The pain inside me went up and down as the violins shrieked and the cellos wept. I tried to appreciate the beauty of the music, but all that kept going through my head was, “I hate this thing, I hate this thing, I hate this thing …”
It had been about four weeks since I had my IUD inserted, and I was experiencing my first period with it. My friends had invited me to go to the San Francisco Symphony with them, and in determination to enjoy myself, I had taken both Midol and ibuprofen to dull the pain. Still, my IUD was determined to make itself known, and it prevailed. I had previously been blessed with relatively mild periods, but this time I found myself able to empathize with my friends who had menstrual pains that they had to stay home for.
My decision to get an IUD was spur of the moment. I had called Kaiser to see if they had any afternoon appointments, expecting to schedule an appointment a month or two in the future, only to hear a just-made cancellation made one available at 5 p.m. that afternoon. Seeing destiny, I took the appointment and, in a few short hours, I had my legs spread for my gynecologist.
The doctor first explained to me that he would be cleaning my cervix. I had lived through a Pap smear, so I figured this process couldn’t possibly be worse. Oh, how wrong I was. The “cervix soap” felt like fire had grazed my insides. Seeing me visibly squirm, my doctor said this step usually isn’t that uncomfortable for most. Then, it came time for the actual insertion. I was taking deep breaths, but it felt as if something was stabbing into me. The minute the doctor left, my eyes watered.
A lot of my pain came from the fact that I had it inserted while I wasn’t on my period. If I had been, my cervix would have been “softer” and allowed for easier interstation. The Tang Center won’t even do the procedure if you’re not bleeding, except in the case of using Paraguard as emergency contraception. But an available afternoon appointment comes around once in a blue moon, so I went for it anyways. In my Uber home, I could only speak to the driver in a whisper.
I had been meaning to get one for a while. After taking the pill for two and a half months, I had stopped taking it for about six months. I hated the mood swings it gave me, and I was constantly feeling bloated. It felt wonderful to not feel like that anymore, but in the short time I was without a contraceptive, I had to take Plan B twice. Luckily, through the Tang Center pharmacy, I could get it for just $18 despite not having SHIP, but it made my mood uncontrollable and the following period very heavy. It was right after the second time I took Plan B that I had finally decided to call and make an appointment.
I had taken so long between going off the pill and calling the doctor partially because I didn’t know which form of birth control I wanted. I knew I wanted a LARC — a long-acting reversible contraceptive — while it was still free under Obamacare so I wouldn’t have to think about my birth control, but I didn’t know which one. I personally know many people with Nexplanon, the arm implant, and they’ve only had good reviews. It’s also more effective at preventing pregnancy for three years than sterilization. But the idea of a plastic rod in my arm kind of freaked me out. I also liked the idea of having the hormones mostly localized to my uterus. Plus, I still wanted a period. As is the case with Mirena, the five-year hormonal implant, the rod causes many people lose their period after a year.
The Paraguard was tempting because it has no hormones, but I knew it could lead to heavy bleeding and a lot of cramps for the first six months. Kyella is a newer IUD option that provides five years of protection while releasing less hormones than Mirena, but because it was so new, my doctor didn’t offer it yet. I ended up choosing Skyla, the three-year hormonal IUD that releases the smallest amount of hormones.
My periods still cramp terribly, but I’m glad I got Skyla. I once complained about the persistent pain I was feeling to another person at my co-op, and soon, many others chimed in about their experiences. All except one had felt a lot of pain with theirs, but they were glad they got theirs, too.
Another effect of the IUD was that the hormones made it so I had no libido at first. I got a lot of work done, but my partners — who were much more used to me pursuing them — were confused. My drive is slowly coming back, though. And after having my partner come in me for the first time in a long while, we both thanked Skyla as we held each other and I reveled in the feeling of his seed in me.
Kylie Sammons writes the Tuesday column on Sex. Contact her at [email protected].