Have You Seriously Not Gotten an IUD Yet?

Photograph by flocu via iStock.

I just have one question for all you Pill-takers out there: How have you seriously not gotten an IUD yet?

I used to be exactly like you, enslaved to that tiny white Pill, every night like clockwork, day after day, year after year. I’d accepted that my clothes no longer fit quite right, that I had to carry that stupid little pack everywhere, and that I sometimes fell into a dark funk that I couldn’t dig myself out of.

 Then something happened, and I saw the light: Donald Trump got elected.

You’re smart and informed, so I’m sure you know that searches for the IUD spiked following the election. You live in Washington, so I know you’re aware that a big push for the Women’s March was the threat that the current administration presents to women’s health care, and the fact that copay-free birth control could not be so free in the future. And surely you saw when Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards told Christiane Amanpour on CNN that demand for the IUD shot up by 900 percent after Trump’s win.

 So I’ll ask again: How have you seriously not gotten an IUD yet?

Look, let me just say upfront that I know there are other doctor-recommended reasons to stay on the Pill other than contraception. If you’re on it for those reasons, I’m not talking to you. You do you.

 I’m also not saying you should get an IUD just because it’s what everyone else is doing. Yes, I was inspired to finally get my act together due to Trump’s election, but it wasn’t the only motivating factor. In October, my company switched insurance plans. My particular brand of oral contraceptives, which had previously been free, ballooned to $60 for a month’s supply. I was able to scramble to find a different, covered brand, but it stood as a reminder: Pill costs are not in my control, no matter how many insurance reps I use my Authoritative Phone Voice on.

 Then there’s the fact that in the last couple of years, breast cancer has appeared in my family. When I set up a consultation appointment to talk about the IUD with my OB/GYN, I asked her point-blank if the estrogen in oral contraceptives can contribute to breast cancer risk, and the response I got was something of an errr. But I didn’t need to ask: the National Cancer Institute is forthright in saying that while hormone pills can lower the risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer risk, it actually may raise breast cancer risk.

So, yes, I had some of my own motivations that may not apply to everyone. That doesn’t mean that IUDs are anything less than freaking miraculous.

For starters they’re really, really effective. There’s a 0.2 percent chance of getting pregnant with a hormonal IUD, which is better than getting your tubes tied, and way better than the nine percent chance of pregnancy while on the Pill, according to the CDC.

Secondly, they last. The Mirena IUD can last up until five years, so you no longer have to think about refilling your prescription or what changing oral contraceptive brands will do to your body when the pricing inevitably fluctuates. Because I got my IUD under the Affordable Care Act, my insurance was required to cover the $1,000-plus device and procedure—coverage which none of us can guarantee in the future. But now that I’ve got it, I don’t have to think about my birth control plan throughout the rest of Trump’s presidency.

Thirdly, you get control of your life back. Have you ever gone out to dinner and then realized that, curses, you’ve changed bags, your pills are in your other bag, and you know you’re going to forget to take it when you finally get home, hours later? Or choked trying to swallow it, because you’re in the middle of oh, I don’t know, living your totally rad life and didn’t think to pack a water bottle to wash it down? Or felt emotional swings that you didn’t want to be feeling, but also felt like you couldn’t control? When I went in to my OB/GYN to chat about the IUD, they used the phrase “set it and forget it,” and that is 100 percent accurate. A few months in, I literally thought, Wow, this must be what it feels like to be a man!

Still not convinced? Maybe you’ve heard that it’s painful to have one set, and you’re scared. I can totally sympathize with that. The night before my appointment, I made the very stupid decision to stay up reading online horror stories. When I got to this (terrible, horrible, very bad) article on Cosmopolitan where a woman said, “It felt like someone was shocking my cervix with a taser,” my stomach knotted up with fear that lasted the entire next work day, right up until my Friday afternoon appointment (the timing of which, by the way, I recommend. Set it…and then go home and lie on your couch).

I called my sister, a doctor and IUD proselytizer, and told her how terrified I was. She assured me I would be fine. I told her about the Cosmopolitan article—the screaming in pain, the taser sensations. If you could roll your eyes through the phone, she would’ve.

Still, I sat on the exam table sweating through the white paper covering, trembling in fear. The knot in my stomach had grown into a full-on nervous system attack. My OB/GYN asked how I was doing. I told her I was a little nervous.

“Well, I’m not.” She flashed me a strong, confident smile. And I remembered: This may be my first time, but she has done this hundreds, maybe thousands of times. She knows what she’s doing.

I also remembered that I’m strong, and that I have a high pain tolerance. I remembered that I once played half a soccer season with both of my ankles sprained (which, by the way, I don’t recommend). I remembered that women, in general, are a lot stronger than the world gives them credit for, and dangit, Caroline, you are going to get through this in one piece.

And then, some 12 minutes later, it was over. While I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, here’s mine: If you’ve ever had bad cramps, you can handle the IUD. Seriously. If you regularly have bad cramps, you’ve basically been training for it your whole life.

I honestly feel more empowered, in control, and happier now than I did six months ago. I also once again fit into dresses I bought seven years ago, so there’s that. While I don’t know if I can attribute all of that to the IUD, I’m willing to give it some of the credit.

I can’t promise that your experience will be the same as mine, and this is the part of the story where I remind you to consult with your doctor before doing anything drastic. But if you chat with your doctor and they give you the thumbs up, and you’re still unconvinced, then I have just one word for you: Seriously?

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.