Article: Why I’m Having My IUD Removed

For the past two week I’ve been in an active struggle with my doctor’s surgery – calling them on and off, following up calls only to get told to give yet another follow up call, and sending emails documenting full symptoms to try and convey my serious nature. All for one simple reason – I want my IUD removed.

‘Your What Now?’

For those unfamiliar with the increased amount of safer sex options now available to us, an IUD is the abbreviated name for an intrauterine device and it is one of the most effective forms of contraception on the market.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘coil’, and IUD is a small T-shaped device which is placed inside of the womb by a specially trained doctor or nurse (and must be removed by one too, hence my struggles).

There are different types of IUD, the main difference being the amount of copper used.

Some devices rely on copper as part of their contraceptive approach, and these have been shown to be over 99% effective.  On average, copper IUDs last for about 10-12 years.

Other devices are hormonal in nature, instead, relying on progestin to prevent pregnancy. These have a very similar success rate but don’t last as long) between 3-5 years depending on the type used).

Typically, when going to discuss the prospect of getting an IUD the doctor will discuss options with you and will ask you what you would like. I didn’t get a wide option, but I was told what coil the surgery worked with (Mirena) and its pros and cons.

The Benefits of an IUD

Once an IUD is inserted it starts working, and will continue to do so 24/7 without worrying about anything for 3-12 years. This is, without a doubt, the most appealing aspect of a IUD. The idea of going around with a 99% protection rate from pregnancy, without having to worry about taking a pill, stocking up on products, or anything else, is incredibly liberating, and prevents against any forgetful (or drunken) lapses in judgement.

Plus, at the time, my fluid bonded partner wanted to try sex without a condom, and I was down to clown on that desire.

My personal reason might seem a bit precarious but, for a lot of people, the idea on condom-free sex with a partner that is up-to-date with their tests and/or fluid bonded, is a very important experience, and the IUD can offer this sans the fear of pregnancy.

As it happens bareback sex gives me UTIs like a mofo, but I digress.

There are other benefits to the IUD too:

IUDs can be used during breastfeeding.

They are not affected by other medicines.

As soon as an IUD is removed, your fertility returns immediately.

However, there are some downsides as well.

The Downsides of an IUD

To fit an IUD, it basically has to be shoved through your cervix. Many professionals like to do this while you’re menstruating, because it makes the opening a bit wider, but it can still really hurt.

I literally became a comedy character when I had my coil inserted – shouting out ‘SON OF A…’ and biting my lip with a pained expression to avoid finishing that sentence when my nurse put the coil in.

The next few days afterwards were agony.

Most people will find that they get discomfort and cramping afterwards for a few days. Over the counter pain medication can help greatly with this, as can hot water bottles. Some people may get some light bleeding but that will be the worst of it. After a few days it will typically subside. Typically.

I was not typical.

It’s advised that you should see your GP after coil insertion if you:

Have pain in your lower abdomen.

Have a high temperature.

Have a strong change in discharge.

These can be signs of an infection and I had them all.

As it happened, the insertion of my IUD caused a urinary tract infection, which was moving up to my kidneys. I had to go on antibiotics to clear this up: Straightforward but a painful addition to the pain of IUD insertion.

But that’s not where it stopped.

After the UTI had faded I found that the pain was persisting in its absence. My lower abdomen and cervix still felt very uncomfortable and I still felt like something was trying to tear me apart from the inside out.

There are two little threads on a IUD which can be felt when you insert fingers into yourself (but don’t disrupt sex) and mine felt noticeably low. And that first period. Oh god, that period. I don’t want to talk about it.

Needless to say, I went back to my doctor and it turned out that my IUD hadn’t gone in quite right or had shifted position at some point. IUDs are checked by doctors 3 to 6 weeks after placement, so most doctors will be able to spot this issue after IUD insertion.

The options from there for me were as follows: Have the IUD removed, or try and position it properly. I still wanted to give the IUD a try, so I opted for the latter. Plus, if I’m being completely honest, I just couldn’t face the prospect of removal pain.

For most people, these are probably going to be the worst-case scenario downsides that you may also face. Other possible downsides are as follows too (but very few people get multiple complications):

Heavier, longer, or more painful periods. These will usually balance out after 3-6 months of having the IUD in.

Damage to the womb (a 1 in 1,000 chance).

Rejection (again, uncommon).

Ectopic Pregnancy (this relies on the IUD failing, which is a less than 1% risk).

For me, things went a bit darker.

Why I Want My IUD Out

Not long after my IUD was inserted, in between the pain, infections, heavy periods, and emotional highs and lows, I found myself really craving sugar. Like, to an insane degree.

Sometimes it felt like I had no control – as if my brain was just fixated on that one particular type of food and there was just no getting it to redirect. One day I had a brownie (a regular treat of mine at that time that I could healthily enjoy about once a month depending) and something seemed to snap. I went to the freezer and got another piece. Then another. Then another. I stopped taking the time to microwave them and just started to eat them frozen. There seemed to be no end to it. Not until the brownies were gone, at least, at which point my brain still wanted more.

My body was shuddering with the sugar rush, my logical mind was stunned. I had no idea what had happened.

This happened a few times and I brought it up to my IUD doctor who causally suggested that it might be linked to the hormonal aspect of the coil. For her it was an interesting anecdote but not much more. For me it was a traumatising and grossly uncharacteristic new part of my life which was causing increasing distress.

In short, my IUD triggered intense cravings which lead to a binge eating disorder.

I feel the need to stress that before this I had been making very healthy and happy food choices for a long time, but incidences like that really shake your world and throw everything else in to disarray. I lost control of my relationship with food and a cycle of unhealthy food choices built up from this hormonal quirk caused by the IUD.

I eventually got on top of my binge eating, only to relapse when departing from my 11-year long relationship recently, but I have now turned back to recovery.

But, surprise, surprise, my IUD is still fucking up my life once a month.

I now get extremely heavy, very painful periods without fail, and they come with an increased rate of migraines. I’m well out of the 6-month balancing period now, and no balance has been achieved, at least not through the coil.

What’s more, I’m very sensitive to any hormonal shifts, and even slight imbalances can increase food cravings at an alarming rate. I recently forgot to take my contraceptive pill (taken for Polycystic ovary syndrome) and I felt a very noticeable increase in sugar cravings which I could certainly do without.

In short, I’ve given the IUD my best shot, and more than enough chances to work with my body rather than against it, but it’s just not working out.

Oh, and also it doesn’t prevent STIs, so you’ll still need to use safe sex barriers if using it with an untested or non-fluid bonded partner. Last bit of educational low down there.

‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’

The IUD is an amazing contraceptive option that works wonders for many individuals.

I know so many people who swear by it and it will be the ideal, go-to option for most people.

But, personally, I just cannot justify having this pain-inducing product in my body any more.

At this point, my Mirena IUD just feels like a toxic substance in my body or a Jenga tower that might collapse at any moment. Sure, its foundations are firm, but when the holes start emerging things get too shaky for my liking, and I can only stack it back up so many times before I’m done playing.

What surprises me is just how reluctant my surgery is to remove my IUD, even given all the side effect that I’m experiencing. It’s mostly due to limitations in trained staff but it does feel like a bit of a hinderance of my body autonomy.

I love the IUD in theory but I want mine out and I want it out as soon as is humanly possible.

I’m finally booked in for later this month and, although I’m apprehensive about the side-effects that will inevitably come with its removal, I’m hopeful.