Hi Gigi,

I came across your website after researching information on IUDs – I found an article you wrote for Glamour about a year ago.

Everything you wrote about makes sense to me – I really dislike taking the pill and I often feel stressed out about sex because of potential for getting pregnant.

Alongside surfing the internet, I’ve come across a lot of scary side effects people have experienced with the IUD; weight gain, severe hair loss, loss of libido or lowered sex drive – to name a few.

I was curious how you feel about the IUD now? Have you or anyone you know experienced these (or other) negative side effects? positive effects? I would really like this as an option for birth control but I’m very nervous to try it.

While I’ll be having this conversation with my doctor as well, any & all advice is super helpful! It would be great to get input from someone outside of the medical realm.

Thanks!

-A

Hey A,

Ah, IUDs. I have had a true love-hate relationship with them and wrote a smattering of articles ranging from praise to pain. Theoretically, an IUD is a godsend. My experience was a little befuddled, much like the information we’re given (or not given) before getting an IUD.

For those reading this who don’t know what an IUD is, here is a quick rundown.

An IUD (intrauterine device) is a small, T-shaped device inserted through the cervix and into the uterus. It prevents pregnancy for up to five years by thickening the cervical mucus, making it nearly impossible for the sperm to reach an egg. Women have the device implanted and then don’t have to worry about pregnancy. You don’t have to take a pill everyday. You don’t have to worry about condoms breaking and causing pregnancy (though you should always use condoms to prevent STIs).

Some IUDs have hormones (progestin), such as the Mirena, which are localized to the uterus. The pill sends hormones through the whole body, one of the reasons they aren’t beloved by all users. The other type of IUD is a hormone-free option, a copper IUD. Copper acts as a spermicide and also thickens the cervical mucus. This option doesn’t have hormones, but can lead to heavier periods. Both options are 99% effective.

I’ll give you the lowdown on what happened to me with the IUD. I don’t want to scare you, but it is the truth and therefore has merit. I had an IUD for about six months. I loved it for a good long while. My libido went through the roof, as you read in Glamour.

Then, I started getting really severe period cramps – like the worst cramps I have ever had in my life. I didn’t bleed, which only made it stranger. When I did squats at the gym, I would spot afterwards and cramp. I had trouble sleeping on my stomach because I felt like the IUD was putting pressure on my uterus.

In the end, I decided to have it removed and went back on the pill. I’m very happy with that decision. It turns out that I have a highly sensitive cervix and having something implanted through it was not ideal for my body.

I’m not trying to be the Grinch Who Stole Alternative Birth Control. The IUD works fabulously for a lot of women. Most of the women I know who have an IUD can’t recommend it enough. The thing is, like all forms of birth control, it just isn’t for everyone.

Some information that you should have that I did not (and I’m person who specializes in sex education and women’s health):

  1. The insertion is pretty painful. It only lasts five to ten seconds. Take some IBuprofen beforehand. Ask your doctor before you take any pain relievers, but most will be fine with it. You can handle it. Breathe through it.
  2. The IUD is uncomfortable and will cause cramping for a week or two. Don’t be alarmed if this happens.
  3. Some women have no periods with an IUD, some do. Sometimes your period comes for a while and then stops.

I gave the IUD a shot because I thought it might work for me. It was not my thing. That’s OK.

I have heard a range of different side effects, and I think it varies widely from person to person. The one I hear most is weight loss. I haven’t gotten any feedback or read any studies wherein someone gained weight or lost their hair.

I didn’t even like my IUD and I would encourage you to get one. They are perfectly safe and are amazing for most women who try them. I’d say, give it a shot. If you’re not happy with your current birth control and feel anxious about getting pregnant, it’s a smart choice.

If you hate it, just get it removed. It’s seriously not a big deal. Women are strong AF and can handle anything. Now, if only male birth control existed …

Hope this helps!

XOXO Gigi

Gigi Engle is a feminist writer, sex educator, and speaker. A book with St. Martins Press is forthcoming.

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