These days, birth control is a highly controversial subject, one of the main reasons for this is what works for one woman’s body and lifestyle, may not work for another.
As a twenty-something year old woman, I have spent years trying different forms of birth control. From oral contraceptives like “the pill” to condoms to the Implanon (the implant in your arm…yikes!), I felt like I tried almost all of them, but was left unsatisfied. While they all did their job, some caused me to gain weight, others were inconvenient for my busy lifestyle, and one caused me to have sore breasts for weeks on end.
- As opposed to the Mirena IUD, its hormonal counterpart, ParaGard has absolutely no hormones. That’s why it’s so different from other birth controls on the market that introduce different levels of progesterone or estrogen into your system. ParaGard is also the second most effective birth control in the world, second only to Mirena. Check out this video for more info about how it works.
- All IUDs, or intrauterine devices, look like a small ‘T’-shaped coil which is inserted into the uterus. The IUD is a long lasting birth control device, though it is quite reversible and can be removed anytime a woman chooses. While Mirena lasts around five years and functions on a levonorgestrel-releasing basis, ParaGard can last up to 12 years because it’s made with a body safe and durable copper.
- A woman can have an IUD removed anytime she wants, but only by a medical professional (of course). She can get pregnant as soon as a month after the removal of her IUD, unlike with other birth controls during which a woman may have to wait a few weeks to a few months to successfully become pregnant.
- ParaGard prevents fertilization and implantation. It works due to its copper base, which disrupts sperm mobility, blocking it from joining the egg to be fertilized. Copper is a natural spermicide. Though the internet will reveal various tales of women’s IUDs failing or falling out, this is very uncommon. Within the first year of having an IUD, the failure rate is as low as 0.1 to 2.2%. Copper IUDs are becoming a more popular choice for women around the world, as the material is durable and will not corrode. Additionally, copper IUDs are available in a range of sizes and shapes, so consult your doctor about which IUD will be the best for you body, age, and health history.
I made an appointment to meet with the experts at my local Planned Parenthood, where we discussed the pros and cons of ParaGard. They let me know, as I had read, that I should expect to have heavy periods for the first few months. We reviewed some of the other side effects associated with the copper IUD:
- Bleeding between periods
- Pain during sex
- Severe menstrual pain and heavy bleeding
The insertion process was very quick and pretty standard for most women who have been to the gynecologist before. I was neither comfortable or uncomfortable, excited or unhappy, I just wanted the process to be over with, as fast as possible. I read (and overlooked) that for women who have yet to give birth, insertion, during which the IUD is delivered through a paper-thin tube through the cervix into the uterus, could be pretty darn painful. Online reviews recommended taking an Ibuprofen an hour or so before the procedure and I had disregarded them. Well, I wish I hadn’t because though it only lasted less than a minute, it was very painful. I found myself bursting into tears within half a second then laughing hysterically like a crazy person, never having experienced any kind of pain like it. Again, it was over quickly, but I’m not going to lie – it hurt.
I left the doctor and headed home, happy to know that I was on my way to a hormone free future. Over the next few days I couldn’t have sex (doctor’s orders) and I was only a little sore for the first 24 hours. I don’t remember bleeding or any of the side effects beginning right away. After a few weeks I got my first period and that’s when I started to experience heavy bleeding and terrible cramps. I had never had heavy periods before so I just imagined that this was what most women go through. I bought a heating pad, took Ibuprofen, and complained to anyone who would listen. After about 6-8 months of heavy bleeding, my period became normal again. I started to have less painful cramps and now, almost 2 years in, my periods are regular and while they’re not my favorite time of the month, they are relatively painless and easy.
I’m really enjoying my hormone-free birth control method because I’m way more in-tune with my body than I was before. I downloaded a period tracker app, which helps me keep up with the different stages my body goes through. Overall, it’s important for women to get comfortable with reflecting on how birth control affects their bodies, and be okay with changing it up when it’s not working. Don’t give in to the idea that you have to stick to one method, or that you’ll never find one that you love.