After two months of research, and my gynecologist’s advice, I decided to get an IUD to try to help manage the symptoms of my endometriosis (Along with continuing the work with my holistic doctor; which I’ve promised you all I would write about! I know I’ve been slacking, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to write more, so stick with me!). We went with Mirena, which has been increasingly used to treat the symptoms of endometriosis within the last few years. Although more research is needed (only a few studies have been published, and the longest only followed it’s research subjects around for three years) it is thought to have something to do with the progesterone the IUD releases into your uterus over the course of 5 years. The progesterone thins the lining of the uterus, theoretically suppressing the growth of endometrial tissue, and reduces inflammation in the pelvic cavity. Now that you’ve had your little dose of reproductive organ education today, let me tell you about my IUD insertion experience.
First, when you schedule the appointment, they ask that you be on your period, which for me was a very small window of time, because like clockwork I start on Friday afternoon and finish Sunday night. I scheduled it for Friday afternoon and hoped my body wouldn’t let me down. Honestly, I didn’t do much research into the actual insertion procedure, besides reading a post somewhere titled something like “Preparing for your IUD insertion” that recommended “relaxing….take calming breaths…and take 800 mg of ibuprofen and hour before your appointment.”, the article also said not to worry, the procedure was basically an uncomfortable pinch, no different than a Pap smear.
I drove myself to the appointment, and thinking 800 mg of ibuprofen sounded like a bit much, I took 400 mg before leaving the house. I had convinced myself the “pressure/pain” I had read about would in no way compare to the pain I feel during an endo flare, and did some yoga breathing until the doctor came into the room. She explained the procedure in full detail, so I would know exactly what to expect every step of the way, and this put me totally at ease. “First I will insert the speculum, no different than in a Pap smear. Then I’ll swab the area and make sure your cervix is totally clean so that there’s no risk of infection. After that I’ll insert what is called a “sound” which measures your cervix so I know where to place the IUD, at this point you will feel three seconds of cramping, just remember to breathe. Then you’ll hear me opening the sterile packaging the IUD comes in, when you’re ready I will place the IUD and you’ll feel 10 seconds of heavy cramping, much like a contraction, again, just remember to breathe. Any questions?”
“Nope!” This was going to be a piece of cake! Famous last thought….
Before I move on, allow me to brag a bit about my high pain tolerance. I have nearly 8 hours of tattoo work on my body, 6 of those hours were on my rib cages, and I sat like a champ through every second; laughing with the tattoo artist when he would tell me about the grown men who had cried and passed out getting tattoos in the same spots. I’m no whimp. Anyways, back to the office…
She inserts the speculum, nothing out of the ordinary, just a little pressure, and then she lets me know she’s about to insert the sound. “I know it seems strange, but if you cough really hard as I insert it, that will make the pain less severe.” My cough went a little something like this “cough, COUGH, AHH! OUCCCCHH!” I was so embarrassed. It takes A LOT to get me to cry out in pain uncontrollably. In fact, the only other time I remember doing so is when I had an ovarian cyst rupture. (I’m not talking about stubbing your toe and screaming “DAMNIT!” I’m taking about a raw, animalistic “yelp” that you just can’t hold in). There’s no way the entire office didn’t hear me. My doctor patted my leg and said “That’s a totally normal reaction, just take a few deep breaths while I open the IUD and let me know when you’re ready.” At this point I was hit with a tidal wave of nausea.
Shit. I can’t do this. Yes I can. No I can’t. Ugh screw it, just get it over with.
“I’m good!” –The biggest lie I’ve ever told.
“Ok, I’m going to insert the IUD, I’ll count down and when I get to “one” it’ll all be over. Just remember to breathe. Ready…10….”
This would start the the longest 10 seconds of my life. I sounded like I was giving birth. When I tell you that I have never experienced pain like I felt during those 10 seconds, it is an understatement. If that’s a 10 on the pain scale, my endo flares are a solid 2. I would have told you anything you wanted to hear in that moment to make the pain stop. I would have posted my bank account and social security number on social media, punched my own mother in the face, and told you that Meryl Streep didn’t deserve any of her Oscars. Anything.
When it was finally over all I could say was “WOW! That was really something!” and muster up a tiny “heh.”
I have to say my doctor handled it well. “Most women who haven’t had children find it very uncomfortable. I’m sorry it was so painful but it will be worth it.” (I would late read that only 5% of women report ‘severe’ pain during IUD insertion, but I appreciated the lie.) She told me to just lay there for 15 minutes to make sure I wasn’t going to pass out, then someone would be in to help me sit up, and she would see me back in a month to make sure everything still looked good.
As I laid there the nausea continued, my mouth filled up with spit faster than I could swallow it and I thought “Well if this is normal they probably would have left me a puke pan…. You better get your shit together because you’re not allowed to sit up.” The 15 minutes flew by, and the nurse came in to sit me up and told me I could get dressed. As she left the room I leapt up and puked in the trash can. It then occurred to me I would have to drive myself home….Shit.
The cramping afterwards was intense. My drive home consisted of me whimpering like an injured animal and trying not to throw up in my Kate Spade bag. You know all bets are off if I’m considering vomiting into a $400 purse. I tried to distract myself from the pain by thinking of things that probably hurt as much as getting an IUD. “Getting shot or stabbed probably doesn’t hurt that bad…maybe getting mauled by a polar bear, or getting a limb ripped off by a silverback gorilla….” I made it home alive.
I spent the rest of the evening on the couch with a heating pad and ibuprofen, in complete disbelief that no one properly warned me how much that was actually going to hurt. But then again, maybe that was for the best.
So here’s my advice to you, if you’re getting an IUD:
- Have someone drive you to your appointment. Also, make them sit in the waiting room so they can say things like “I didn’t hear you scream out here, so you must not have been as loud as you think” and “Want to go get a drink now?”
- Take 800 mg of ibuprofen an hour before your appointment. I can’t tell you that it will ease the pain of insertion, but at least you’ll be on top of the cramps that come after.
- Have three types of pads at home: a heating pad, menstrual pads, and an iPad. All you’re going to be good for is laying around on the couch, and since you’re on your period, you’re not going to want to use a tampon.
- Take the following day off, just in case. I was still pretty crampy and uncomfortable the next day. If you have a job where you’re mostly sitting you might be fine, but I was not up for running around the salon and taking clients the next day.
- Don’t feel bad if you cry out durning the insertion, after I posted something on Instagram (@stayatworkhousewife) people starting commenting that they had a similar experience. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
- Don’t worry too much, you’re probably in the 95% of people who just feel a slight discomfort, and if you are in the other 5% it’s over in 10 seconds.
I will keep you all updated to see if I notice a difference in my endometriosis symptoms!