The once-controversial IUD is having a very public rebirth – yet, odds are, you’ve heard some scary-sounding things about the tiny contraceptive. It only takes five minutes to get the contraceptive IUD inserted, but what does it feel like on the pain scale – during and after?
Funny or Die has posted not one, not two, but a half-dozen IUD skits (starring celebs like Jessica Biel). Social media users flaunt being #TeamIUD. One woman even live-tweeted her insertion. In the US, around four-million women currently have the long-lasting devices, a good chunk of whom are doctors; 40 percent now have an IUD, versus just 16 percent who are on the Pill. Here, in SA, you can’t get through girls’ night without at least one member of your squad enthusiastically describing how much better her life has been since she got her Mirena (a brand of IUD available in SA). All of which makes IUDs – once vilified because a 1970s version caused life-threatening infections – seem like a no-brainer. Yet we’re still hearing stories of women who’ve had uncomfortable insertions or who’ve had the five-centimetre T-shape device dislodge from its proper place in the middle of the uterus. So, is an IUD right for you? Let these numbers be your guide.
There are two types of IUDs: plastic and copper
Both kinds cause cervical mucus to thicken, which blocks sperm mobility and egg fertilisation. The plastic ones (like the Mirena) pump out the same synthetic hormone that’s in the Pill and can last up to five years. Bonus: 20 percent of Mirena users stop bleeding altogether after one year. The copper ParaGuard emits copper ions (read: zero hormones) to keep you baby-free for up to a decade. It’s best for women who don’t mind (or feel more natural or reassured by) getting their period. Find out if you’re a good candidate for an IUD here.
Percent effective at preventing pregnancy… 99! The Pill’s actual rate? Only 91. Wow.
And now… drum roll… the pain
Seventy-eight percent of women reported pain that ranged from a pinch to “Omg, stop!” during the five-minute insertion. Any discomfort should disappear within half an hour and more than 80 percent of women say the sting is worth it. To ward off the ouch, book your appointment for the middle of your menstrual cycle, when your cervix is the most open and pop 600mg of ibuprofen an hour before your visit.
How much does it cost for the Mirena in SA?
About R2 000 – although it will vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, so it’s worth shopping around. You’ll need to get a prescription from your gynae, buy the Mirena and then book an appointment to have your gynae insert it.
And when things go wrong…
One in 1000 IUDs may puncture the wall of the uterus after falling out of place. If your IUD pokes through (the result of pure bad luck; you may be clued in by a dull, aching pain), you’ll need surgery to remove it. Up to six percent of IUDs will wiggle free of their ideal positioning in the uterus or slip out of the vagina within the first year of use. A week after you have one put in – and once a month thereafter – inspect your IUD’s strings (they should hang through your cervix) to make sure the device is stuck in place.
- Clean your hands with soap and water.
- Sit or squat, as you would to insert a tampon.
- Using two fingers, reach up inside your vagina to touch your cervix (it’s firm, like the tip of your nose).
- Feel for – but don’t tug! – IUD strings; about a centimetre or two should be sticking out of your cervix.
- If the strings are AWOL or you feel hard plastic, your gynae may need to adjust or replace your IUD.
Another major benefit of getting an IUD:
There’s a whopping 50 percent reduced risk of getting cervical cancer after just one year with an IUD (even if the device is later removed), compared with women who’ve never used one. Researchers suspect precancerous tissue may be destroyed during insertion, or that IUDs may prompt an immune response that keeps cancer cells from developing in the first place.