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I’m currently sitting in bed watching spongebob and nursing a capri sun. I just got back from my local Planned Parenthood, where I had a Paraguard copper IUD inserted. In the weeks leading up to this, true to my extreme research addiction, I googled every combination of “IUD” “Insertion” and “pain” that I could think of to try and find a real account written by someone who had had an IUD inserted, but I didn’t find jack shit. So I hope the future obsessive researchers can read this and have some peace of mind from some pure information.
The first thing that happened when I got into the exam room was that I was asked for a urine sample and had a blood stick taken. These were to determine that I wasn’t pregnant nor anemic, since Paraguard can make your periods heavier and make existing anemia worse. In my consulting visit the week before, I’d had blood taken and a urine sample obtained to be tested for gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and syphillis. When the results came back (normal, negative and not pregnant), the nurse’s assistant sat down with me and explained exactly how the insertion was going to go down. The nurse practitioner would measure my uterus so that she’d know how far to put the device in, and then she’d insert it with the long applicator stick/tube that it was preloaded in in the box (the nurse practitioner showed me this before she put it in).
After that, the nurse’s assistant left and I undressed from the waist down and spread the paper sheet over my lap, just like at a normal gyno visit. The nurse practitioner came in and she was extremely gentle and kind, and explained everything she was doing before she did it and checked on me and asked if I was okay at every step of the way. She did a quick pelvic exam without a speculum, feeling inside of my vagina and pressing on my abdomen, like a gyn does. Then she inserted the speculum and prepped my cervix for insertion with betadine.
Next, she used a weird kind of clampy device to hold my cervix in place, since it does move around (you can move it with your finger if you feel inside yourself). That pinched pretty bad but the pain was over quickly, like getting your ears pierced. The next part was the worst. She used a rod-like tool about the diameter of a bendy straw to dilate my cervix and measure my uterus. I took some deep breaths, but as soon as she inserted it through my cervix the cramping started. I never cramp terribly badly on my periods, and if I do it’s a one-and-done kind of deal where I’ll go about my business after a second of being doubled over. I’d say the measuring took about 30 seconds before she removed the tool and I’d rate it at a 7 on the crampy pain meter. For me, cramping is a lot easier to tolerate than sharp pains and I think I would have been able to tolerate much worse. I also forgot to mention that I took 600 mg of ibuprofen about an hour and a half before my appointment, which was recommended to me by the nurse practitioner on my consultation visit.
After the measuring, the nurse practitioner opened up the box containing my IUD and showed me what it looked like. It’s a little T shaped piece of plastic that she loaded into the applicator rod. The actual insertion of the IUD wasn’t too bad, but I was still cramping from the measuring when she came back over to put in the actual device, although it was much milder than before. The cramping sort of crescendoed a little bit as she inserted the device, and it was worst when it was put into place at the top of my uterus, I’d say about the same pain as the measuring, but it didn’t last nearly as long. Then it was done! She cut the strings shorter, took off the cervical clamp and took out the speculum and performed one final exam to make sure the strings were in a good place and let me on my merry way.
And the best part? NO COPAY. Thanks Obama! I’m protected from unplanned pregnancy until August of 2025!
While strolling proudly through downtown, the bandage around my arm a symbol of…I don’t know, feminist empowerment and the pleasant convenience of no copay birth control under the ACA? I thought I’d write up how the whole thing went, for anyone curious or considering the implant.
The person who led me into the bathroom spoke quickly and I didn’t catch all of what she said, so I ended up carrying a cup of my own pee into the hallway before she quickly indicated the little cubby I should have used, with doors on each side of the bathroom wall for privacy. Once they determined I wasn’t pregnant, I had my temperature and blood pressure taken.
The woman who did the insertion chatted with me about any questions I had, the insertion method and the four-hour training required for it, and the difference between Nexplanon and Norplant, the original implant. Being righthanded, I decided to have the implant inserted into my left arm, so she had me lay back and give her “the old Rosie the Riveter,” with my arm curled up next to my head. She marked the spot with a marker, rubbed on some disinfectant, then gave me two shots of Lidocaine - this is the only part that hurt, since Lidocaine burns for about five seconds, then numbs the area.
The implant is a small, flexible plastic tube, about the size of a matchstick, that’s inserted just under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. It’s over 99% effective and lasts for three years, though you can get it taken out any time before that. With Nexplanon, the insertion looks like this:
I felt a little tugging when she swooped the applicator across my arm and pressed the button to eject the implant, but that was it. It probably took five seconds. Maybe ten.
There was a little bleeding, so I now have a bandaid, some cotton, and an Ace bandage around my arm to reduce the bruising. It started to feel sore five or ten minutes after I left the clinic, but it’s manageable without ibuprofen. I’m not supposed to agitate it or get it wet for 24 hours, and to leave the bandaid on for three days while the cut heals.
What’s great about Nexplanon (and the IUD) is that there’s no room for human error on your part. Unlike birth control pills or the ring, you can’t forget to take it or accidentally leave it at home when you travel. My implant will always be with me, close to my heart for
ever three years. Once the bruising goes down, you won’t be able to tell I have it in unless you know where to poke, so it’s also good for people who need to keep their method private.
If I’m lucky, I’ll be in the 1/3 of patients who stop having their period. There may be breakthrough bleeding for the first couple of months, so I’ll have to wear a liner for a while. It should be fully effective in about two weeks. Being on the pill, Ortho Tri-cyclen Lo, gave me horrible mood swings and a nonexistent libido, so I really hope Nexplanon works for me.
Hey everybody! I’m back! In summary, it was quick, painful, and now I feel like I have really awful cramps.
When I first got there, I had to provide my health insurance information, medical history, etc. Afterwards a nurse practitioner took me upstairs where we reviewed the IUD options, signed consent forms, looked at a life size example of the Mirena IUD and the nurse asked if I had any questions. Since I didn’t, she gave me a cup to pee in so that they could test for STIs (gonorrhea and chlamydia) and pregnancy.
The STI results will come in a week, but the pregnancy detection is almost immediate. I was good to go - they were doing a double check since I was on my period. While they were processing the pregnancy test, I undressed from the waist down (I suggest wearing a dress or skirt if you are comfortable in one because then you just have to take off your underpants.
The OBGYN came in after I had changed and she explained to me the process; first they would sterilize the cervix with iodine, then use a clamp type thing to hold open the cervix, measure the uterus with a sound, and then insert the actual IUD.
After sterilization, the OBGYN informed me that this would be the most painful part; it usually is for most individuals. She told me to take a deep breath and expect some cramping. I did just that and she was right - it was immediately painful. I tried to remember that this was all going to be over in a snap and I muddled through some of the pain. I had to keep the deep breathing in mind and I continued.
She then took the sound to measure my uterus. She told me that she read just at 6 cm, which is the minimum, so she checked again and it was at 6 cm, so we were good to go - but I almost missed the minimum! I was in pain and pleased.
She then told me she was going to insert the IUD and she did just that. She trimmed the strings, pulled out the remaining part and held them up to me so I would know what to feel for.
She warned me that there may be some cervical bleeding, but that is not unusual. They gave me a little wallet sized card with the date of insertion so that I wouldn’t have to remember all the time. For most people, they also give them a pad so that the iodine won’t leak on their underwear and for the bleeding. Since I’m on my period, I had prepared. For the cramping, I brought along a travel heat pad, the type that they sell in CVS for menstrual cramps. I really suggest bringing one.
So that was my experience! I hope this helped and was informative!
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