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What to expect when getting an IUD

IUDs are placed directly in the uterus. (Wikimedia Commons)
IUDs are placed directly in the uterus. (Wikimedia Commons)

As Donald Trump threatens to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act, many people have been opting to use more long-term contraceptive methods, such as an intrauterine device (IUD).

An IUD is a small, T-shaped piece of plastic inserted directly into the uterus. There are three types of IUDs available: Mirena, Skyla and ParaGard. Mirena and Skyla are both hormonal, while ParaGard is non-hormonal and works by releasing a small amount of copper into the uterus. IUDs last from three to 12 years, depending on which one you choose.

After an unsuccessful affair with the Depo-Provera birth control shot, I wanted something with a lower dosage of hormones that would protect me from pregnancy long-term. Because IUDs release hormones directly into the uterus, only a small amount enters the bloodstream. After reading glowing reviews of the Mirena, I scheduled my appointment to get the five-year birth control inserted in mid-December, conveniently lasting a presidential term.

As I lay staring into the fluorescent light above me, wearing only my sweater, shoes and the apron-dress hybrid provided for me, I wished I had been more prepared. I made a mental list of the advice I wish I had gotten, including the advice I got but ignored, to pass on to anyone preparing to get an IUD in the future.

First, you need to choose which IUD is best for you, depending on how long you want it and whether or not you want to use hormonal contraception. Next, it’s important to find out what your health insurance will cover and where you can go to get it inserted. According to the Planned Parenthood website, the cost of an IUD ranges from $500 to $900, but it can protect you from pregnancy for over a decade.

Once you’ve picked your IUD and scheduled your appointment, you should make arrangements for someone to go with you. You should not drive after the insertion, as you may feel dizzy and lightheaded. It can also be comforting to have someone familiar in the room to talk to and have a hand to squeeze when things start to hurt.

Be prepared for some pain. Some people experience a different level of pain than others, but you should take up to 600 mg of ibuprofen beforehand. Your cervix will be numbed during the procedure, but the ibuprofen will help with the cramps that come during and after. You should wear comfortable clothes and plan to spend the rest of the day relaxing with a heating pad. You should also come armed with panty-liners as well, as people will sometimes bleed after the insertion.

The procedure might be a little awkward, depending on how comfortable you are at the gynecologist. Although I felt slightly uncomfortable making small talk as my gynecologist widened my cervix, the procedure was over before I could finish wondering if I should have taken my shoes off.

Once the procedure is over, you’ll need to make a follow-up appointment four to six weeks after your insertion. During my second time in the chair, four weeks later, as I expertly slipped my bare feet into the stirrups, the whole process became worth it as I imagined the five years that stretched ahead of me where I wouldn’t have to worry about my birth control.