although after going without for 1 1/2 years (pg and bfing), it's hard to say how much longer they are. So, my only concern with the IUD is that I've had to be better prepared for my period because I seem to go through supplies faster. And if you're going off the pill, you're period will probably be irregular and take you by surprise. But compared to remembering pills, shots, etc. , it's been a fair trade-off.
posted by saffry at 8:07 PM on September 25, 2006

Sorry, not blah blahhing click's experience, didn't see her post before mine.
posted by saffry at 8:08 PM on September 25, 2006

In my experience, there's no real recovery period to speak of. I was crampy for the rest of that day, and I spotted a bit for a couple of days, but otherwise it was as though nothing had ever happened. A trip a week or two afterwards should be no problem at all.

I have a Mirena, about which I can't say enough good things. I haven't gotten my period in three years, and there are no words for how much it's improved my quality of life. (The tiny bit of progesterone in the IUD works locally inside the uterus to inhibit the build-up of the uterine lining that's shed during menstruation; without the build-up in the first place, there's no need for a period. And as someone who's really sensitive to systemic hormones and who was made crazy by birth control pills, I can tell you that I really don't have any systemic effects from the progesterone. Thankfully.)

If you have bad periods now, you might want to think about the Mirena instead; copper wire IUDs can cause an increase in bleeding and cramping.
posted by jesourie at 8:13 PM on September 25, 2006

I have an IUD but not the Paraguard - I have the Mirena. Unless you have some reason to not want the Mirena, I highly recommend it. My life, she is changed.

As far as the insertion goes, it wasn't the most fun thing I'd ever had done, but it also wasn't the least fun. I took the day off work and was fairly sore/conscious of the procedure having been done for probably five days afterward. I would not have, for example, wanted to meet me on an airplane during this time. I took a lot of Advil - I didn't have Vicodin level pain by any means - and I've also never had kids. If you've had a colposcopy, for me it was about like that - maybe slightly worse because it was prolonged, and it took longer to get over it.

As far as it not "taking" - my understanding is that rejection happens pretty quickly if it's going to happen, but the rejection rate seems to be higher in the first eight months or so and tapers off after that.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:15 PM on September 25, 2006

I have a paragaurd IUD. It's a great, I don't have to remember a pill, or a condom, or anything. BUT

It did hurt awfully bad when I first got it put in. Be sure to take like 500 mg of Ibuprofen before you get it inserted.

In my experience the pain of getting it in was bad, but bearable. It only lasted for a second. The worst part was about 20 minutes after I got in the car to go home. I was cramping, and in tears. The worst cramping pain I've ever had in that region lasted about two hours. It was like nothing I've ever felt, and I could do nothing but roll around on a giant bed, and squeeze my boyfriend's hand. Then I got fed up and took a prescription pain killer (they didn't prescribe me, I had leftovers). This worked quite well. I was sore and cramping for about two days after, but nothing too bad. I took a short walk that evening, and the next day I went to the beach. I took ibuprofen regularly for those two days, and all was manageable. I still get random cramping, and bleeding now and again (Two months later), but it's not bad, and the IUD IS SO WORTH IT!!!
posted by Packy_1962 at 8:18 PM on September 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I got the Paraguard in February. My experience was more along the "piece of cake" line. The insertion was no more uncomfortable than the part of a routine pap where they scrape the cells - that pinchy feeling.

I didn't give birth vaginally but I did dilate to 8 before my c-section, so my cervix has been open. I don't know if the insertion is the most painful part, though. Whether or not you've given birth, in order to insert the IUD, a clamp is placed on the cervix. That's the part that hurts, I believe.

24 hours after insertion, I started to bleed, and had period-like bleeding for 7 days. That's totally normal, but weird, because it was little different from a normal period. It was pure, thin red blood, no tissue or little clots, but my OB assured me that was OK. It just freaked me out a little.

I love the IUD. I had really heavy painful periods before, with lots of back cramps. They are not as bad now, but I think pregnancy and birth could have affected this as well; I'm certainly not suggesting the copper IUD made them better, but don't think just because you have uncomfortable periods now, you CAN'T use a copper IUD.

