Most women have used birth control at some point in their lives, yet somehow it continues to be a taboo subject. Social media platforms avoid adverts that discuss birth control in ‘non-clinical terms’, or it is discussed like it’s a luxury item rather than basic health care. Here’s the thing about taboos, they make it easier for myths to spread and harder to get accurate information. Having accurate information about birth control is crucial for a woman to take charge of her sexual health, and to ensure that she makes informed decisions.
When it comes to choosing your birth control, it’s always a little complicated. There are so many different options to consider, all of which have different pros and cons. While you should always listen to what your doctors suggests for what they think is best for you, it’s always nice to hear someone else’s experience with birth control — whether they’ve experienced some of the side effects you fear, or to help you by totally recommending it. I will be sharing my experience on the different birth controls I have tried.
My first experience with birth control was the injection: Depo-Provera. It is given as an injection every three months. I hated this birth control, probably the worst of all the ones I have tried. I experienced all the side effects you can think of; mood swings, weight gain, depression, a change in sexual drive and interest, irregular periods, you name it, I experienced it, within a space of 3 months. As you can imagine, I only got the shot once and never went again.
After having a discussion with my doctor, she recommended that I switch to Noristerat – a contraceptive that is injected into the muscle of the butt. Noristerat will continuously release progestin into your bloodstream over a period of eight weeks. I did not like this one either, the side effects were not as severe as the Depo-Provera, however, they were the same, so I did not repeat this one either. That was the end of my journey with birth control injections, and I thought it was it for me, I didn’t think I’d try any form of contraception ever again (except the condom of course), but, the injections messed up my cycle so much that my doctor prescribed the pill.
I got prescribed the pill to regulate my period, which was incredibly irregular and sporadic, it also didn’t hurt that this meant that I did not have to worry about pregnancy, so it was a win win situation. I really cannot fault the pill, I didn’t have any terrible side effects, and I also loved the fact that I could use them to skip having a period altogether by just starting a new pack, instead of taking the placebos for 7 days, which was really great for me, considering I have the worst case of menstrual cramps. The only thing that I didn’t like about the pill was the fact that I had to take them daily, at the same time, which was a real nuisance.
Hormonal IUD: Mirena
Let’s talk about the star of this entry, the real reason you are most probably reading this post. I have been on this birth control for 8 months now. I was searching for something that didn’t require me to remember every day, but also did not have any horrible side effects. So, I had a chat with my gynaecologist, and I was seriously considering the copper non-hormonal IUD, since I really did not want anything to mess with my hormones again, but, because of my severe menstrual cramps, my doctor advised against it, she said the non-hormonal IUD might actually make them worse, so instead, she recommended the hormonal IUD, Mirena.
Before the insertion, she said that she had to make sure I had no infections with a pelvic exam and a pap smear test. The results of my pap smear test came back, and my doctor informed me that I needed a hysteroscopy & a colposcopy, to examine possible anomalies of the neck of my uterus. The hysteroscopy & colposcopy are primarily executed to prevent and diagnose cervical cancer early. Anyway, that happened, and I am fine, I don’t have any cancer, thank goodness. I will be addressing the questions I have been frequently asked below.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Did you experience any side effects?
Yes, I did, mild cramps. They come and go, the most annoying thing is that they are random, and they don’t happen only when I am about to have my period. Sometimes I will have just a sharp pain and then it’ll disappear again. I also barely have a period now, my period was 4 days after the pill regulated it, now since the Mirena, 1 day is enough, sometimes it’ll just be spotting and that’s it.
Was the insertion painful?
I honestly don’t know, I was unconscious when mine was inserted, so I cannot say. However, through my research, I have found out that some people say they experienced mild discomfort and that it was more like period pains. This is also dependent on your tolerance, so perhaps ask your doctor if you can take painkillers about an hour before your procedure.
Did you gain any weight?
Yes, I did, but Mirena had nothing to do with it 🤣🤣🤣, that was all mjolo. Although, I am on a weight loss journey, and I am one person who doesn’t struggle to lose weight when I am consistent, so, I will be monitoring if my weight loss is slower now since getting Mirena, compared to how quickly I used to lose weight prior to getting it, I will give an update in a few months.
Does it help with decreasing/minimizing period pains?
Absolutely, since I barely have no period, I barely experience period pains now. Although I will say, the first 3 months were unpleasant, I had cramps consistently, they would disappear for a day or 2 and then come back. Now, the annoying this is the random cramps, but compared to the kind of period pains I used to experience, the cramps are mild at best. (This is obviously subjective.)
Did your period flow/cycle change?
