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Illustration by Marta Pucci

Sex

What it’s like to have a hormonal IUD

by Jen Bell, Writer
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Every body is different, and people have a huge variety of experiences with the IUD. We reached out for your personal stories and were overwhelmed with responses. Here’s what you had to say.

“I liked that it was long-term but still reversible”

I got a Jaydess [called Skyla in the US] in March 2018. I’ve always had adverse side effects to the pill and the implant was even worse for me (both exacerbated my depression and anxiety). My doctor recommended the IUD because it contains a significantly lower dose of hormones and is localised to the area where it needs to be working. A copper IUD was out of the question for me as I already had heavy and painful periods. I liked that it was long-term but still reversible if I didn’t get on with it.

The insertion was honestly the most pain I’ve ever experienced. I experienced bleeding and very intense cramps for a few days after insertion but it all subsided after a week. I’m pretty scared to get it changed, but considering how well I’ve got on with it, that worry has subsided considerably.

At first I experienced a lot of mood swings and headaches, probably for about two months. But since the initial stage of getting used to it, my side effects have been totally manageable. I do still experience typical PMS symptoms like mood swings, cravings, tender breasts etc and ovulation pain but it’s nowhere near as intense as when I was on the pill and implant. I’ve found my periods are extremely light and cramps have virtually disappeared so that’s a big positive! Something to bear in mind though: the strings on a hormonal IUD are more rigid than a copper one so if you’re having penetrative sex do bear in mind that there’s a risk of them getting a stabbing sensation! The strings do soften and curl behind your cervix over time but at first this was an issue.
—Anonymous, female, 20, Germany

“The IUD hasn't affected my sex drive like the pill did”

I got my Mirena IUD in August 2018 because I'm not really looking to have children in the next few years, and I don't do well with taking pills. The insertion definitely wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. It was like a bad period cramp. I’ve had a bit of spotting since I had it inserted, as well as some cramping, but I haven't had a period, which I consider a positive. The spotting comes and goes, but it's not much. The IUD also definitely hasn't affected my sex drive like the pill did.
—Anonymous, nonbinary, 21, Charleston, USA

“Stress-free birth control that I never have to think about”

I got a Mirena in February 2014 because I was looking for stress-free birth control that I never have to think about. The hormonal element also helps with my endometriosis symptoms.

Everything has been great with my hormonal IUD. The worst part was by far having it inserted (I threw up and had diarrhea in the doctor's office toilets). There was some cramping those first few days but since then it's been grand. I have since been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and endometriosis and the fact that I have an IUD means my treatments don't impact my birth control.

I have an appointment in February to have my IUD exchanged—I'm making the choice to keep using this form of birth control. [The Mirena is approved for use of up to 5 years.]
—Jane, cis woman, 33, Belgium (I had my IUD inserted while living in Scotland)

“For someone who wants to be spontaneous when it comes to sex, this is a good option”

I got a Kyleena in September 2018 and had two days of cramping when I got it in and about 60 days of spotting afterwards, otherwise I haven’t had any issues. Make sure you read about the possible side effects, and consider if it will work for you, but for someone who wants to be spontaneous when it comes to sex and [who doesn’t want] to worry about birth control every day, this is a good option.
—Annemette, female, 27, Denmark

“I didn't have my period anymore and generally felt really good”

It was a little painful getting [the Mirena] inserted but then I never felt it. Plus I didn't have my period anymore and generally felt really good with it. After 5 years I got the Mirena removed, because I wanted to have my period again and not be on any birth control, but just be “all natural”. That's actually when I started using Clue. When I had the Mirena taken out I gained about 6 kilos (which I haven't lost since), and also grew hair on my chin, which is annoying.
—Lena, female, 29, Leipzig, Germany

“I wanted a more reliable form of birth control”

I had my Kyleena IUD placed about 10 months ago. because my birth control pills were really messing with my mood, and I wanted a more reliable form of birth control. The placement was relatively easy for me, but I did feel some pain and discomfort for about 20-24 hours after the placement. I have been very pleased with how easy it has been having an IUD. My only complaint is that I have not had regular periods since the placement.
—Anonymous, female, 25 Belgium

“I recommend it, even with how rough my experience was in the beginning”

I have had my Mirena for about a year. My boyfriend wanted PIV (penis in vagina) sex. He has issues with condoms, and I decided I wanted something that I didn't have to remember to take (pills) or replace (NuvaRing).

