“What kind of birth control are you looking at?” My midwife asked me at the four-week postpartum appointment. I’d been seeing her weekly since I’d been diagnosed with postpartum depression.
Well, heck, I thought. With everything going on, sex was the last thing on my mind. Plus I was still bleeding. My 3rd-degree perineal tear hadn’t even healed yet. Not to mention the depression.
At my silence she suggested an IUD (intrauterine device). I agreed because after the hellish labor and delivery I’d experienced four weeks prior, I knew I never wanted to go through that again. IUD seemed like a great idea. The only caveat, I needed to get it in before eight-weeks postpartum or my insurance wouldn’t cover it 100%. We agreed to wait until my six week appointment and go from there. I went home and read all the paperwork about the IUD, including all the things that could go wrong.
The six-week appointment arrived and I was excited about getting an IUD. However, the moment she started inserting the speculum, I about leapt off the table. My bottom still hadn’t healed completely, and the metal rubbing against the small raw wound felt like I was going to tear again. The midwife said to come back in two weeks to have my condition re-evaluated. I was crushed.
Two weeks later, I went back to the midwife’s office. With the aid of a lot of numbing gel and deep breathing, we got the IUD in. Oh. My. God! It hurt. According to the midwife, this cramping, stabbing pain was normal and would subside after a couple of days.
Well, it didn’t. Six days later, I woke up with incredible pain. It felt like needles were moving around inside my pelvis. I would be lying motionless in bed and the breathtaking pain would come out of nowhere and then disappear. Sometimes it would come when I moved, but there wasn’t any specific pattern. Up to this point, I’d been bleeding and I hadn’t bothered to check the strings of the IUD. I did that morning. I didn’t feel anything, but then I wasn’t sure what I was looking for in the first place.
I called the midwife, and she had me come in. The pelvic exam just about killed me. It was all I could do to not to scream or kick her in the face. Memories of my labor came flooding back. She couldn’t find the strings, and this concerned her greatly. She sent me to the emergency room for an ultrasound. The whole time I had my daughter with me. I called my husband who had worked the entire night before and asked him to come to the ER.
When he arrived, they were about to do the ultrasound using a transvaginal probe. They had barely inserted the probe and I screamed. My whole body shook as my vision blurred and I closed my legs as tight as possible. I knew they needed to do the ultrasound so I let them drug me. Even through my pharmaceutical-induced haze, I still felt the pain as the technician stretched my vaginal opening to manipulate the probe. Silent tears fell from my eyes. Please don’t rip again.
They couldn’t find the IUD. I went through all of that for nothing, at least that’s how it felt. A simple, painless x-ray later, they found the IUD. It was hanging out on the right side, next to my uterus.
I sighed. “Yes.”
I turned to my very tired husband. “You need to take the baby home before you are too exhausted to drive. I’ll be okay.” I put on a stoic face, even though every fiber in my body wanted him to stay with me. “Okay,” he replied reluctantly. He clearly didn’t want to leave either, but it wasn’t about us anymore. We had a baby to think about.
I nursed my baby before hubby left. Suddenly the room that had been bustling with nurses, doctors, and technicians felt deserted. With no one there to distract me, I expected my emotions to erupt like an angry volcano, but instead, I lay there quietly in shock, contemplating what had just happened.
I’d been excited that I had birth control and had been cleared to exercise. I could finally return to some sort of normalcy, and then this. Why? Is this karmic punishment for not being strong enough to deliver my daughter naturally? For not recycling enough? Or not using cloth diapers right away like I had planned?
Eight agonizing hours later, I was discharged from the ER still in pain, but with some strong pain killers. After they had prepared me for surgery the surgeon came in to tell me they couldn’t do it until tomorrow, stating that my situation was “urgent but non emergent.” My girlfriends were there to support me and one of them encouraged me to go home and call my OB and have her do the surgery at my preferred hospital. She thought I would be more comfortable having my doctor operate on me than the on-call surgeon. She was right.
First thing the following morning, I called the OB office. My favorite doctor was available to do the surgery. She had me come in that afternoon for a pre-op visit. The surgery was scheduled for the following morning. I checked in at six and my girlfriend drove me home before noon. It pretty much was a non-event. I hurt for about four days but healed pretty quickly.
At my two-week post-op appointment, the doctor cleared me to return to normal activity and gave me a referral for pelvic physical therapy to help recover from the pain.
And that’s my IUD horror story. I share this not to freak anyone out, but to point out two important things I learned from my experience:
1. Get an ultrasound right after they insert the IUD. This ensures the placement is correct and that the uterus hasn’t been perforated. The midwife who inserted the IUD did not do an ultrasound. Had she done one, I would not have needed surgery because they could have removed it in the office.
2. Listen to your body. I didn’t feel ready for an IUD by the recommended eight weeks. If I hadn’t worried about my insurance not covering the device at 100%, I would have waited a little longer to allow my body to heal and uterus to return to it’s normal position.
Would I ever recommend an IUD to someone else? Sure, if that’s what they want, but never again for me.