• External Contributor

REVIEW: The Mirena IUD

Star Rating: 5/5

Price: 4/5

Product Execution: 4/5

Customer satisfaction: 4.5/5

I, like many others, had some issues with the pill. When I first decided to try the oral contraceptive pill, I took myself to the first bulk billed doctor I found on Google. When I arrived, I told him I was looking to go on the pill. Dutifully, he took his time listing every contraceptive available to me, including their pros and cons. The bar? No thanks, I had heard a story of it popping out of someone’s arm after her body ‘rejected’ it. An IUD? No way, too scary. Nuva ring? Seems like a lot of effort. The depo shot? Also a lot of hassle. Finally he told me about all the pills on the market, and I said “yep, I want one of those.” He prescribed one of the standard ones.

So many options and downsides to all

After a few months with some pretty disconcerting side effects that I will go into another day, and that no woman who has used the pill will be surprised by, I switched my prescription a few times, and ended up deciding it wasn’t really for me. While still on it, I began researching the alternatives. The Mirena IUD piqued my interest and I looked further into it. Pro: It lasts five years once inserted. Con: one’s cervix has to be dilated to do the inserting. Yikes. But five years of not giving a thought to the state of my uterus seemed oh so pleasant. I found an animated video of the insertion process and watched it with my boyfriend. The initial insertion didn’t seem too complicated. The little device goes in as a small, straight line, then fans out into a T shape once in place, with long strings coming out the end. But what I saw next still makes my stomach drop. Once the T is in place, the doctor comes in (literally in, as in comes into your vagina) with a little pair of SCISSORS to snip the strings. FUCK NO. I was done with the IUD idea. I kept dutifully taking my pill at 9am each morning.

A few years later I once again was totally sick of that annoying little pill. It’s so tiny yet so destructive. I looked into the Mirena again, and this time made sure not to watch any animated videos. There were a few horror stories, but for the most part, people seemed to like theirs. I did some more significant research on doctors in my area and found one who specialised in women's and reproductive health. I went to see her for a cervical screening (this is your reminder to get one of those if you're due!) and an initial chat. She explained that her practice was currently being renovated to include a space for Mirena insertions to take place on the premises. She also told me how many IUDs she had inserted, and while I don’t remember the number, it was considerable. She told me all about the process and the IUD itself. I was almost convinced.

My doctor said that most of the horror stories had come from incorrect insertion, not the device itself

A few months later, I returned for another consultation and to make my appointment for the big day. She gave me more information, conducted a thorough investigation of my uterus and surrounds (she did not call it that), and informed me that my cervix is in the prime spot for Mirena insertion (not to brag). She showed me a model uterus (which is so much smaller than I thought it was - only a few centimeters wide and long!) and where the IUD would sit once inserted. I asked questions about everything I thought could possibly go wrong. 1. Can it puncture my uterine wall? 2. Could it travel up into my other organs and flow around my body? 3. Can it get sucked out by a menstrual cup? She patiently answered me in a non-condescending manner. 1. It’s very unlikely. 2. No, it cannot enter your bloodstream. 3. There is no evidence that shows that's possible. I was suitably comforted.

The day eventually came. It was a warm Thursday in September. I awoke to the sound of my alarm, put on my largest, loosest undies and took two ibuprofen as instructed. I took my very last pill. My boyfriend drove me to the doctor and she had me take a pregnancy test (my first ever!) to be sure. Negative. Can you imagine finding out you’re pregnant the morning you’re gearing up for a 99.9% reliable, five-year contraceptive device to be inserted? Yikes. After one last exam to check my cervix was still in prime position (it was), I went into the dedicated IUD room like so many women before me. It should be mentioned, I was absolutely terrified at this point. After getting set up in the stirrups, a nurse came in to talk at me in an (unsuccessful) attempt to distract from the horror show that was about to begin.

I’ll be honest, the insertion wasn’t that bad. It was like a very severe, very concentrated cramp, and it only lasted about 30 seconds. The whole process was uncomfortable, but the lead up to insertion was similar to a cervical screening with the small addition of a numbing shot. I don’t really remember the pain of the shot, so I will deduce it wasn’t as bad as the actual insertion. I would categorise the insertion as feeling less like pain and more like severe discomfort that is more annoying than hurtful. But like extremely annoying. Like a fly buzzing really close to your ear or a toddler asking ‘why?’ whenever you say anything. But the physical equivalent. It was over really quickly, and I was off home before I knew it. I felt a bit odd immediately after, but the discomfort was mild.

The little guy when it belongs. You can get an ultrasound to check it's in place.

I got home around midday, and stayed in bed for the next seven hours. The cramps and pain during the afternoon were worse than the insertion pain, but were made considerably better with a hot water bottle and ibuprofen. Aside from a scary moment two days later when severe cramps popped out of nowhere and I made the incredibly stupid decision to Google-diagnose myself, resulting in a call to the doctor on the verge of tears, and leaving work in a hurry to go and see her (nothing was wrong, the cramping was normal), it’s been pretty smooth sailing. In the weeks that followed insertion, I began feeling more myself than I had in years (I was on the pill for six). I was less likely to react emotionally to stimulus, and aside from a few sneaky jawline pimples, my skin stayed the same. It took a few months of sporadic cramps and random spotting to adjust to my new cycle, but now my periods are few and far between. The only downside is that my cramps are a little more severe than they were on the pill, but the same as they were pre-pill.

I rave about the Mirena to anyone who will listen. The IUD has a decent upfront cost, but when you do the maths on filling a pill prescription every few months, it’s more affordable in the long run. You will have to purchase the Mirena from the pharmacy yourself (don’t be alarmed by the gigantic size of the box - it’s only a little guy), then bring it with you on insertion day. Most doctors will also charge you for the insertion. You can even go under general anaesthetic for the insertion, but it’s a lot more expensive and the recovery will be blown out. I got mine inserted by a GP, but you can also go to a gynecologist. I liked my doctor and was happy to go with her. Gynos are likely to be more expensive and I have been told they cut the string shorter, making it harder to remove when the time comes (or if you change your mind). I should mention, there is always the risk that an IUD won’t agree with you, in which case it will be a bigger hassle to remove than simply ceasing your pill, but stats say you will have a better time with an IUD than oral contraception. In conclusion, I highly recommend this method. If you’ve been considering the Mirena but haven’t bitten the bullet due to the invasive insertion, I maintain it was worth it!