I have a theory that many women who have heavier periods on the Paraguard have forgotten what a REAL period feels like. If you've come to the IUD after the pill, you are comparing a lighter, less crampy, perfectly regular period to your real menstrual cycle. I pulled that theory out of my ass, though. Good luck in your decision!
posted by peep at 8:31 PM on September 25, 2006

I've had a Paragard IUD for over a year now. The insertion was very painful for a few seconds and I was quite crampy for a day or two. After that I had cramps during my period with about 1 day of intense cramping in the middle of it. It's gotten better with each period, where my last period had very little cramping and the period before that had basically none. I take Aleve which works really well. I am quite happy with it and am very glad I got it and would recommend it to anyone.
Background info: I had no cramping at all before I had an IUD and I have never been pregnant.
posted by disaster77 at 9:11 PM on September 25, 2006

I loved my paraguard. Had it for 5 years until I took it out to get pregnant. I am planning on getting a new one at my next OB appointment now that the little one is here. I'll echo what’s been said above - it hurts a bit going in - but its quick. I also bled a lot for about 3-4 days after and had the kind of rolling around hand squeezing cramps mentioned above. My period cramps were also much stronger (and they had been bad before) and my bleeding much heavier - but even with that - I can't recommend it enough. Close to sterilization rates of effectiveness with no hormones and nothing to remember ever. It rules. I'd err on the side of caution and go with the "or two" side of trip planning and you should be fine.
posted by Wolfie at 9:20 PM on September 25, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the info. I was worried about cramping and bleeding and being on a plane because it seemed like that would really suck. I'm going to talk to my doctor again and think it over but it seems like one to two weeks is a safe margin even if I am more towards the bad end of things.

For those who asked: I want the Paragard becasue my reactions to anything hormonal has always been awful and I'm just not willing to risk the Mirena at this point. I have light to normal periods and no cramps now (I'm not on the pill) so if it gets a little worse I can live with that.
posted by fshgrl at 10:09 PM on September 25, 2006

I posted my insertion story on an LJ community devoted to IUDs and I've had my little copper pal for over 2 years now. I was coming off the pill as well, and I'm nulliparous. I had been off the pill for three months or so. I never had bad cramps though, so the ones I get now are barely anything. I maybe had to take some advil for the first three or four cycles with the IUD, but haven't since.

The first two days or so, I was crampy as hell. A heating pad is your friend. Those thermarest ones are great. Being on a plane a week or two later won't be as bad as the drive home, actually, depending on your car and local roads.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:58 AM on September 26, 2006

I love love love my copper IUD.

There was a tight pinch of pain for me upon insertion, but it didn't last. I was crampy for the rest of the day, but some ibuprofen and a nap pretty much took care of it. My periods are heavier now so I have to be extra sure to have lots of pads/tampons etc on hand when I need it. But my periods are 2 days shorter than they were before.

I'd delivered 1 baby vaginally 2 1/2 years before, if that matters (it might).

After the first day, I was back to normal. My doctor also told me that if the IUD was expelled within the first however long (year, I think) that I should not throw it out, but wrap it up and stick it in a ziploc bag and bring it back to her. Apparently the manufacturer will replace it free within a certain timeframe after insertion, but only if they get the original one back. This might not be with all manufacturers or it might not apply in other locations, but it's worth asking your doc about!

I love that it's super effective. I love that there's nothing to remember, nothing to carry with me, nothing to screw up by doing it wrong. I love that there are no hormones to screw with me. I love that once I stop use I'll be able to concieve again without wonky cycles to adjust to. I love that it was so cheap. I love that it's effective for so long.

Summary: Minor discomfort, big payoff.
posted by raedyn at 8:03 AM on September 26, 2006

How much are IUDs costing now? Are they covered by insurance?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:55 AM on September 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I got a Paraguard just about a year ago. Insertion was OK, but for the rest of the day I had major cramping. The heating pad was about the only thing that helped.

She inserted it while I was menstruating, so I didn't notice any extra bleeding from that.

