IUD Got you Down?
Intrauterine devices, aka IUDs, are one of the most popular forms of birth control because they are among the most effective while also being quite low maintenance and most last several years. But as with any medical device, they can come with their fair share of side effects and symptoms.
I've spoken with hundreds of women about their experiences with IUDs, so obviously I've heard it all. It ranges from those who can barely tell they ever got it put in to those who dread every single day they have it in and ultimately end up getting it removed because it doesn't work for them. I'm not here to tell you what the right choice is for you, but if you're dealing with side effects of an IUD or you're considering getting one, then I'd like to help you deal and to feel better.
Pain + discomfort
This is one of the most common side effects of IUDs, especially when first inserted. In fact, having your IUD put in may be the most painful part of the whole process and may take a few days before you feel back to normal.
I often treat women with acupuncture the same or following day after getting their IUD put in or taken out to help calm the pain that often flares up with these procedures. Also, because raspberry leaf tea helps uterine tissue to repair and heal, I also usually recommend drinking it the 1-2 weeks leading up to and 1-2 weeks following IUD insertion or removal.
For some, pain and/or discomfort can remain long after the IUD is put in, especially during sex. If your pain or discomfort persists longer than a week, make sure to follow-up with your doctor to make sure it's in its proper position. In some cases, even when the IUD is in proper position it may still cause prolonged discomfort, especially depending on the shape and position of the uterus and cervix. Still, pain usually lessens with time for most, but some ultimately decide an IUD isn't for them if it never gets to a place of feeling comfortable.
Heavy bleeding + cramping
It is very common with the "non-hormonal" copper IUD, the Paragard, to have heavy, prolonged, and painful periods. Especially if you're already prone to heavy periods it can make bleeding excessive for certain people. In some cases this is an important consideration in your decision as to which IUD to get.
For most, this side effect only lasts for 6-12 months, or at least improves after that initial period. For some, however, heavy bleeding and intense cramping continues well beyond the first year, or it may last for the duration of the use of the IUD. Again, something to consider, but it's a welcome trade off for the effectiveness of IUDs for some.
In some cases a hot water bottle and staying hydrated may help, but I meet many women who say that not even pain medication does anything for their IUD-cramps. In that case, acupuncture and herbal medicine are excellent options, because not only can it help the body recover from blood loss and reduce pain, but they can also balance hormones and slow or stop excessive bleeding and cramping. I often use a combination of acupuncture with my Crimson Companion herbal tincture and raspberry leaf tea for IUD-related heavy periods and cramping.
Irregular cycles + amenorrhea
Amenorrhea means skipping a period for three months or more. Especially with hormone-based IUDs, such as the Mirena, this is another common side effect. When my patients ask their docs about their missing periods they are told "it's normal," when in fact it's not really normal, but it is really common.
The issue comes for those who keep their IUDs in for many years and skip their period for many years as well, especially if they hope to cycle regularly and/or get pregnant after getting the IUD out. The body can forget how to ovulate and cycle regularly and sometimes even when the IUD is removed a woman's period still won't start on its own.
Unfortunately, sometimes this the price of admission of using certain IUDs, but it doesn't mean you just have to resign to it. Again, acupuncture and herbal medicine can help re-start your period if yours has stopped.