Hi beauties! Very personal post today. As you may have seen on my Instagram, I visited the Emergency Room (ER) in the beginning of August. I questioned if this was something you would want to read about, so I polled my Instagram family. 49 people indicated “what happened?”. Remarkably, zero people answered “nope don’t care”. Thank you for your support. I hope sharing my experience helps other womxn determine if a hormonal IUD is right for them.
The short answer is I’m OK and mostly pain free now! Unfortunately, the doctors do not know why I was in excruciating pain. Their best guess was an ovarian cyst ruptured near my appendix. This was not too surprising. I actually have a history of ovarian cysts since 2017, the same year my IUD was inserted. IUD means intrauterine device.
Zooming to the ER
Early August, I’m on a Zoom call for work and suddenly I have a sharp consistent pain in my abdomen. Thinking maybe it is a cramp from dehydration, I hobbled over to the kitchen for water. I tell my boyfriend/roommate I do not feel well and fall to my knees. The pain was crippling and it hurt to stand. I was freaking myself out, and began to feel like a panic attack was coming on.
Then, my boyfriend jumped off his call and eased me onto our couch to see if the pain lessened. He also offered a hot compress to see if that helped ease the pain, sadly it did not. Usually this is my go-to.
Next, I called my mom because when all else fails you call your OG caretakers even as an adult, right? She urged me to call my doctor who then instructed me to go to the ER as I was doing deep breathing just to make the words audible for the doctor.
At the hospital
My saintly boyfriend then helped me pack my work bag fully anticipating a long wait in the ER.
To my surprise, no one was in the ER waiting room. I was seen within five minutes after giving my information and paying the $250 ER co-pay.
After numerous evaluations, vitals, internal and external ultrasounds, a CT scan and two pee tests the doctor determined my appendix was fine. Though an ovarian cyst had likely ruptured causing my 40-minute episode of pain.
I learned determining if your appendix ruptured is a lot harder than portrayed in some movies and TV shows. I also learned my appendix is near my right hip bone, only took 27 years!
What I wish I knew about IUDs before having one.
In 2017, about six months after I had the IUD inserted I had my first ovarian cyst – it was tumorous. I soon discovered how common these cysts are for women. Nearly every friend I confide in knows someone or had first hand experience with one of the four types of ovarian cysts. Did any of these women use an IUD? Yes, most of them did.
Which leads me to the educational part of this post: WHY DID MY GYNECOLOGIST AND OTHER’S NOT WARN OVARIAN CYSTS WERE A COMMON SIDE AFFECT OF IUDS? 60% of womxn with IUDS do not have their period. Basically we’re backed-up forming the cyst until it releases like a spotting or it ruptures.
Would I have switched from birth control to an IUD had I known this risk? Or that the acne symptom is commonly painful cystic hormonal acne on your jawline? Probably not but I did in 2017 for a few reasons.
Why I switched from birth control pills to an IUD:
Originally, I was afraid the Trump administration was going to restrict womxm’s rights to birth control. I wanted control over my body and my rights during his four year presidency. Typically an IUD can last at least five years and potentially longer if your gynecologist says it’s still OK. I also HATED that every month an empty package of plastic and aluminum was trash bound. Plus taking the pill (generally) at the same time everyday is just hard as my schedule varies greatly.
Perks of an IUD:
In my experience, the two perks of an IUD are not having my period* and controlling if/when I have babies. With an IUD you are very, very unlikely to become pregnant for three to six years. If anything, I receive my period like a spotting so I’m spending less money on tampons and ruining less undies! I have not tried a period cup yet, not even sure they existed in 2017.
*It is important to note, all womxn do not experience no periods with a hormonal IUD. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
- “The mucus in the cervix thickens, making it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize an egg.
- They stop ovulation, but they do not do so consistently. About 40% of women who use progestin-only pills will continue to ovulate.”
Types of IUDs:
There are two types of IUDs. Hormonal, like Mirena, Kyleena and Skyla, and non-hormonal like, Paragard. I chose the hormonal Mirena over the copper Paragard option. The copper option can cause you to bleed more than usual. As someone that use to go through tampons like out of the oven cookies I was not interested. The copper also lasts 10-12 years compared to the Mirena that can stay inserted 3-6+ years.
What your gynecologist may not tell you.
