CONTENT WARNING: Contraception
I recently got the Mirena, also known as an IUD (Intrauterine Device) or IUS (Intrauterine System). After all the shocked and concerned responses from my friends and family, I thought there might be some value to sharing my experience for those who are curious about the process, or afraid of the concept all together. After all, according to Family Planning NSW, the IUD is 99.9 per cent effective as a contraceptive and is cost-effective and highly convenient due to the fact it can be in place for up to five years. It also has very little effect on fertility, with most women experiencing a return to normal fertility immediately after removal. As with any contraceptive, there are also risks and side effects involved, so be sure to do your research before getting an IUD.
Full disclosure: this is obviously one woman’s experience. Everyone is different, and this in no way should be taken as medical advice.
So without further ado, here are my answers to many of the questions my friends have asked me since my insertion:
Is it invasive?
Well sure, it does involve having a small T-shaped bar shoved through your cervix, but if you can get past that idea mentally, it really isn’t that bad. It’s hardly more invasive than a pap smear, and no more painful than a bad period cramp.
Does it hurt?
Yes, but not for long. The doctor only has to actually enter the uterus twice, once to measure and once to place the device. Both are very quick, and I experienced two sharp pains that lasted no more than five seconds each.
Is it a massive inconvenience?
You do have to make an appointment a while in ad- vance. The appointment took almost two hours for me. The procedure itself was only five minutes, so most of that time was spent waiting, testing to check I wasn’t pregnant, and the consultation before insertion. As far as I’m concerned, the one-off convenience is worth five years of highly effective birth control, and potentially light or no periods.
Is it expensive?
At a public sexual health clinic, I paid $250 for the procedure (with my Medicare card). You can pay about double that to get the insertion under general anaesthetic, but if you have a reasonable pain tolerance, I really don’t think that’s necessary. There may be cheaper ways of getting it, but this was my experience. While it’s certainly not cheap, the fact that it should last me five years makes it far more cost-effective than the contraceptive pill I was taking before this, which would amount to hundreds of dollars every year.
What are the side effects?
It hasn’t been very long at all since my insertion, but all I experienced was period-like cramping in the 48 hours afterwards. According to the internet and my doctor, the most common side effects are irregular periods and spotting in the first three to six months. Most women find their period is very light or non-existent after that.
Does it affect sex?
I can confirm that your sexual partners will not be able to feel anything, unless they go looking with their fingers…
Do you have to abstain from sex in preparation?
It is advised that you abstain for two or three weeks to completely rule out the risk of an undetectable pregnancy, but I didn’t and was told that if you are using reliable contraception in the lead-up, it’s not an issue.
Can you feel the strings/does it feel weird after- wards?
After getting an IUD, the doctor will cut the string so they hang out at the top of your vagina. I’ll admit that the first time I checked them after the insertion was pretty weird, but you definitely can’t constantly feel them in your vagina.
If you want to learn more about the technical/scientific aspects of an IUD, there’s heaps of information available online.