Overall, I am very happy with my Mirena, though it did take several months to get used to it. The first week or two were there worst. Constant pain, constant bleeding (not heavy though). It was manageable, but unpleasant. I think it was about 3 months in that I realized that I wasn't in pain all the time and my bleeding had pretty much stopped. A year later and the worst is that every now and then I get debilitating cramps that last for an hour or so, but they react to ibuprofen. Sometimes [there is] some discomfort in my cervix. My periods are basically non-existent. I don't have to worry about getting pregnant. I recommend it, even with how rough my experience was in the beginning.

I didn't realize how many people I know have one and have nothing but good experiences because you only hear about the horror stories. But be sure to take lots of ibuprofen before [getting one inserted]. Living in a state with legal marijuana was also helpful.
—Anonymous, female, 37, Oregon, USA

“Find a doctor who listens to you”

When I got a copper IUD inserted in 2014 it hurt a bit, but only a few cramps here and there. At the start of 2018, I started getting horrible periods and cramps. After a trip to the doctor, we figured out it was the IUD that was doing it and in August 2018, I had it removed, and the Mirena inserted and my periods stopped almost immediately. I haven't seen any negative side effects like mood swings, libido [changes] or anything like that. If anything, my energy has increased because I'm not losing a ton of iron all month!

When I got the copper IUD my periods went from 5-6 days to 28-40 days, so a change had to be made but I still wanted an IUD as it's the most reliable option for me. My advice is to make sure you ask lots of questions and find a doctor who listens to you and your concerns. It's easy enough to have removed, but it's great if you're not looking or ready to have kids yet. It's also out of sight, out of mind—no need to remember to take the pill or shot at a specific time.
—Anonymous, female, 26 Canada

“It can't be affected by political changes the way pills can be”

I got the Mirena about a year ago, to manage endometriosis symptoms. My experience has been fantastic. It has significantly reduced the effects of endo. It took it a year, but it has also finally stopped my periods altogether. Getting it inserted was an ordeal, but I tripled the cost efficiency by also getting an ovarian cystectomy and a laparoscopy at the same time.

I’d insist on getting an insurance quote before going through with the insertion. Understand your options for getting it removed. Consult with a mental health professional as well as your OB/GYN. Recognize the risk of side effects as legitimate and plan for them. I highly recommend it—if your doctors think it's a good fit. It might be a high up-front cost, but it also can't really be affected by political and pharmaceutical changes the way pills/patches/shots can be.
—Anonymous, nonbinary, 28, Missouri, USA.

“Ask for local anaesthetic when getting it fitted!”

I’ve had a Mirena for five or six years. I chose it because the single hormone option had less side effects, I wanted a LARC (long acting reversible contraceptive), but when I tried the implant I experienced constant low level bleeding. The IUD was recommended to me by friends who had one.

Insertion was fine as I was offered the option of a local anaesthetic. Not all are offered this! I could feel [the strings] sometimes, and my partner could feel them during sex, but this wasn't a problem. No periods. I’ve been very happy. It was super easy to have removed—just a quick cough.

I had it removed as decided to start a family and will get another one once we're done having kids. It’s great if you're in a stable monogamous relationship, and don't want kids for a few years or more. Still good if you're not in a relationship and don't want to have to remember a pill, but obviously you’ll need to use something else as well for STI protection. Ask for the local anaesthetic when getting it fitted!
—Anonymous, female, 33, Scotland

“I was tired of the pill, but I couldn't get a copper IUD because I'm bleeding too much already”

I got a Mirena in April 2018. I was tired of the pill, but I couldn't get a copper IUD because I'm bleeding too much already. The insertion was very, very painful. I fainted, but my doctor was perfect, and explained to me what she was doing step-by-step, and asking me several times if she should stop. The day of insertion was supposed to be the first day of my period and it was a bit late, which is the most painful time of my cycle.

After the insertion, I was very tired but the rest of the day wasn't so painful. For the first few months I had acne and weak cramps sometimes, and my hair became more greasy. It got better after six months. Most of the time I don't have periods anymore but they were painful, so I'm okay with that. Sometimes when I have sex I have two days of period-like bleeding afterwards.
—Miyne, woman, 26, Leiden, Netherlands

“I recommend going to a place that specializes in women's health or birth control”

I got a Mirena in July 2015, because I was looking for something I could set and forget! I had used the pill and the ring and had problems maintaining a schedule for both (but I was especially bad at using the pill). I did the research and found my student health plan covered it.

