I was extremely happy when I saw this article pop up from Ms. about the effectiveness of IUDs (Inter Uterine Devices) as a safe and cheap form of birth control for women. I am a huge advocate of IUDs. From personal experience I can vouch for their effectiveness over several years yet many women still have no idea this is an option as a birth control method. And I was one of these young women because not once did it come up in the several conversations about birth control I had in my teen years with multiple doctors.
When I became sexual active in a committed relationship in my early 20s and was looking into birth control I was automatically put on the hormonal birth control pill. And it was a nightmare right from the beginning. My body was extremely angry at me for this decision. But that is what you do. You want to be in control of your sexual health you go on the pill. That is what I was told all along since I was a teenager.
In addition to a major weight gain (I packed on about 40lbs in about 6 months) I was miserable. And more terrifying then this was the fact my blood pressure spiked. Hugely high for someone who was in their early 20s. I was terrified. And while most of the doctors I saw told me the high blood pressure was directly related to being overweight I refused to buy it. I had been overweight my whole life and never had a health issue like this.
I tried several different doses and brands of hormonal pills and saw no change in my weight, moods, or high blood pressure. And every time I asked for an alternative I was told to just use condoms if I was tired of pumping my body full of hormones. I wanted to be full in control of my sexual health and that just wasn’t enough for me. As a way to test if my body really didn’t react well to hormones I was put on the Nuvaring (a ring inserted once a month into your vaginal canal that is a slow release of a smaller dose of hormones). I was optimistic but it was really expensive ($25 a month).
When this failed to rectify anything for me I told my doctor I wanted off the hormones. I was tired of the way it made me feel. It was only then she suggested IUDs to me. I had never heard of it before but I was willing to try it. IUDs come in two different forms a hormonal version which releases a very small dose of levonorgestrel into your body (runs about $300-$350) and a copper version ($80-$160). Both are inserted into your uterus by your doctor and last for up to 5 years. Putting it into monetary perspective the Nuvering for 5 years would have cost me $1500 and the pill would have cost $900.
I opted for the copper version (which has been around since the 70s) which is completely hormone free. It works by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg on the wall of the uterus by altering the Ph balance in the uterus. Thus, some do have moral objections to the use of the copper IUDs because it does not prevent fertilization like hormonal methods.
The actually insertion of the IUD was uncomfortable but not unbearable. A month later when I returned to the doctor she was shocked to see my blood pressure had gone into a normal range. I was ecstatic! I told all my female friends about IUDs and convinced a few of them to check them out for themselves.
And while the IUD is not for everyone I think it’s an option doctors should give you. Especially if you are in a committed relationship (there can be serious complications if you contract a STD with an IUD in you). I’m beyond irritated it took me going through the hormonal rigmarole on everything else on the market before it was offered to me as an option.
It’s your body. It’s your health. I will never again pump my body full of unnecessary hormones. And neither should you.
(photo via Island Sexual Health Society)