I love the internet. I mean, I don't even know how I expressed my emotions pre-meme. Still, it has its pitfalls -- especially when it comes to reliable medical information (or lack thereof).
I recently became interested in getting an IUD and spent hours searching for information, I just wanted a break down from a girl who had the insertion done in Sydney; the cost, the experience, every nitty-gritty detail.
Google search after Google search I found nothing, a virtual tumbleweed rolled across my computer screen. There was only generic information, nothing anecdotal. I wanted advice from a girl for a girl. So I've decided to write about my experience -- for those who may find themselves in the same position.
Firstly, why? Well, I recently went to the doctors with a raging migraine -- flashing lights and all. I'm a bulk-billing medical centre kind of gal, so I never know which doctor I'm going to get -- it's a bit like bad doctor/good doctor roulette. This day I was blessed with a particularly kind, young woman, who knew her s*** about lady bits.
She explained the flashing lights were called auras -- and that there was new research to suggest there was a dangerous link between these migraines and the contraceptive pill. She was shocked when she saw the pill I was on, Microgynon 50, she said it was unusual for doctors to prescribe this pill as it was high-dose and could cause strokes.
If you're anything like me, this is the time when you'll most likely want to Google 'Does IUD insertion hurt', and read a million articles that make you want to ring and cancel your appointment. Don't.
I felt sick, I'd been on this pill for more than 10 years. And not one doctor had discussed this with me -- they just continued to write the script. She advised I change pills immediately, we talked about other contraception methods; the mini-pill, implanon, but my ears pricked up when she mentioned the IUD -- specifically when she mentioned no periods.
She explained the majority of doctors were now using IUDs, even her. Once inserted they lasted for five or 10 years, periods got lighter and disappeared completely for some women -- talk about no fuss. I was sold. But she gave me a pamphlet of all the options to read through. I got home talked my obliging partner's ear off, and then decided to go for the IUD (Mirena).
First hurdle, the script. Back to my medical centre, but this time I drew a bad doctor in roulette. A judgemental old woman, who made me feel my sheer presence was an inconvenience. I asked for a script for the IUD, she asked why, I told the aforementioned story re migraines. She replied, "why don't you just stop taking the pill and use condoms?" Then she asked me if I'd ever had a baby or abortion, if not my cervix would be "really tight, so the IUD may not fit and it would be really painful to insert".
Now I was starting to get angry, stressed and scared, but tried to remember the positive young doctor. In a calm but assertive manner, I asked her to please write the script. She reluctantly obliged, then asked in a condescending manner where I expected to get it inserted. I was confused until she explained you couldn't get it done at the doctors -- I would need to go to a gynaecologist, hospital or special clinic. Ah, next hurdle...
Where to get an IUD inserted in Sydney? I typed -- hoping Google would have some answers. Macquarie St Clinic was the first hit, I phoned the reception -- the woman explained I would need to be on my period when they did the insertion (I wasn't) so I would need to call and book when I was. I immediately felt sorry for whoever's job it was to insert these things while girls were on their periods... It would cost $250 and I would get some back from Medicare ($100).
I'd managed to pry a referral to agynaecologist from the mean doctor's hands, who I phoned next. The receptionist said there weren't any appointments available for a few months but the doctor could do the insertion the same day as the appointment. I didn't ask about cost but I was assuming around the $300 mark. She also said the doctor wouldn't do any insertions while I was on my period.
Confused? So was I. This is when I learnt there are two schools of thought re insertion; some believe it's better to do it while you're on your period (your cervix is open and it's easier to insert), but this particular gyno believes it's more likely the IUD could be dislodged during your period so prefers to do it while you're not bleeding.
Next I tried Family Planning in Ashfield. I'll admit I was unenthused about this option -- the thought of driving there and getting home post-insertion seemed all too difficult. The receptionist advised you needed a consultation prior to insertion, two separate appointments -- no thanks. In saying that, Family Planning was the cheapest option ($80 insertion fee + cost of IUD).
I decided to wait for my period and go to the Macquarie St Clinic.
Pre-insertion, I was actually happy to get my period for once, I could ring the clinic and finally get this over and done with. My appointment was scheduled for the following day at noon. I was told to bring spare undies, socks (weird?), pads, and not to eat anything prior to the appointment.
If you're anything like me, this is the time when you'll most likely want to Google 'Does IUD insertion hurt?' and read a million articles that make you want to ring and cancel your appointment. Don't. I rang my Mum for words of support -- she told me she had tried the IUD once but her body rejected it which was super painful. Cheers, Mum. She also gave me the best advice, stay calm, everybody is different just look after yourself and if you're in pain say something.
I went to the chemist to pick up the IUD -- Mirena costs $45 -- it's in a massive box (not very discreet). I also got some pain meds for recovery.
MORE ON THE BLOG:
D-Day, I was super nervous. One of the articles I read said to take over the counter pain medicine 30 minutes before you go -- I took two Nurofen Plus and had a sip of water. I met my boyfriend out the front, and we went in together.
We waited for a while before I was called in by a male doctor. He was friendly, he did an ultrasound to check my uterus/cervix were all okay, and work out where he'd put the IUD. I jokingly asked if there was a baby in there. Wrong time to make that joke. He smiled weakly, wiped the gel off my tummy, asked a few questions and then said we were good to go. I waited outside the theatre for the nurse.
I followed her in, she took me into a small room, where I did a urine sample and got into a surgery gown and hat. I made my way to the surgery bed, the nurse asked me to lay down, she grabbed my hand, put the heart monitor on, and said she was going to do the anaesthetic.
I didn't know they were going to do anaesthetic. She asked me if I'd eaten or drunk anything this morning. I started freaking out. Do I tell her about the pain killers? I opened my mouth to speak, my arm went cold, then black...
I woke up in a small room on a recliner with three other girls next to me -- all in the same gowns, all groggily waking up. I mumbled, "I didn't know they were putting us to sleep". The girl next to me laughed and said "me either -- that was awesome!". Had I known I'd be under anaesthetic I would've been much less worried -- I was asleep and didn't feel a thing. Some places do general anaesthetic and others local. Make sure you check.
Once the nurse checked my bleeding I was free to go. I was wearing the spare pair of undies I brought with me, but had no recollection of how I got them on (strange). I felt groggy but fine.
Post-insertion, I got home, lay on the lounge and half watched 'Real House Wives' in a daze. I had cramps which worsened when I moved around or stood up, so I stayed in a curled position on the lounge and kept the pain killers coming.
I had a terrible sleep, the cramps were agonising. I kept worrying that my body was rejecting the IUD. I kept visualising the little instrument pushing into my cervix which made the pain feel more real. But, by the early morning I was feeling fine. I did bleed a lot that night, but it was hard to tell what was from the insertion and what was my normal period.
Pain visited intermittently over the next two weeks, I was also very moody and my skin broke out. This could have been "withdrawal symptoms" from my pill, which I'd been on for nearly a decade.
I don't want to sugarcoat it, one night I was doubled over in pain and searched: 'Is my IUD killing me?' I landed on this article, which put me at ease -- other girls were feeling like me. The article explained the IUD is a 'foreign body', like a piercing, that your body just needs time to adjust to.
By three weeks I was back to normal. Now I can't feel it at all, and since it was inserted I haven't had my period. Hooray! I would highly recommend it: it's cheap, effective and no fuss -- plus no more scripts/pharmacy trips.
Everyone's experience will be different. My advice: be kind to yourself during recovery, contact your doctor if something doesn't feel right, and stay off Google!