I’m a 22-year-old virgin. I have suffered from excruciating period pain for as long as I can remember and my OB/GYN has tried every birth control pill under the sun and nothing has worked. I’ve also tried Ibuprofen, Advil, and Midol, a heating pad, and exercise and none of them help. Next month I have an appointment with my OB/GYN to discuss getting an IUD. I have done my research and I know what type of IUD I think would be a good fit for me. However, I am very scared and nervous about the pain associated with the insertion process. Is there any advice you can give me about what really happens during insertion? Is inserting an IUD really that painful? I’m scared because of horror stories I’ve heard but I want to know. Please tell me the truth!
You are definitely not the only one in this position – there are a lot of girls out there who are interested in an IUD, but they’re worried about dealing with pain in the beginning. I personally do not have an IUD, but from the research I’ve done, I feel pretty confident in saying that the insertion process of an IUD is probably the biggest negative side effect of the birth control method. And, since it still feels newer and less common than the Pill, it can be hard to get really answers from people.
The annoying truth is that the IUD insertion process is different for everyone. This will become clear the moment you Google the question “is inserting an IUD painful?” Just like so many other health-related issues out there, your experience will depend on your body and your reaction. For example: I have two friends who have gotten an IUD inserted. One friend swears it was a piece of cake. She said it wasn’t painful, it didn’t bother her, and she loves having it so much more than the Pill. The other friend hated it and had a terrible experience. She was in a lot of pain for a long time, so much so that she ended up having it removed completely. See? Two completely different stories that equal… well, not a lot of helpful information.
So, how do you know if the pain will happen to you or not? Well, the frustrating thing is that you don’t know. There are no signs that insertion will be more or less painful for you, and there’s not much to do to try to prevent possible pain. Some people recommend taking painkillers beforehand, which definitely can’t hurt. According to Bedsider, insertion can be more painful if your cervix is closed, so you should try to schedule the insertion appointment when your cervix is naturally open, which can happen during your period and during ovulation. Doctors can also give you medication or numbing medication to help with the whole process.
If you do feel pain, then what can you expect to feel? According to Planned Parenthood, most people feel the pain of menstrual cramps, while some people report feeling dizzy or faint. In this article in Cosmopolitan, one women describes the pain as intense but brief, similar to a pap smear, while another woman says, “It felt like someone was shocking my cervix with a taser.” Most of the women, however, say the pain was only bad for a few moments, one woman summing up her experience in a very relatable way: “The fear was serial-killer-in-the-house bad, but the insertion was just a pinch.” One woman wrote about her experience for Glamour, saying she did breathing exercises as if she were going through labor, which seemed to help a bit. This woman also said the pain was bad in the moment, but worth it in the end. As for afterwards? In one of our articles about insertion, one woman says, “You will likely have cramps now and then over the next week too, but mine weren’t any worse than normal period cramps.”
As you can see, there are so many different ways this could play out. If an IUD feels like your best option, then it very well might be worth trying. It sounds like you will feel some pain, but in the best case scenario, it will be very quick. It’s something you should absolutely discuss with your gynecologist, as they will be able to help you better since they know your body better. But here’s the deal: the brief pain of IUD insertion might be worth it if it eventually helps more in the long run. It’s your body, and it’s totally up to you! Just try to manage your expectations and make the most clear decision possible.
What’s on your mind? Heather can help! Send her your question at firstname.lastname@example.org