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Why I chose to use IUD contraception

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What's the right contraceptive methodThere are many different factors that every woman has to consider when choosing between the contraceptive birth control options available today. I can only tell you about what led me to make the choice that I reached when I opted for IUD contraception because everyone has to find the solution that best fits her own unique needs and circumstances. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” in a matter as personal as this, so the best I can hope to do in this short piece is to share some basic information, hoping it helps you make the right choice for you.

In my mid-thirties, I received the blessing of a “late arrival” after giving birth to two girls early in my marriage. This one turned out to be a difficult pregnancy that ended in a Cesarean delivery. The doctors all agreed that I needed to be extra careful to avoid another pregnancy for a few years at least. I faced the unpleasant choice of either undergoing a complete hysterectomy, which meant giving up the chance of any further births later down the road, or getting a more effective form of birth control than the various contraceptive methods I had been using. The daily pills, weekly patches, or monthly rings all required careful attention, and I would have been risking perhaps having forgotten to take them on time, with serious potential consequences. 

My gynecologist suggested I consider a device called the Mirena LARC IUD. LARC means long-acting reversible contraceptive, and IUD stands for intrauterine device. The whole concept of a “set-and-forget” method of birth control sounded like the right solution for me. I was familiar with IUDs because I had once before used a somewhat similar form of contraception, which was known as a copper coil. I gave up on the copper coil because of some recurring side effects (persistent abdominal pain and bouts of pelvic inflammatory disease, PID – not fun). But the doctor explained that those side effects were probably specific to my body’s reaction to copper (not uncommon) and that the difference in Mirena was that is a hormonal form of birth control, just like the others I was used to, except that it works to provide continuous contraception for up to five years, without the same side effects—this sounded perfect.

My doctor explained how the Mirena IUD functions. It releases a dose of levonorgestrel, a synthetic version of the female hormone progesterone. This hormone helps prevent pregnancy in a few ways: thickening the cervical mucus, thinning the uterine lining, and slowing down sperm movement. During the monthly cycle, the cervical mucus typically thins and becomes more slippery around ovulation when the body releases an egg. This change usually facilitates sperm movement. However, with levonorgestrel being released steadily by the Mirena IUD, it keeps the mucus thick and sticky, creating a barrier that makes it harder for sperm to travel through and reach the uterus. By blocking this path levonorgestrel reduces the chances of sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg.

Levonorgestrel also impacts the endometrium, the uterine lining. In a cycle, the endometrium thickens to prepare for potential pregnancy to provide a nourishing environment for a fertilized egg to attach and develop. The release of levonorgestrel from Mirena IUD keeps the endometrium thin. A thin uterine lining makes it less conducive to egg implantation.

Progestin affects the movement of sperm, hindering their ability to navigate efficiently through the uterus and fallopian tubes. This means that even if sperm successfully reach the uterus, their ability to locate and fertilize an egg is reduced. Even if fertilization were to occur, progestin hinders the egg’s movement. This significantly reduces the likelihood of implantation and subsequent pregnancy.  Levonorgestrel has changed the conditions within the uterus and fallopian tubes, establishing an environment that’s not very supportive of the viability of sperm or their function.

With these combined actions, the IUD is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This high efficacy rate was just what I needed to keep a good sex life with my partner going without constant fear I would be endangering my health.

Other benefits helped me to make this decision.

Low maintenance:
An IUD is a low-maintenance method of birth control. Once the Mirena IUD is inserted, contraception is no longer a part of my daily routine. No more daily reminders, no more constant worry about possibly missed doses. It worked continuously without requiring my regular attention. I could forget about it, making it ideal for my busy lifestyle.

The fact that it’s a completely reversible method also comforted me. My doctor assured me that I could have the IUD removed and that my fertility would return to normal almost immediately when I decided to try again.

Estrogen free:
The Mirena is a non-estrogen form of contraception. I had sometimes experienced negative side effects from the other estrogen-based contraceptives that I had tried. The IUD offers a progesterone-only alternative, which was perfect for me, given my other health conditions.

One of the unexpected perks was experiencing lighter monthly periods. Some women even stop having periods altogether, which can be a significant relief for those with heavy vaginal bleeding when menstruating.

Given these potential benefits, it was still necessary to give at least some consideration to other potential consequences. What goes through most women’s minds is surely the expectation that there may be some discomfort from having a device inserted so deep inside their body. This is where having a good, open discussion with your healthcare professional becomes so important. In my case, even though there was some discomfort during the procedure, I knew what to expect, and with the trust that I had built up in my doctor’s empathetic approach, it was quick, and the whole thing was manageable.

Years into the break after my son’s birth, I felt confident enough, because of my own positive experience with the Mirena LARC IUD, to advise my grown daughters on considering it as one of their options as they mature into adulthood away from home. It’s important to me that they feel informed and confident in their choices, just as I did when I made mine.

Other uses of Mirena IUD

IUDs like Mirena that deliver progesterone hormone can also be used to treat women who experience very heavy menstrual periods. It reduces bleeding by controlling the development of the endometrium, which results in less bleeding each month.

Women in menopause who are receiving estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also need parallel treatment with light doses of progesterone to prevent the development of breast cancer. The regular dose of levonorgestrel acts as a balancing actor so that estrogen can do its work without endangering women’s general health.

Conclusion – IUD contraception can be a first-line option for you

I wanted this brief article to ensure readers have all the information they need to make informed decisions on this important subject. The first step is to have frank and free discussions with a healthcare provider you trust about the different methods available, including the benefits and considerations of the LARC IUD. I will again emphasize that choosing the right contraceptive method is a personal decision, and you should feel comfortable discussing your options with your healthcare provider.

By sharing my journey with the Mirena LARC IUD and encouraging you to seek professional advice, I hope I’ve helped you feel more informed and empowered. Contraception is a personal and important decision, and I’m confident that with the right information and support, you can make the best choices for your health and well-being.

IUDs – facts and figures

  • In extensive trials of Mirena on sexually active women, fewer than one out of every hundred conceived. But if there are severe potential consequences of an unterminated pregnancy, a woman should do regular pregnancy tests even while undergoing treatment with an ultra-safe device like Mirena.
  • IUDs like Mirena do not provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases. 
  • Mirena is not an emergency contraceptive that could provide protection after unprotected sex.
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