Category Archives: IUD
I have menstruated almost 1,680 days in my life. That is four years, seven months, and one week.
I was newly twelve years old when I experienced menarche (the beginning of menstruation). I had already been experiencing the throes of puberty in other ways: I had been unable to sleep on my stomach for almost two years due to the painful budding of breasts on my chest, my bony and childish hips were softening into an hourglass, I was growing taller, and I had finally started shaving under my arms, where I had needed to apply deodorant for at least a year.
I had devoured the booklets we were given in health class, the way that bookworms often do, and I had expected a flood of bright red liquid. I remember being confused at the thick reddish brown stains in my underwear, changing them quickly, and approaching my mom with ashamed tears threatening to spill. She hugged me close and explained that I was experiencing my first period. I was provided with menstrual pads that reminded me of my little brother’s diapers. I was acutely aware of the crinkle of plastic in my pants as I walked through the halls of my new middle school.
I learned to palm the pads from my purse to my pocket as though I’d studied legerdemain, always terrified that a boy would see the plastic packaging and suddenly know that I was on my period. It was a secret to be guarded at all costs, and I felt a vague sense of shame about such a natural bodily function.
It wasn’t until a year or so later that I first started experiencing menstrual cramps. These pangs would radiate from my pelvis around to my lower back and shoot down my legs. I learned that if I took ibuprofen as soon as I saw the telltale blood, I could stave off the worst of the pain. Once I entered high school, I no longer felt shame around menstruation, and it became an annoyance. I had a textbook 28 day cycle, and my periods would generally last for seven days. Sometimes they were longer, sometimes shorter, but the average was seven days.
Once I became sexually active, each month’s menstruation was greeted with jubilation. I was very lucky during this time that I never became pregnant, especially as we were relying solely on condoms at the time. A few months before I married my ex husband, I bought my first and only set of pregnancy tests. I had been using hormonal birth control, in addition to condoms, but for the first time in my life, my period did not visit like clockwork.
My sweaty hands fumbled with the plastic wrappers in the public bathroom of the store in which we had purchased them, and I tried to cry quietly as I turned the purple stick face down on the tile floor while I waited the two minutes for the results. The tests were negative. One week later, my period visited again, though this time it seemed heavier and more painful than previously. I rejoiced through the pain.
At this point in time, I was adamant that I never wanted to have children, and I convinced my gynecologist to give me an IUD. The insertion was painful, and I had perpetual cramps for three consecutive months, but I never wanted to sob alone in a bathroom stall ever again.
Throughout my early to mid-twenties, my period was again a mild annoyance. A fact of life to be endured, and nothing more. I stopped keeping track of the dates I expected to menstruate, knowing that my chosen method of birth control was practically as good as getting a hysterectomy.
Somewhere around age twenty-six, my attitude towards being a mother shifted. It no longer seemed like such a terrifying prospect. By the age of twenty-seven, my criteria for long-term dating partners had changed significantly: I was looking for someone that was interested in marriage and children. I still have my IUD, and have no intention of changing that until I and my boyfriend are fully ready: mentally, emotionally, and financially.
My social media is filled with friends who are pregnant, friends who have infants, and friends who have gorgeous and precocious toddlers and preschoolers. Each photo, each ultrasound, each announcement fills me with joy for my friends’ happiness, and I feel ashamed of my brief twinges of envy.
I am no longer ambivalent or annoyed about my menstruation. I worry each month that I am losing something precious, a finite resource within me. I am scared that when I and my boyfriend are finally ready, I will have bled too often, I will have lost my chance. I have a tiny moment of mourning, a tiny moment of terror, a tiny moment of wondering what might have been, each month.
I am almost thirty-two now.
I have been menstruating for nearly twenty years.
I started my period today.
You can find Part 1 of my Planned Parenthood Experience here. I was nervous when I woke up on the morning of my appointment. Bleary-eyed, I put on clothes, kissed the still sleeping Boyfriend goodbye, and headed to the car.
I entered the office and checked myself in with the front desk. After filling out some information regarding my current sexual activity, my income, and my sexual health history, I handed the clipboard in and watched Say Anything as I waited.
There was a group of three young women behind me, and they were discussing birth control options as they too were waiting to be seen. My ears perked up when one of them mentioned that she was considering getting an IUD. As readers of this blog are fully aware, I am a HUGE fan of IUDs, and I took the opportunity to share my experiences with it, and some of the awesome statistics.
After a short period of time, I was called into the back room, and had a chat with one of the attending nurses. She explained that, due to my symptoms and the length of time since my last pap smear, I was going to have a full pelvic exam and a full STI screening. She also explained that the state of California has an awesome program to help people with limited income to receive sexual health care for free, and even with my new job, I qualified.
The STI screening started right there in that tiny office with a prick of my middle finger. This particular test was to screen if I had been exposed to HIV, and amazingly, I would have the results of that test by the end of my appointment. I was blown away by this fantastic advance in HIV screening.
I went into the exam room after giving a urine sample, undressed my lower half, and waited again. When the doctor came in, she was very communicative and explained everything before she started examining me. She took three samples from my cervix, examined the positioning of my IUD (still in place!), and checked that my uterus and ovaries were not swollen. Before she moved her hands, placed the speculum, or swabbed, she was sure to tell me exactly what she was about to do. This definitely put my mind at ease, and kept me from jumping or starting when anything changed.
When she was done, she took one of the samples to their in-house lab, and checked it all out. Apparently, I had a bacterial infection that may have been the cause of the bleeding, and she handed me a prescription antibiotic. Then she told me that Planned Parenthood would call me if any of the other STI tests came back positive, but only if they were positive.
Unfortunately, I did receive one of those calls. My pap smear came back with some abnormalities. At some point in the past 10 years, I was exposed to HPV. The tiny sample that was taken was not enough to determine if I have one of the more benign forms, or if it is one of the types that can lead to cervical cancer. So, I have yet another appointment set to get some biopsies done.
I’ll have a post up on Wednesday, discussing HPV. I’ve gotten to know my STI a lot better since the diagnosis.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has verified what I have known for years now. IUDs are a fantastic option for contraception.
According to the study, the US has the highest rate of unintended pregnancy among developed nations, and at least half of these unintended pregnancies are due to incorrect contraception use. As I said before, one of the best reasons to choose an IUD over other contraception options is the removal of human error from the equation. When you don’t have to remember to take a pill or put on a condom correctly, it makes the risk of an unintended pregnancy almost zero. In fact, IUDs are 20 times more effective at preventing pregnancy in comparison to the pill, the patch, or the ring.
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. The next time you have a gynecology appointment, talk to your doctor about getting an IUD. The effectiveness, the peace of mind, and the lack of hassle are worth it. Arm yourself with information, and if they refuse to consider you for an IUD, then find another gynecologist. I have heard anecdotal evidence that Planned Parenthood is particularly pro-IUD for anyone who is interested in getting one.
For a long-term, completely reversible, almost 100% perfect form of contraception, you can’t do better than the IUD. IUD is the acronym for an Intrauterine Device. There are currently two types of IUDs that are available in the US. One is hormonal, the other is copper wrapped.
The copper wrapped IUD that is available in the US is called the Paragard. I personally have one. The Paragard is shaped like the letter T, and has copper wire wrapped around the plastic device. The Mirena is similar to the Paragard, but instead of using copper, it releases a form of the hormone progestin, just like a birth control pill. Read the rest of this entry