Before the IUD, I was not on any birth control, had only minor cramping, and fairly light periods. With the IUD, I can still avoid cramping if I stay active and don't eat tons of junky food; if I'm being a couch potato, the cramps are much worse than they were without the IUD. (And for the first few months, even the "not so bad" cramps would require that I sleep with a heating pad for a day or so.)

My periods got so much heavier that I almost had the thing taken out; I couldn't leave the house one or two days a month. I did much googling and found an English or Australian doctor (there seem to be no sites in the US with any good info) recommending NSAIDs, which I translated as "Advil" though I think other pain-killers apply. From the week before your period through the week after, she suggested taking 200mg three times every day. (The idea behind it was that the heavy periods with an IUD are not actually uterine lining but an inflammation your body is using to try to get the foreign body out of your uterus, so taking an anti-inflammatory while that's happening cuts down the reaction.)

Since I've started doing that, my period's been back almost to where it was before I got the IUD.

Beyond that.... you might ask your doctor about getting it inserted during your period so you get all the bleeding out of the way at once (which my doctor said was the easiest time to insert it anyway). I certainly would not have had a problem traveling within one or two weeks of getting mine.

(TPS: I think the Paraguards are about $300. My insurance covered it, with only a $20 co-pay--for 10 years of birth control! The Mirena lasts only five years, I think, and I don't know what the price is.)
posted by occhiblu at 9:45 AM on September 26, 2006 [3 favorites]

How much are IUDs costing now?

That's going to depend where you live. I'm in Canada. I went to Planned Parenthood here (no sliding scale) and the copper one was $60 and good for 5 to 10 years depending who you ask. The hormone-inclusive one was a bit over $400 and good for 5 years.
posted by raedyn at 10:22 AM on September 26, 2006

Another thing: Getting an IUD really changed my cycle, and I wasn't really psychologically prepared for that. Like I said, I managed to figure out how to keep it from being debilitatingly heavy, but the process made me feel like an awkward teenager again and brought with it a lot of frustration and embarassment. I was never quite sure when my period would come, how heavy it would be, what day it would be heavy on, how long it would last, etc. I really felt like I was 15 again, totally paranoid and clueless and obsessive about it, rather than like a competent adult woman who had figured this stuff out years ago and could more or less forget about it.

So I would say if you're traveling, you may want to get into "paranoid teenager" mode in terms of packing and preparing -- no white clothes, always wear panty liners or pads, keep Advil or PMS meds handy at all times, etc etc etc. And just know that it will even out, and you will eventually figure it out, and that it won't stay weird forever (I hope, for my own sake!).
posted by occhiblu at 12:31 PM on September 26, 2006

I've had a Paragard for about two months, also because hormones suck. Insertion was painful (I'm nulliparous) even with ibuprofen taken beforehand, and I had the worst cramps of my life for the next 24 hours or so. That said, after the first day things have been good. I am strangely conscious of the IUD at random times, though. Not cramps, per se: more like my body telling me that something's still in there.

I don't find menstruation to be much more painful, and while it is heavier than it was when I was on the pill, it's about the same as when I was a teenager. Traveling should not be a big problem, although my doctor had me come in a month after insertion to check that it was still in place, so if you're going to be sexually active within that time you might want to use a backup method. I was skeptical that you wouldn't notice if the thing was expelled, but apparently it happened to a midwife of the doctor's acquaintance, so it could happen to anyone.

I got it at a Planned Parenthood since I didn't want to argue with the GYN-oriented docs in the town I was living in at the time. It was about $500, including the cost of the initial consultation and follow-up appointment, but BlueCross/BlueShield reimbursed me for the large majority of that.
posted by amber_dale at 12:44 PM on September 26, 2006

Sorry, that should be OB-oriented docs. Anyway, I'd recommend the Paragard. You might also check out these forums; they have a lot of IUD discussion.
posted by amber_dale at 4:59 PM on September 26, 2006

TPS, my IUD + insertion (considered "surgery") would have been $425 at the OB's office had I not had insurance. I'm on the West Coast.
posted by peep at 6:17 PM on September 26, 2006

I screwed up the dosage on my earlier comment. It should have been 1200mg of advil 3x day (so, 2 pills every eight hours, basically).
posted by occhiblu at 7:30 PM on September 26, 2006

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