Drastically. Like I mentioned, I barely get a period lately. The first 2-3 months, my period was still normal, but after that, I would be on my period for a day max, sometimes I wouldn’t even get my period at all, and then sometimes it’ll just be spotting. It can get frustrating not knowing when to expect your period, or even to expect it at all.
How long after removing it can you fall pregnant?
Each person is different, but my doctor said that it takes about 6 months to a year after removing it to conceive. (Something I don’t plan on doing anytime soon, if ever.) This is also affected by fertility, so there’s really no way of knowing for sure.
Till what age can you have it?
The device itself lasts up to 5 years, so you have to replace it every 5 years. Obstetricians & Gynaecologists recommend removal of IUDs between the ages of 50 and 55. There is no reliable test for menopause when a hormonal IUD is in place, so you must work out a “best guess” with your doctor on this one.
Does it move/slip out?
Nope. I have never felt it move or slip out. I don’t feel it at all, unless I insert my finger down there searching for it (which is recommended that you do once a month to ensure that it is still in place). My doctor did warn me that it is a possibility, but thankfully that has not happened to me. The only time I am reminded I have it, is when the random cramps pay me a visit, otherwise I forget that it’s there.
Any random bleeding?
In the beginning, I did have random spotting a couple of times a week. That lasted about 2-3 months. I still get the random spotting, but like once a month, if at all.
How long does the fitting take?
Well I was unconscious for my procedure, so I cannot say for sure, but my doctor told me that preparations for the fitting usually take about 5 to 10 minutes and the actual fitting of the device will usually take about 5 minutes.
Do you need to have Mirena checked regularly by your doctor?
Yes, I got it checked the first time 4 weeks after the insertion, and I must go again at 12 months. Thereafter, I will be getting it checked once a year when I go for my regular yearly maintenance, unless there’s a reason for me to go get it checked.
Can you use tampons?
Yes, you can. Tampons will not change the position or effectiveness of it. However, ensure that you are careful when you change your tampons and you don’t accidentally pull the strings. I personally use the menstrual cup, but more or less the same principles apply.
How much was the procedure?
There was the initial consultation fee, the price of the Mirena device itself, and the fee for the insertion. My doctor’s consultation fee was R1500 at the time (this was August 2019), she wrote me a prescription and I went to the pharmacy to get it, it was R3000, and since I already had a procedure scheduled the day I got it inserted, she did not charge me to insert it, she just claimed for the hysteroscopy & a colposcopy from my medical aid.
My medical aid covered the consultation fee and the procedure, but I had to pay for the device myself. I suggest you call your medical aid and find out if they cover it if you are considering it.
It is also important to note that places like Marie Stopes offer services like this one at a much lower cost, so do your research before paying more than you need to.
Would you recommend it?
Keep in mind that you may have a different experience to mine, as with any birth control. The best way to know which works for you, is through trial and error, unfortunately, so I can’t say it’ll work for you, just because it is working for me.
Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!
Do you need to use condoms after Mirena is fitted?
YES! It does not protect you against STIs and STDs, you need to condomise to protect yourself. I am a huge advocate for safe and consensual sex between adults.
Can your partner feel it during coitus?
This was the most asked question I got. I have heard stories of people saying their partners could feel it and it was uncomfortable, but I honestly do not have that problem. My doctor told me that she cut the string to the shortest length possible for that very reason.
Can you feel it during coitus?
No, I cannot, although I will say, certain positions started being painful or uncomfortable after I had it inserted, positions I had no issue with, prior to getting it. So, it’s a tricky one.
How long should you wait to have sexual intercourse after the insertion?
It provides immediate protection against pregnancy if it is fitted as recommended within seven days of the beginning of your period, but most doctors recommend you wait at least 24 hours before you get down and dirty. However, since I was having another procedure besides the insertion, I had to wait 6 weeks (yikes).
Has your sex life changed in any way since getting it?
Yes, like I mentioned, certain positions are now painful or uncomfortable, but that just gives my partner and I more room for creativity (hehehe).
Did it affect your libido?
My sex drive could never be considered low, in the classic sense of the term. I’ve always been highly sexual, randy, in fact, insatiable, even. So, when I switched to an IUD, I was worried about what was going to happen to me. The first 2 to 3 weeks, post insertion, I was not down for coitus. I felt super gross and uncomfortable. But once the symptoms subsided, I was pleased to find that IT. WAS. ON.
That’s it folks! It has been quite an eventful journey, and I am hoping that it goes well for the next 5 years. I hope you enjoyed reading this. Let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them.
Stay home & Stay Safe.
xoxo, Refiloe 💕