WARNING: This post contains graphic descriptions of blood loss that may offend some people.
Contraception is a tricky subject to write about. Everyone has varying needs – and, as has become apparent to me, everyone has widely different physical reactions to each contraceptive option.
But here, I’m specifically writing about my experience with the hormone-releasing intrauterine device (IUD) Mirena.
According to Family Planning NSW, the small t-shaped IUD works when the hormone levonorgestrel is released, making the mucus in the cervix thicker so that sperm can’t get into the womb. It’s inserted by your doctor, isn’t expensive, requires no upkeep and, in many cases, means you won’t have a period for its recommended duration of five years.
Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? For many it is. In my case, however, it was a dreadful mistake.
Mine was inserted just over a year ago. For many people that will be a relatively easy procedure, but in my case it took two separate trips to the doctor, and much pain relief. It wasn’t pleasant.
Then, in the first three months after the insertion, I put on 12 kilos. It caused pimple outbreaks. I also experienced a roller coaster of emotions and huge mood swings. Heart palpitations. Anxiety. Bloating. You name it. I got it removed after six months.
I’d heard that it sometimes takes that long to settle in – that some people have light to heavy bleeding for the first six months, then feel fine and don’t have another period until it gets removed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that for me, and I just wanted to feel normal again. Luckily, after having three children we knew the time was right for my husband to get a vasectomy. I decided to stop all contraception.
What I wasn’t planning on was what happened when I had the IUD removed. I expected a "heavy period", as my doctor had forewarned me – but she underestimated what “heavy” was.
For two weeks, I had the most horrendous blood loss I’ve ever experienced. Blood clots the size of golf balls become a regular occurrence. It was so violent I found myself in supermarket queues with blood soaked pants, wishing for the ground to swallow me up. Gushes of blood became so normal I started not leaving the house for longer than half-hour blocks, too nervous of a repeat performance. Over a five-hour period, I’d change my tampon, and accompanying maxi pad, five times. It continued like this for two weeks.
I do count myself lucky, as I work from home and have a supportive husband. What about the women who don’t have a support network? What about the women who have to stand for long hours for their job? The ones who have to take public transport to and from work and school, who sit there squirming in their seat? The ones who can't be seen rushing to the toilet every hour, or else their pay is docked and awkward questions asked?
What disturbs me the most was that I couldn’t get any explanation about my body's response to the Mirena's removal. The doctors I asked had no answers, and the official websites didn’t either. I’ve since been contacted by many women throughout the world who have experienced the same as me – when searching for information they’d stumbled across a post on my blog about it, which helped them know they weren’t alone.
Since its removal, my whole demeanour has changed. Instantly, I felt less anxious. The heart palpitations stopped. I stopped craving food with such ferocity. The pimples haven’t stopped and I’ve struggled to lose the weight I put on, but I feel better.
For some people, the Mirena is life changing – in a good way. But in my personal experience, it was a complete disaster from start to finish. I just wish that for everyone thinking about it, there was more information.
Have you tried the Mirena IUD? What was your experience with it? Comment below.