Birth control has become so widely available for women, and it has been used not only to prevent pregnancy, but as an antidepressant, acne treatment, to help lessen period cramps or bleeding, and probably a ton of other things I don’t know about. I’ve used almost every birth control under the sun: the pill, the patch, the ring, spermicide, condoms, the calendar method, and of course, the IUD. We’ll get to this IUD later on.
I’m a sensitive soul, both inside and out, and I know my body. I’ve spent the last 23 years greeting her, welcoming her, celebrating her, and for a time, at war with her. I’ve spent this time learning how to communicate with her, and I’m still learning this language everyday.
My journey into the world of birth control started like many other girls – through Planned Parenthood. I remember going into my local branch alone, afraid of running into someone that I knew, and even more afraid of going through this alone, with no information prepping me for my first visit. Gratefully, the medical professionals working with me were kind, and understanding of my nervousness. They explained everything to me, as well as educated me on different options and preventative measures I could choose for birth control.
Over the years, I have learned that my body isn’t a huge fan of hormones, and has reacted in different ways: weight gain, acne, weight loss, extreme mood shifts, and lowered sex drive. There were times that my reactions were so quick and strong that I would completely take myself off of it to feel normal again. This, however, would bring me right back to trying to figure out which birth control was right for me. I finally had decided to give the IUD a try. I did my research, asked questions, checked in with friends who had theirs, and collected an overall opinion that made me feel that the copper IUD was the final answer for me. A small, long term birth control that I wouldn’t have to worry about for years to come, and if I chose I wanted to have a child, I could just take it out.
Deep Breaths, Here We Go
At 21 years old, I went to my OBGYN at my hospital for the IUD procedure to be done. I walked in, confident in my research on what I wanted. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned right off the bat. I was met by a doctor who was quick to get me out of there as soon as possible, and didn’t seem to care to put me at ease. I said, “I would like to get the copper IUD, because I don’t want to have any hormones”. She immediately told me that the plastic IUD was better for me, even though we had never met before and she didn’t seem to have even looked over my medical record. She left the office and came back with research studies to try and shove any hesitations back down my throat. “Weight gain on the IUD is strictly coincidental, don’t worry it’s not because of the birth control…this will be the best choice for you…see, look, the hormones that are in it, aren’t even traceable in the bloodstream”. I made a choice not to question the doctor, and figured that she would know what was best for me. I agreed to change from the copper IUD to the plastic IUD, and there are many times I wish I would have stuck to my first choice.
The next doctor that came in to insert the implant was cold, and not reassuring at all. She said things like, “this is going to hurt a lot, just so you know”. For some folks, this procedure wasn’t a huge issue, and the pain wasn’t bad for them. For others, like myself, I was ripping the tissue paper hospitals put over the beds to keep them sanitary. It hurt, a lot. I’ll never forget that pain. After I left, I slowly walked back down to my car in the lot, put my feet up on the steering wheel and sat like that for a good hour. In the 10 months to come, I gained well over 50 pounds at least, even though I was going to the gym, one sometimes two times a day. I changed my diet to a vegan one, and did everything I could to keep my weight down with no luck. I also noticed a shift in my demeanor, especially to my partner. I felt extremely irritable, angry, and hurt quite often. The best way I could describe it was if someone or something was covering my mouth whenever I wanted to express how I felt. My emotions would bottle up and explode (and I still had trouble articulating things when it came to my anger/sadness).
I began doing research on what I was feeling, searching for other plastic IUD users who felt the same. It turns out that there are hundreds of women who were experiencing the same things as me. I looked through forums and articles, finding that many women had frighteningly similar experiences as myself: from the doctors pushing the plastic when they asked for copper, to the mood shifts and weight gain. This all couldn’t be coincidental to me. Some women wrote about their marriages falling apart, them losing their closeness to their children, relationships with family members being messed up, and a long list of other things that are easily found through a google search.
I would like to note that there are people who completely enjoy their IUD, and it has been the best birth control option for them, and I want to make sure that I respectfully share my own experience that differs from theirs.
After the 10 months were up, I went back to the OBGYN’s office, adamant that they take it out so that I can be on something that would make me feel better. Nothing was going to change my mind, and I was not going to live like that for another day. The pushback from the doctors was ridiculous, and they refused to take it out for me. I told them I would reach down and rip it out in front of them if they didn’t help me take it out, and after some struggle, they agreed to remove the plastic IUD for me. Y’all, when I say I immediately felt a difference, it was immediate. Like something leaving my body, and me arriving again into my personal space. It was emotional, both horrifying and happy. Not understanding how I could feel so terrible one second, and back to normal again.
Moving forward, I’ve been extremely cautious of what I put in my body, especially when it comes the feminine health. I urge everyone reading this that is unsure about whether or not to use birth control to explore all your options and ASK QUESTIONS. ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. ASK SO MANY QUESTIONS YOU’RE ANNOYING. This is important because YOU are important.
Planned Parenthood is an extremely helpful resource for people who need STI screening, pregnancy planning, as well as other resources depending on the branches near you. If you are able to, please donate to help keep it going for folks coming after us!