An Approaching Anniversary: One Year With Paragard

CN: Mentions of pregnancy and abortion are within this piece

There is a certain agony in deciding how to start this story. It would be easy to begin it as a jaunty, peppy little informational story about my birth control. I could clean it up and avoid showing you the rough edges of how I got to where I am. My article could spare you the story of a girl in a panic as she considers a future with an unwanted pregnancy. You don’t have that the author called her best friend, sobbing and terrified that she might have to have an abortion. I could tell you a pretty, sanitized story about why I love my IUD with none of the dark parts about why I really got it.

But I won’t. Instead, I have decided to tell you that my choice to get Paragard was prompted by the severe pregnancy anxiety I had while I was on the pill. As an already anxious person with ADHD; combined with the fact that the pill needs to be taken consistently to be effective, my birth control became more of a source of stress than comfort for me. Constantly I worried whether or not I had taken the pill. Often, I took it irregularly, a few hours early or late.  When I was away traveling for collegiate tournaments, the start times would interfere with my pill and I agonized that I just couldn’t set a regular schedule and stick to it. And so the fear of pregnancy came at the tail end of every sexual encounter, a lingering doubt that somehow I would have to make an impossible choice. For some, the choice to end a pregnancy is, while not exactly easy, easier than it might be for me. They’re financially stable and in an area where it’s a more tolerable procedure. But I live in the South. I have conservative parents on whom I depend for financial security. Abortion, while it was something I could have accessed, would have wiped me out financially and would have caused a rift between my parents and myself, perhaps even to them cutting me off. It is a future that I wished desperately to avoid. It was unbearable living in this much fear; living while managing my money so that I would have the necessary funds in the event I needed an abortion or emergency contraception.

And so, I had one more anxiety filled night before I made my move. Earlier that night I called a nurse helpline to ascertain my chances of getting pregnant after my then fuck-buddy and now boyfriend had left my dorm room for the night. After I made that call, I pulled up more articles from Planned Parenthood and carefully researched my options. There were several long-term options available to me, but I knew which one I wanted. I wanted the copper IUD, Paragard. Paragard is the most effective emergency birth control, hands down. Paragard has an effectiveness of over 99% when inserted within 5 days of unprotected sex. Furthermore, Paragard is the longest lasting IUD, clocking in a lifespan of over 12 years. After I re-read these comforting articles, I made some calls and sent some emails. Originally, my plan was to go to Planned Parenthood to get my IUD inserted. However, the only availability they had was on a Friday that week, at the tail end of the IUD emergency effectiveness window. So when I called my campus OBGYN and found out they could accept me that afternoon, I canceled my appointment, letting the Planned Parenthood representative know I would be seen by another provider.

That afternoon, I went in for the procedure. Though it was a fairly simple procedure, I remember being so anxious that I felt emotionally numb. As I filled out the paperwork, I could barely think about what I was doing.

When I got back to the assigned room, the provider asked a few questions about my birth control status. I said I wanted to keep taking the pill and have the Paragard as backup. The male nurse looked at me oddly but didn’t refuse to do my procedure. Instead, he made sure that I wanted the Paragard IUD, asked me to take a urine pregnancy test, and asked if I wanted to be tested for STIs while I was there. I figured it was as good a time as any to get tested and headed to the bathroom with cup he provided me. After the pregnancy test confirmed that I wasn’t currently pregnant, I was asked to undress below the waist and to get into the stirrups. The procedure was not particularly memorable. Some people report that their IUD insertion was one of the most painful procedures of their life. For me, it felt like moderately bad cramps, and was nothing compared to the debilitating cramps I’d experienced last year. For reference, those cramps were so bad that I was impaired in my ability to walk. In trying to get from class to my dorm room, I was forced to sit down several times on the sidewalk and recover myself. The IUD insertion was nothing compared to that.

After the procedure, I did feel a bit woozy so I was asked to sit down and chill out for a while. I was also provided with the thickest menstrual pad I had ever seen. I tucked it into my underwear and waited for a few minutes before I headed out, where after had my blood drawn for STI. Once I had supplied the samples for the STI tests, I was discharged. When I approached the front desk, I owed nothing on leaving, though later I was charged about $300 for the procedure. Money well spent in my opinion.

The recovery period after I had my IUD inserted was about a week. During the week, I bled profusely. It was like an extremely heavy period, though the nurse I spoke to assured me there was nothing to worried about and that heavy bleeding was unfortunately normal. There was some discomfort as the IUD settled in, but it wasn’t overly painful, mainly it felt like being poked in the uterus, a sensation I’d never felt before. During the time the IUD settled in I developed a new anxiety; I was afraid of the IUD slipping out. While intellectually I knew that IUDs only fall out . 05-8% of the time, I still worried over it. I comforted myself by feeling the strings almost everyday for about a month and a half. After constantly checking for weeks, my anxiety slowly abated. I began to get comfortable with my birth control and I learned to enjoy the benefits it provides. Among the other excellent qualities, such as an effectiveness rate of 99% or more and effectives of 12 years, the Paragard also requires no maintenance. I check the strings once a month to make sure that everything is in place, and otherwise, I mostly forget it’s there. After that rough month, my period returned to normal. Or normalish. Paragard can make periods heavier, and I’m one of those people that happened for. In addition to this, I’ve been able to stop taking the hormonal birth control, which freed up my finances. While the pill wasn’t expensive per se, $15 a month every month did add up, and it’s extremely nice that I don’t have to budget for it anymore.

Since getting my IUD inserted, these past months have been absolutely serene. My boyfriend and I haven’t had any pregnancy scares, and therefore have had a pretty good sex life. Without the pair of us worrying about whether I’ll get pregnant and what would happen from that, we spend that energy doing things infinitely more wonderful. Like splitting a bottle of wine, watching lawyer shows, making dinner, having sex or spending an evening doing all of that. My IUD has made me feel confident and secure and has lifted the burden of anxiety of my shoulders.

I’ll be celebrating my one-year anniversary on September 12th, having spent the last year worrying hardly at all about pregnancy thanks to my IUD. And in case any of you were still wondering about how I feel about this device, I 100% recommend it to anyone who’s at risk for pregnancy. This device is damn near fool proof and has given your’s truly peace of mind that is as of yet unparalleled from any other device. Now, excuse me while I shop for celebratory champagne.

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