Start researching birth control methods and you’re immediately flooded with a barrage of bad news. Psychotic-level mood swings, intensely painful periods, and high failure rates and accidental pregnancies are starting to make celibacy sound pretty superior right about now.
I’ve tried various methods available in the US since college, and none of them have ever felt like a good fit. The shot was an easy fix, but the weight gain and bloating were deal-breakers. Condoms quickly became expensive and annoying in a monogamous relationship.
I’ve imbibed so many different versions of the birth control pill that I can scarcely recall the wacky pharmaceutical titles of a single one, but what I learned was that remembering to take my daily pill was the most cumbersome task of all. The last time I changed to a new type of pill in an attempt to regulate my cycle, my mood swings went psychotic, and I knew it was time for a change.
Kicking Hormones to the Curb
Despite some minor side effects and a few minutes of pain at the gyno’s office, I would highly recommend the copper IUD, which I received completely free of charge at a Planned Parenthood office in Southern California.
It’s completely non-hormonal, so it lasts longer and kicks sperm booty for much longer than hormonal IUDs. You don’t have to go back to the doc for a re-fitting session for 10 years at the minimum!
Known as ParaGuard, this form of birth control kills sperm with copper through an inflammatory reaction. Sperm can’t survive around copper, and the IUD itself also makes the cervix and uterus a hostile environment for egg fertilization.
Just remember, the IUD does not protect against STDs, so if you or your partner are not monogamous, you’ll still need to use condoms and get tested regularly.
How Will Copper Effect You?
For me, the copper IUD also doesn’t mess with my brain chemicals – an excellent win-win for my mental health. Some folks, however, may have an intolerance to copper, or their livers aren’t able to process the small amount of copper contained in the IUD. Though there is little evidence to support claims of true copper toxicity caused by an IUD alone, a good handful of women have reported some physical and mental drawbacks. Read up on all the potential effects – both for better and worse – and have a lengthy talk with your doctor or gyno to decide if you might be overly sensitive to copper.
Will It Hurt? Yes – But it’s Worth It!
Google “IUD” and the most frequently asked question wonders if it hurts and how badly. In short, yes, it does hurt at several parts of the process. I’m a big pain wimp, though, so if I can do it, so can you!
Here’s my insider’s peek into the whole ordeal. If you’re extra nervous, pop a few Ibuprofen a couple hours prior to the exam to take down the intensity a notch.
There are essentially 3 parts to the IUD insertion process: clamping the cervix to hold it steady, sounding to measure the depth of your uterus, and then the actual insertion of the IUD.
First, the gyno preps your vagina for insertion using some lube and a typical plastic or metal speculum, and then they place a clamp on your cervix, which steadies it for safety and insertion accuracy. For me, this part was like a preview of the pain it come. It felt like having a period cramp in a very pinpoint location. It hurts in an odd, sort of pinching way that you can’t quite put your finger on, but it’s not totally unbearable.
Then comes the sounding. Sounding involves a small, thin probe being inserted through your cervix entrance and into the uterus to see how deep the IUD must be placed. Sounding lets the doctor know the natural angle of your uterus and exactly how and where to safely insert the IUD.
For me, this was the most painful part of the procedure, probably because I’ve never had kids and my cervix has never pushed anything through it or been penetrated or dilated. Again, it’s hard to describe the pain. It’s more like a feeling that’s so uncomfortable and intense that it’s a little hard to bear, mixed with more of a cramp-type feeling and a bit of sharp pain.
I’ll be dead honest here: I was moaning so much during this part that the doc stopped halfway through to see if I still wanted to go through with it. She wanted to check in and make sure I could handle the rest of the procedure, which was an intuitive move on her part that I appreciated. But I asked her to finish the whole ordeal and it was over in a few seconds.
Funnily enough, after having my cervix seemingly pummeled with the sound rod, the insertion of the actual IUD itself was painless! I felt nothing more than the discomfort of the clamp still on my cervix. I think I blurted out a “That’s it?!” when my gyno informed me that the ParaGuard was in place.
The Big Finale
So after all that, would I recommend the copper IUD? Absolutely! I can now put any birth control worries to rest for at least 10 years – seriously, this is SO worth mentioning over and over. I almost can’t believe it.
No hormonal mood swings. More normal periods (after an admittedly lengthy adjustment period as my body got used to the IUD and also processed out years of hormonal side effects). Total peace of mind with my long-term monogamous partner.
Colleen began her sexual wellness career as a sex toy educator in manufacturing and retail. She has since branched out as a writer and marketer, covering all facets of sexual health and anatomy. At Intimina, she specializes in women’s medical care and health concerns, menstruation, sex and pregnancy, and birth control. Colleen frequently confers with top sex educators and intimate wellness experts to stay on top of the constantly changing sexual wellness space.