My experience has been very positive. I went to a clinic that specialized in women's health, so the insertion was fast and I experienced minimal discomfort. I had very sharp but very short cramps periodically for a month or so after, but since then, no issues. My period did not change for a few months, but eventually started getting shorter and lighter.

If you’re getting an IUD I recommend going to a place that specializes in women's health or birth control. It still wasn't that comfortable, but getting it done by somebody who does dozens a day will always be faster and more comfortable than getting it done by a family physician. The up-front cost can be prohibitive, of course. I only was able to afford it because my student health plan covered most of the costs, otherwise I would have postponed or just never got it.
—Anne Simonen, female, 27, Canada

“I hated the pill”

I had a Paragard years ago, and now have a Mirena (for ~4 years). I hated the pill. Too inconvenient. The Paragard made my periods HEAVIER and cramps were terrible. Mirena made my period disappear (yay!) and my skin cleared. I’m still more emotional during my cycle than ever, but it's worth it.

I accidentally removed my Paragard when I was using it with a menstrual cup. No pain, however, just stupid of me. Got the Mirena after.

IUDs are inexpensive (throughout their usage life) and wonderful. You never need to worry about user error, and you're secure for YEARS.
—Anonymous, female, 36, Toronto, Canada

“I love my IUD!”

I got the Kyleena hormonal IUD about 1.5 years ago. The pill wasn’t working for me and I wanted something really effective that wouldn’t affect my mood the way the pill did.

I love my IUD! The insertion process was something I was TERRIFIED for, but it ended up not being as scary as I thought. I would recommend taking some painkillers before insertion to help with cramping. The insertion process was painful but fast. I’ve had some pretty bad cramping with my IUD but the longer I’ve had it generally the better the cramps have gotten. Not sure if the cramping is worse than before I had the IUD or if it just feels different than before I got the IUD.

My partners have not noticed it at all during sex. When I’ve asked if they can feel it, they have been surprised I even have it, as they noticed nothing!
—Anonymous, female, 18, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

“Contraception without the stress of a daily pill”

I’ve had a Mirena for nearly a year. Getting it inserted was very smooth but I took a lot of ibuprofen ahead of time. For the next couple days I had a bit of cramping and pain but not too bad. Having it in has been fine; I don't feel it and it doesn't impact intercourse. I do think I'm reacting to the hormones, even though it's a much lower dose, but I'm learning how to manage my emotions. It's nice to have the peace of mind of contraception without the stress of a daily pill or a weekly patch that (for me) regularly fell off.
—Liz, cisgender female, 43, Seattle, WA

“I'd happily take that 3 weeks of hell again for the amazing feeling I have now”

I got a Mirena in 2017. I've had issues with my period since I first got it as a teen. Pain. Bleeding. PMS. You name it. I've been on hormone pills, the regular pill, several combined pills and the hormone stick you implant in your arm. None of them agreed with me. The pain especially would sometimes leave me unable to function normally for days at a time. The Mirena was sold to me as a low-dose option that concentrates the hormones right where they need to be. So, feeling like I had nothing to lose, I went for it.

The Mirena has been a LIFE-CHANGER. I went from painful irregular periods to no periods and no pain. It's absolute bliss! However: to get here I had to endure a painful insertion and the 3 weeks afterwards were absolute misery. I couldn't walk. I couldn't sleep. I was in tears constantly because of the pain while the IUD settled (the insertion had been difficult because I haven't had kids. Also if you suffer period pains the settling period is apparently worse). Luckily I work from home, otherwise I would've had to call in sick. It was THE WORST. But, I'd happily take that 3 weeks of hell again for the amazing feeling I have now, and I won't need to change this IUD for 5 years! It's the best decision I ever made!

I've heard from other friends who tried the Mirena that it really didn't agree with them and they took it out again, so it's not 100% certain that it'll be amazing for everyone, but I'm so happy with it. I can actually function for a whole month without pain and bleeding and hormone issues. It's a life-changer and I will stick with it for as long as it continues being this good to me.
—Jennie, female, 33, United Kingdom

We at Clue recommend that you see a healthcare provider to discuss which birth control is best for you, and let them know if you are experiencing any negative side effects.

Read more about birth control and bleeding on the IUD. Want more stories? Check out Clue editor Amanda Cormier’s uneventful IUD insertion experience and writer Sam Slabyk’s copper IUD story.

Download Clue to track your birth control and cycle symptoms.

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