If you develop one of the four types of ovarian cysts every three months you may have to have internal and external ultra-sounds. I did for 1.5 years. That’s a lot of doctors appointments and time off of work. I had a tumor size cyst on one ovary and a smaller non-tumorous cyst on my other ovary. The doctor said if the tumor size cyst continued to grow the next three months, I would need surgery. This surgery could also result in fertility issues down the road.
I’ve always imagined having kids so the news was quite sobering. Thankfully that never happened as the cyst passed, meaning it released and likely appeared like a spotting period would. Those three months were really hard and have stayed with me.
The hormones in the Mirena IUD are the OPPOSITE of birth control, progestin versus estrogen. A progestin is a synthetic progestogen hormone which structurally is closer to testosterone than estrogen. Progestogen and sebum (oil) levels are inversely correlated with testosterone. This explains why hormonal acne, in my case cystic, occurred when I switched to a Mirena.
Keep or remove the IUD?
My holistic dermatologist linked the timing of the insertion of my IUD to the cause of my cystic acne. Am I going to have my IUD removed prematurely? Although I am waiting to see my gynecologist to discuss further, I am 90% certain I will have it removed.
I’m not a doctor, just sharing my experience in hopes that it helps other womxn determine if an IUD is right for them. Or maybe help explain why cystic acne and ovarian cysts are suddenly occurring after you insert an IUD.
Update: OBGY Nurse Practitioner recommended I remove my IUD
COVID doctor appointments are funny. I had a virtual video call with a Nurse Practitioner in the OBGY department. After describing my experience, she said it makes total sense to remove the IUD. She continued to say, it works for some people, and others it does not. She even confirmed that so many womxm rushed to have IUDs put in when the Trump administration threatened our access to birth control. Sadly, I learned many womxn like myself were less happy with their IUD then their previous birth control. Maybe we asked too few questions? Though I’m guessing it was a combination, the latter and lack of communication of how our bodies could respond to this foreign object.
You may be thinking, did it hurt to have your IUD removed? Thankfully my IUD was not growing into my uterine wall so it did not hurt coming out! I cannot same the same for a friend who said it was much more painful than inserting the IUD. Why does having the IUD inserted hurt? Well they shoot it into your uterus to prevent sperm from impregnating you so it took my breath away how quick and intense the pain was and left me achy for a couple weeks. Sitting in my work chair or in the car was SO painful, not including moving around for my yoga teacher training in 2017! Brilliant timing, I know. I have never been known to be a patient lady!
Okay, back to the IUD removal process. The same nurse practitioner that I spoke with on the phone earlier in the week located my IUD string and then had me inhale one big breath and boom she pulled it out with a tool. I could not feel it come out at all. I do not think the three Advils beforehand were necessary but oh well at least they were being precautionary.
What is is like switching from an IUD to the pill?
What birth control am I on now? I am back on my old birth control! Am I good about taking the pill every day? No, and when I do it’s not usually at the same time either. I also will note you need to wear contraception for the first couple weeks or obtain. #NogloveNolove
I have been MOODY! Actually, I have been much more irritable then I remember on the pill, though it makes sense because my hormones are switching. It does not help I am forgetting to be consistent about taking it so I am doing my body ZERO good. Get it together, Moira!
What is it like having your period for the first time in years?
Imagine having your period for the first time in 3.5 years. A lot has changed since then in the period world. Now we have organic tampons, pads, period underwear and now period cups! Thankfully I purchased a Saalt Menstrual Cup before the switch because within two days I needed it. I love that they use medical grade silicone, are a B-Corp and give 2% of their profits back. And I adore that they can be worn for up to 12-hours and used for 10 years. Talk about Sustainable Clean Beauty! They come in two sizes, too! Before my IUD days, my period was very heavy and required super tampons for two days and then regular tampons the next couple of days.
Saalt’s package comes with helpful instructions for how to use them. I tried a few methods before I found one that worked for me. I fold it in half and the twist it when it’s 3/4 of the way in to make sure it fully opens. If it does not, that’s when you experience a leak. I wore red undies to bed the first night which was key because I did not properly twist it open and leaked. Maybe this was TMI, though I (over)share in hopes it helps other womxn.
When you purchase a Seafoam Green Saalt Cup from September 18-24, Saalt will help collect TEN POUNDS of waste from the Pacific Ocean with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii!