My Birth Control Almost Killed Me

Not carrying these around is the greatest. Source: Shutterstock

Not carrying these around is the greatest. Source: Shutterstock

When I saw this news about a new IUD designed for young women, I was so excited! And partly mad that it didn’t come out four years ago so I could have avoided a world of trouble.

An IUD or “intrauterine device” is a birth control that contains either copper or progesterone and is inserted into your uterus for anywhere from 3-5 years. This new one is called Skyla, and it’s a low-dose IUD that prevents pregnancy for up to three years. Skyla is smaller than the other IUDs out there, and it was designed with young women in mind.

When I was eighteen, I suffered from a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lung. And it’s exactly as terrifying as it sounds. I was fortunately home from college for winter break. I woke up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe and with a searing pain in my back. I crawled my way toward my parents’ room, and my brother found me on the floor.

I spent a week in the hospital doped up on Morphine and being prodded with needles and IVs. The doctors said had we arrived an hour later, the clot would have broken apart and traveled to my heart or brain, which could have killed me. I can easily say this as the worst week of my life.

I was able to go back to school, but I was very ill. I had marks on my arms from constant blood tests (2-3 a week) to monitor my blood thinners. I was medicated for eight months and my doctors were still trying to figure out why this happened to someone my age.

After countless tests, my doctors concluded that my blueberry-sized clot was a direct result of my birth control, Yaz. Blood clots are a side effect of most birth control pills, as estrogen is a blood-thickening agent. But they’re really not that common (so don’t totally flip out, ok?) and they’re normally more of a concern for women over 30 and smokers. You’ve seen the lawsuit commercials about Yaz and blood clots, I’m sure. And I’m involved in one of those. The entire experience was scary and really hard to accept. Here I was, young and healthy, and then I all of a sudden wasn’t.

From that point forward, I wasn’t allowed to be on regular birth control. I could take mini-pills under strict watch of my gyno, but I had really awful periods. I had paralyzing cramps, serious irregularity, migraines and all that fun stuff, which is why I started birth control in the first place. I had switched to Yaz per a recommendation from my dermatologist since I was struggling with acne. Yaz was supposed to be this miracle birth control for me that cleared up my acne, help with my period issues and kept me baby-free. Obviously, it wasn’t.

The mini-pills were rough for me. They’re progestin-only, which means they don’t control the hormonal effects of your period. They strictly deal with the not having babies thing. Progestin is funky and affects all women differently. For me, it meant getting my period every other week. I hated everything. I was sick of feeling awful, so I stopped taking the mini-pills and was birth control free for a year.

This is where the Mirena IUD came in. I couldn’t get an IUD at eighteen because quite simply it didn’t fit. IUDs aren’t large by any means, but they don’t fit in the small uteruses (uteri?) of young women. They’re really made for adult women who’ve already had a child, and that wasn’t me. So my gyno told me to give it a few years, and I finally got Mirena last summer. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me. I don’t feel crazy, I don’t have mood swings, I don’t have a period. Oh, and I don’t get pregnant.

Having an IUD has changed my life, and I really wish Skyla was an option for me years ago. Not only did I suffer from some of the worst menstrual side effects, but my regular birth control almost killed me. I was so lucky, and I’m so fortunate that I can discuss these issues with you now.

If an IUD is something you’re interested in, start the conversation with your doctor. Don’t think that just because you’re young that you shouldn’t have one. They can be safe for teens, especially now with the introduction of Skyla. Do some research, ask questions, chat with your mom, talk to me.

What do you think about IUDs? Do you have one? Are you worried about getting one? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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23 Comments

  1. avatarSW says:

    I got a Skyla IUD inserted last week (8 days ago) and am still feeling constant mild cramps and nausea.

    When I got the IUD inserted it was ‘painful’ but felt like sever cramps which I get every month (most of the time to passing out anyways). I was not able to drive after the insertion because of the cramps. I would recommend you have someone pick you up afterwards. I also have low blood pressure so my body is more inclined to pass out on me so that may be why I was more crampy and light headed afterwards. Like everyone is saying it is different for every woman.

    I actually was freaking myself out this morning due to the constant mild cramping and nausea that I took a pregnancy test. Not pregnant (thank god). But I thought perhaps I got pregnant before insertion.

    Anyways, I am planning on giving my body a few more days to get used to the IUD and see if the cramping goes away. If not I will be contacting my doc to see if there is anything wrong.

    Overall, the insertion was not THAT bad. Few seconds of discomfort, followed by intense cramping (take pain relievers before hand). If this thing truly prevents pregnancy for 3 years I think it will be well worth it.

  2. avatarJanet says:

    Hi, just for those reading this post and all the horror stories out there, I recently got the Skyla, I am 27 with no children, and everything is going smoothly for me. First off, due to the ACA it’s free which is wonderful as just a few months ago it would have been $800. I took two ibuprofen before hand, during the procedure the doctor told me I had a very small cervix so they had to dilate it again which is the worst part pain-wise. It did hurt as it is a procedure but honestly my tattoo hurt worse and the pain only lasted for me for 5 mins then it was just like a heavy flow cramping day. I didn’t feel any dizziness/nausea and I easily drove myself home (I sail though so I may have good “sea legs”). I worked from home that day but returned to work the next day with light cramping and bleeding for a week. Now I’m feeling fine, I also worked out for the first time 3 days after and took it easy but had no problems. I will update if there are any changes, I just wanted to show a positive example since most of us only post online when something has gone wrong.

  3. avatarNicole says:

    Has anyone been on Skyla for longer than a year? I had the Mirena IUD and thought I really liked it except for the fact that I started to lose interest in sex. I guess that’s one form of birth control, just not have it. I had the Mirena in for the full 5 years, I thought it was just me not the IUD. Once I had it removed and its been out of my system now for about a year, I actually feel normal again and want to have sex again. Where for awhile it was feeling like a chore. I would be interested in the Skyla, but it is the same hormones as Mirena which has me worried that this might just be the same deal, just smaller and less time in. If anyone else has used Skyla for a longer period of time and could share their experience it would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise I may just look into Paraguard.

  4. avatarGrace says:

    I’m so happy I found a thread where people are discussing Skyla as opposed to Mirena. I just had mine inserted today. I wasn’t aware that you were supposed to be on your period when you go to get it in, but they were able to insert it. It is painful (I’ve never had a pap so I wasn’t really prepared for what it was going to feel like). The real pain only last a second. I cramped pretty badly for about 10 minutes, but then was able to drive and am now only cramping a little bit (like normal period cramps). I am spotting, and I’m really nervous about how long bleeding/spotting is going to last. Can anyone else that has had it for a little while tell me their experiences with that?

  5. avatarkelli says:

    Hi! I noticed you said something about being on the pill for acne… How has Mirena affected your acne now?

  6. avatarAlyssa Ruberto says:

    Hey! I just got the Skyla inserted yesterday. Although I went into this with an open mind, I am now feeling nervous. I asked plenty of questions and felt knowledgeable enough about the whole thing, but now I keep googling horror stories where women get PID or whatever else and I’m psyching myself out. Maybe it’s because my experience with insertion wasn’t the greatest. I was in a lot of pain and had very bad cramps during the experience. I feel alright now; I only have mild cramps but hardly anything I even need Advil for. Nonetheless, I’m becoming a hypochondriac! Any weird pain is suddenly attributed to this IUD I have inside me.

    I want to ask you what your initial week or so was like with the Mirena. Did you have any discomfort, physically or mentally? I know Mirena and Skyla are made by the same company and are very similar, except for size. I just need some reassurance!

    • avatarCaitlin Corsetti says:

      Hi Alyssa, I’m sorry you’re not feeling well! When I got Mirena, I did have a lot of discomfort for the first few days and cramped for about two weeks. It wasn’t fun, but it’s not abnormal. Try not to look too much into it because you’re psyching yourself out. If you’re experiencing extreme discomfort, call your doctor!

    • avatarSarah Pierce says:

      Hi ! I read your comments and just wanted to give you some assurances with my own personal experience with Skyla.
      I had the Skyla IUD inserted on June 2, 2013. I’ve never had any children or been pregnant and have a history of Endometriosis, or tissue (the same tissue your body expels when you have a monthly period) growing on the outside of my uterus, my fallopian tubes, and around my ovaries. Having Endometriosis caused me to experience severe cramping and back aches due to my muscles contracting harder to try to get rid of the extra tissue my body creates. Two weeks of the month I could hardly get up the strength to get out of bed and survived with only pain killers.

      Previous to my introduction to Skyla, my gyno had me on Loestrine FE, a once a day pill birth control that also provided iron for my anemia, but also having ADD I had issues remembering to take it at the same time every day. Right before my switch to Skyla, they had me try another oral contraceptive called LoLoestrine, a lower hormone dose of the same pill that wouldn’t effect my skin and would give me a shorter 3 day period as opposed to the Loestrine FE 5 day period.

      FINALLY, Skyla was introduced! The actual insertion was painful for me as well. I had issues driving and immediately had to take a couple of aleve. My body began shaking (probably from shock) but after the insertion device was removed the pain was bearable. It felt like normal cramps (which for me, are usually very painful). The next week or so I had minor dull aches and laying on my side caused a slight pinching sensation, but nothing I had to take pain medication for.

      About two weeks after my insertion, I began to bleed, not heavily and nowhere near the amount of a normal period which are usually very heavy for me due to the Endometriosis. I continued bleeding every day, sometimes not the entire day and sometimes from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed. This continued for TWO MONTHS! I called my doctor and he assured me that the long term bleeding was very normal and sometimes it could take up to four months for your body to get used to the new hormones. Thank goodness mine stopped after two lol. I have now had the Skyla for 9 months, and since the initial bleeding, I’ve only had 3 very light (almost never have to use tampons or pads) periods. There is only occasional cramping and it is generally only on the left side, but it is exponentially reduced from what I had been experiencing. I occasionally have slight discomfort during sex if the penetration is too deep and hits my cervix, but nothing that makes me have to stop and take a break. My fiance did comment that the removal strings feel like broom bristles lol. But I can honestly 100% tell you that I love this IUD. On June 2 of this year, I will be going to my doctor to have him perform another ultrasound just to put my mind at rest and ensure that the IUD is in the correct position and that it hasn’t caused any damage, because believe me, the worries you’re having are in the backs of every woman who has an IUD. If you feel nervous or you feel as though something isn’t right, call your gyno and ask them to do an ultrasound, just to check. I promise they won’t think you’re weird. Good luck girly! I hope you love it as much as I do!

  7. avatarAshlie Nikole says:

    Hi. I got my skyla put in 4/30/2013. After 7 months I have to say my period and cramps are worse. When I first got it inserted I was so much pain I wouldn’t drive home. My boyfriend had to come get. My period was the worst one ever. It is now 7 months and my doctor said I should be having terrible cramps or a period but i get the once a month for 10 days which is my longest period. I like because I am horrible about taking pills and don’t wanna forget to take a pill and happen to get pregnant. However this period stuff isn’t for me. Idk what I should do. I don’t wanna take it and get pregnant but I don’t wanna leave it in and have terrible periods. Can someone give me some good advice. I’m 21 and and sexually active with my other half of 3 years.

    • avatarCaitlin Corsetti says:

      Hi Ashlie, honestly the best thing to do is speak with your doctor. Some women do have issues with IUDs so it may not be for you.

  8. avatarLogan Sutton says:

    How can I get in contact with the author of this article?

  9. avatarBrittany says:

    I got my Skyla 01/10/2013 and I am feeling a little better but still having some cramping. It hurts really bad. I have to go back to work tomorrow so I’m hoping I can make it through. Does anyone know how soon you can work out because I’m thinking that will help me with my cramps. I don’t want to tare anything. So if someone knows any info on that, I would greatly appreciate it.

    • avatarCaitlin Corsetti says:

      Hi Brittany, when I got Mirena, I was cramping for a while. Your body is figuring out what Skyla is, and the Skyla is trying to figure out where it wants to settle. Cramping is normal with IUDs right after insertion. I would ask your doctor about working out so soon.

  10. avatarSandra says:

    I recently got Skyla. I have a fear of doctor’s offices, and I’m a big baby when it comes to anything medical, but for various reasons I decided to go with an IUD after years of being on the pill. The actual insertion was extremely unpleasant. I rarely get cramps, so I was not at all prepared for the excruciating cramping pain I felt in my uterus. It felt like someone stabbed me up there, probably b/c that was essentially what happened–once during the measurement, a second time for actual insertion. The whole procedure was short–less than 10 minutes, and it was only a total of about one minute of terrible pain. I did cry a little, but again, being at the doc’s is my great fear, so it was probably a psychological response rather than a physical one. After insertion, however, my body went into shock, and I felt very light headed as if I was going to faint. The nurse said that this happens sometimes to women who haven’t given birth because the body isn’t used to having something in the uterus. I had to lay down in the doctor’s office for about 40 minutes. I ate crackers and drank soda, and popped some ibuprofen, and eventually I felt alright. I went right back to work, and by the time I was back at my office, I felt completely fine. No other pain or cramping since then. Just a little light spotting. I love the thought of not having to remember to take a pill anymore! Assuming Skyla doesn’t give me bad acne or cause significant weight gain, I’d say the one hour of discomfort is worth it!

  11. avatarVictoria says:

    I had Skyla inserted today and it was uncomfortable for maybe 30 seconds. I’ve had a tiny bit of cramping today but they hurt less then normal period cramps. So far so good!

  12. avatarseafoam says:

    i got mine yesterday, just have to say….

    it hurts pretty bad. I was supposed to take a train out of town today…AS IF!!

    How about rolling around crying on the floor instead?

    Sleeping for endless hours to avoid being conscious….

    Get some heavy pain killers and take ibuprofen as an inflammatory….

    the hole in the uterus gets stretched and it hurts pretty bad, even if it is the smaller size mean for women who have never been pregnant.

    • avatarseafoam says:

      LOST MY FALLOPIAN TUBE, POSSIBLY INFERTILE

      The pain before never went away… IT GOT WORSE. Eventually I couldn’t walk and horrible problems peeing. I went to the ER that sunday night and they performed a LAPAROTOMY aka “Bikini Cut” which is a large invasive surgery. I had a grapefruit sized abcess in my abdomen and pus in my uterus. A doctor told me I had a 50% of losing my ovary and fallopian tube. I was lucky and still have both ovaries.

      I was told I had PID, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and that it was because I had an STD of Gonorrhea or Chylamedia.

      I don’t have any STDS, all my tests were negative and they are dna based so it doesn’t get much more accurate. While STDS are the usual cause of PID, I think it is pretty unacceptable to tell someone they have one without looking at a test result.

      (i wasn’t planning on getting it…i went in for a normal check up and my doctor sprung it on me and when i said I’m scared and theres no rush said lets do it now probably wont get the gumption to come back)

    • avatarBrittany says:

      I felt the same way but it was hard to sleep because no position was comfortable.

  13. avatarsquish says:

    I went to get the skyla today. My cervix is just too small. I have never been in so much pain in my life. The doctor couldn’t even get it in. Next week i’m going in to get Implanon/Nexplanon implant. Hopefully that won’t hurt as bad.

  14. avatarMarissa says:

    I am 25 and had Mirena put in last November. I have never had children, did all my research, asked a ton of questions before having it, read the reviews but decided those were just bad cases. Well I had so much pain with insertion and the cramping lasted over a week so they ran a sonogram to check the IUD. They told me it was “sitting low” and it should be fine. A few days later I felt the strings way lower then what they should be and felt the IUD with my fingers falling out. So I hardly tugged and was in so much pain I couldn’t stand up straight and was rushed to the ER. Sure enough they told me it was stabbing into the walls of my uterus and vaginal canal….. Months later I found a new gyno and told her the story and she told me she is 100% positive that my iud had been placed incorrectly. And when your body rejects it that it shouldn’t hurt and insertion shouldn’t hurt either. She said I should’ve been given a pill that goes into the vaginalol to soften the tissue to make insertion less painful. She is now recommending Skyla and I am terrified to give it another chance. In the midst of all that they found a tennis ball sized cyst on my ovary probably not from the iud but while having it removed they found endometriosis as well. After being on every pill, the patch the ring and having a horrible experience with Mirena I am so scared to go back to an iud but I am considering Skyla since it is for women with no children and a younger target demographic. Hoping this time goes better. But hesitant. Luckily I found an amazing doctor this time. I should sue the other one! Lol

  15. avatarLaurel says:

    I have my annual gyno apt this next Tuesday (3/19/13) and I was going to bring up the IUD idea to my doc. Mirena seemed to be right up my ally, but the only thing holding me back was the reviews about acne. I had pretty severe acne and was put on Accutane (a balls to the wall form of acne medication that is so intense you need pregnancy tests and observation by the FDA every month that you are on it) for almost a year. My acne cleared up significantly from it, but I still have breakouts :( Mirena reviews have said over and over that it causes acne – which scares me to death, because I had it so bad, and still have it now, so I don’t want to go on something that is going to make my bad worse.
    I have looked up Skyla and acne and found nothing, probably because its fresh on the market. Because its lower in hormones than Mirena, do you think it would be better for me and my skin? Seeing that the traits for both are nearly the same – except the hormone levels and expiration date, I don’t prefer one over the other, except for the acne factor…

    Thank you!

  16. avatarHope says:

    I’m so glad that they’ve come out with that option for younger women! I’ll have to look into that myself. I have irregular periods myself, migraines and terrible cramps. I am on my 5th different birth control to try to ‘regulate’ and make it tolerable. Yaz was not a success for me either, I just never stopped bleeding when I was on it.

    Good luck to anyone who is able to try Skyla!

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