| | IUDs - Mirena IUS and copper IUD - my experience
I've read so many horror stories about IUDs that have scared me silly and I want to relate a real person's 'a bit uncomfortable, not that scary but true' experience for anyone who is considering an IUD or IUS.
I decided to go with an IUD because I am oversensitive to hormones and can't take the Pill. I don't want children (for various reasons which I am not going to go into here) and neither does my partner (of 4 years). So my only real choice was to get an IUD.
I first asked my doctor in Australia for a copper IUD. He said that because I was young (29 at the time) and hadn't had children that he didn't feel comfortable prescribing a copper IUD but would prefer to give me the Mirena IUS. His opinion was that the risk of infertility was higher with a copper IUD. I am not a medical professional and can't tell you whether that is true or false.
I was sent to a gynaecologist to get the Mirena fitted. I can tell you that I thought my gynaecologist was a great guy and completely trusted him. He made me feel completely at ease during the fitting. He recommended that I take some kind of painkiller (over the counter codeine/paracetamol) before I went for the fitting appointment and stupidly I didn't (because I am a stubborn idiot). In all honesty, the Mirena fitting was painful. I have read some awful stories where women have had to get the Mirena fitted under general anaesthetic and I can honestly say it hurt a fair amount but not THAT much. The gynaeo numbed my cervix with local anaesthetic before he started and maybe that helped. He did say at one point "you will feel a cracking pain" and he was right. But I honestly only felt that intense pain for perhaps two seconds, and then it subsided to the intensity of severe but not debilitating period pain. I am told that if you have had children the fitting is not as painful because the cervix has been stretched. I haven't had children so I don't know if this is true or not.
I had cramping type pain and bleeding (not severe) for about 3 days afterwards. This worried me at the time because the leaflet with the Mirena said that you would feel pain for "a few hours" after the fitting and to me "a few hours" didn't mean 3 days! However, as I understand it, 3 days of pain is actually quite normal. For about a month afterwards I had shooting pains in my ovaries every now and then. My first period after the Mirena fitting was extremely heavy. But after that my periods got lighter and lighter and after a year I stopped having them at all. Which, I have to say, was great.
My gynaeo cut the threads quite short with the initial fitting. The IUDs have threads attached to them which are used to remove the IUD when necessary. They can be quite stiff and get in the way during sex depending on the individual and how long they are when first fitted. My partner complained that he was being stabbed - quite painfully - by the threads on my Mirena during sex. When I went back for a 2 week checkup I told the gynaeo about this. He agreed (from personal experience I believe) that it was quite painful to be stabbed by the threads - so he cut them very short. He also believed it was better to cut them as short as possible because there is a risk of them getting wrapped around tampons. Again, not being a medical professional I don't know how true that is. But if you read on further you will see that I DO NOT recommend having your threads cut very short. However at the time it seemed to resolve the problem my boyfriend was having and all seemed good.
For about 6 months I found the Mirena was perfect for me. No more worrying about potentially being pregnant. And as my periods got lighter I thought it was going to be the best thing ever. However as I am very sensitive to hormones, eventually I started having unpleasant side effects. After 2 1/2 years the lack of periods was the best thing about it. I developed skin problems - I now have flaking skin on my eyelids, hairline and the backs of my ears. I have to wear concealer on my face before I go out in public because the red flaking skin is very noticeable and looks quite disgusting (I am not the sort of person who wears makeup every day - or even at all, unless it is a very special occasion). I have lost my sex drive completely - I would be happy if I never had to have sex again (and I can remember that I used to really enjoy it and want to have it, but it seems so long ago...). And sex can occasionally be extremely painful - I have at times burst into tears during sex because my partner has bumped my cervix and this has somehow caused the Mirena to move within my uterus causing severe stabbing pain. This is not the most romantic thing in the world and generally causes a halt to events!
The skin problems and lack of sex drive came on gradually until they both became severe problems. The pain during sex was always there but became more of an issue when I had no desire to have sex - initially the desire overcame the uncomfortableness and we found a way around it. Eventually I just didn't want to go there at all.
I am now living in the UK and recently went to see my doctor to ask if I could be sterilised because I felt I had no other option - the Mirena really wasn't working for me. She said I was still too young (I am now 31) and recommended that I try the copper IUD. So today I went and had the Mirena IUS removed and the copper IUD fitted. It seems that in the UK, the copper IUD is actually recommended for women who haven't had children because it is much smaller than the Mirena IUS, and therefore causes less discomfort. My UK doctor did not think that there was a greater risk of infertility with the copper IUD. Again, I am not a medical professional and I cannot comment on whether that is true or not. I just know that for my own sake I had to try something other than the Mirena.
And now you will hear why it is that I DO NOT recommend having your threads cut very short. The doctor was unable to find the threads for my Mirena and so was, for some time, unable to remove the Mirena. She initially thought that I was going to have to go to hospital to have the Mirena removed under general anaesthetic because her first attempts to grasp it without the threads were causing me a decent amount of pain. This was not screaming torture amount of pain (as I have read on message boards that some women have experienced). If you have ever had a tattoo or your ears pierced I will say that it was at about that level of pain. However after about 5 minutes of digging around she was able to remove it (judging by her reaction this was actually by complete accident rather than by any skilful design).
I asked for a short break before the insertion of the copper IUD as I was a bit shaky. She was happy to give me this. However the insertion of the copper IUD was, by comparison, a complete walk in the park. I felt some cramping pain which I thought was the initial minor pain before the really bad part, and then she said "You're all done!". In comparison to the insertion of the Mirena, and the removal, it was really minor pain. And I hadn't had any local anaesthetic like I had done when I had first had the Mirena inserted.
Also, I had the copper IUD inserted at 11:00 this morning, and it is now 9:00 at night and I have had maybe 3 hours of minor cramping pain today. I have bled all day but that is due to the removal of the Mirena rather than the insertion of the copper IUD, and is no heavier than a typical light period.
I am looking forward to the hormones from the Mirena leaving my system and thus getting back my skin and my sex drive :-) (fingers crossed, here's hoping!!). My doctor has left the threads on the IUD long (by her own recommendation and by my request - I told her to leave them hanging down to my ankles if she could!) and she tells me that after a while they will curl up in the mucous behind the cervix and not be noticeable at all. She has told me to use pads for my first two periods but that after that I should be OK to use tampons.
One thing - I have heard of weight gain being a side effect of the Mirena. Now I have put on a couple of kilos since having the Mirena but I couldn't say definitely that this was due to the Mirena. I think it was more due to me eating copious amounts of chocolate due to the depression induced by the hormones in the Mirena. However I did find that it required a lot of hard work to shift any extra weight, but again that may be because I'm now in my 30s and my metabolism isn't what it used to be.
With regards to the side effects I had from the Mirena - please remember that I myself am extremely susceptible to any changes in my hormone level and so the side effects I suffered are, I believe, related to my own particular issues with hormones. As I understand it the pain during sex is not supposed to happen. I believe in my personal case it was due to the size of the Mirena and judging by how relatively painless the insertion of the copper IUD was I think that I won't be having any problems with that any more. But as I have said several times, I am not a medical professional and so this is all just my own personal opinion, and my own personal experience.
Basically I just wanted to share a story that was not picture perfect, but also not horrific, to help anyone who may be considering getting a copper IUD or a Mirena IUS. I completely recommend researching your choice and discussing it with your doctor but please try not to be too scared by other people's horror stories. There are plenty of people out there who have had the IUD or IUS without any problems - you just don't hear from them because they have no need to post on a message board.
Hope this has helped someone.