After giving birth to my first son, it wasn't long before I started thinking about birth control. I loved my squishy newborn, but I was nowhere near ready for another one. Aside from not being ready to sign up for another round of sleepless nights, there was one other thing I knew for sure; I was not going back on hormonal birth control.
I spent over 10 years of my life on the pill before getting pregnant, but I've grown to be moderately crunchy (light granola, if you will) as I age, and the idea of pumping my body full of synthetic hormones no longer appealed to me. It no longer made sense to me to take a little pill every day to prevent my body from doing what it naturally wanted to do. That being the case, I wasn't left with many viable options for birth control.
I talked to a few friends and consulted Dr. Google before settling on Paragard, a nonhormonal IUD that could buy me up to 10 pregnancy-free years if I so desired. Even better, it was covered at 100 percent by my health insurance. Did someone say "free birth control"? Sign me up! When I showed up a couple weeks later to have it inserted, I quickly signed the release forms with little more than a glance at the various warnings. Little did I know I'd be one of the growing number of people who should have read the fine print.
I knew from my research that IUDs could cause pain for a few days, so I wasn't too worried when I felt a sharp pain when it was inserted my uterus. I wasn't even concerned when I felt a pain in my abdomen anytime I sat down, had sex (which, obviously, didn't happen often given the pain), went for a run, or even moved too abruptly. When this pain didn't subside after a couple of weeks, however, I called the office. I was told it was normal to experience pain for a while after first getting an IUD and that they would check everything out when I came in for my follow-up appointment four weeks after it was inserted.
When I showed up for my appointment, I was still in just as much pain as I had been when it was inserted, and, to make things worse, the strings were nowhere to be found. The following day, I was sent for an ultrasound where they found the IUD in the "posterior cul de sac." I didn't know my body had a cul de sac, but it turns out this is just a layman's term for the tissue between the uterus and the rectum. It probably goes without saying that this is not somewhere you want to find a tiny, t-shaped copper device just hanging out in your body.
When I spoke with the doctor who reviewed the ultrasound, he told me that the IUD had been inserted incorrectly. Basically, the IUD had completely perforated my uterus and I would need an expensive laparoscopic surgery to have it removed. I suffered through another week of pain while awaiting my surgery date. When I woke from the anesthesia, my doctor told me the surgery had gone fine and no organs had been damaged by the IUD. I was relieved but still shaken by the whole ordeal. I was also dreading the medical bills that would soon be filling my mailbox.
Even with everything I went through, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I've since read countless stories of women who experienced much worse when their IUD was inserted incorrectly or migrated after insertion (another potential complication); it could have been my intestines or appendix that was perforated. I could have suffered a dangerous infection or ectopic pregnancy. Even the removal surgery wasn't without it's risks; bleeding, infection, and potential damage to internal organs. All of these are risks you are accepting when you sign up to have an IUD inserted.
I know my experience is the exception and not the rule, but there will always be stories like mine and all women need to know and understand the risks they are signing up for when they choose a birth control method. I was naive to think "nonhormonal" birth control meant "safe" birth control. All forms of birth control carry risks and side effects, so do your research and be sure you are 100 percent comfortable with your choice. If I had taken the time to better inform myself, I may have chosen a different path. Sure, I may have ended up with two babies toddling around the house before I was ready, but would that really be so bad?