The rise and rise of the IUD
Bye bye pill, hello dilated cervix
Ask most people about contraception, and I guarantee their first two responses are ‘the Pill’ and ‘condoms’. Despite there being around 15 distinct types of contraception available for women, from femidoms (not an enjoyable experience) to injections, most people hop straight onto the Pill without a second thought. It’s not hard to understand why so many young women make it their first port of contraceptive call though, given that it’s easy af to get hold of and pain-free.
Yet more and more young women are turning to a seemingly retro option: the IUD, a.k.a. the coil – a shudder inducing name if ever I heard one. You’ve probably heard of the IUD in hushed tones which warned of unbearable cramping, perforated uteri, and horror story insertions.
Long story short, the IUD often gets a bad rap. Yet the number of women using some form of intrauterine device has doubled in the last few years. This tiny T-shaped device, which is inserted into the uterus, exists in two versions: Mirena/ Skyla is the hormonal version, which lasts for between 3-5 years and can blissfully end your periods all together, or at the very least improve them. The copper coil, ParaGard, lasts for 12 years and it totally hormone free. It does usually worsen cramps and lead to heavier periods though.
So, why are women turning their backs on the beloved Pill in favour of the IUD? We spoke to some girls who have made the change.
Esther Thorn Gent, 22, Italian Student
One explanation for the rise of the IUD is its lesser known function as an emergency contraceptive. Esther says she got her first IUD for this very reason, as it can be used after the window when the morning after pill is no longer effective. Despite her rebellious womb expelling the IUD after 2 years, she loved it and even went on to get two more inserted (not at the same time, thankfully).
Lexi Rowan Harvey, 3rd Year, Student
Most of the people I spoke to had pretty off-putting insertion stories. Lexi said that while “speculums are not fun at the best of times”, she probably still has a “phobia of them” due to her painful IUD insertion experience aged 16.
Jennie Gale, 23, Journalist
Jennie Gale describes the insertion as “horrific”, saying that she could “hear them scraping on ‘numbing’ cream”. Although she does point out that even though she’s on the copper coil, her periods actually disappeared for five months and now they’re no more irregular or uncomfortable than if she was on the pill. Silver linings and all that.
Alyssa Lopez, 19, University of Arizona Student
Alyssa Lopez even goes as far as to say that her insertion experience was “a piece of cake”, with “hardly any cramping at all”.
Lauren Cocking (a.k.a. Me), 21, Writer
“While insertion is pretty uncomfortable, it’s over before you get chance to mull over the fact you’re naked from the waist down with your legs in stirrups”.
The IUD’s generally uncomfortable method of insertion alone probably isn’t causing women to flush their pills. So what is? Many said that the absence of hormones (in the copper version at least) was the main reason they made the switch. When I revisited the pill last year, I swung from wanting to scream into a pillow one minute to bursting into tears the next. Let’s say I was not living my best life. Lexi Rowan Harvey also chose the copper coil to avoid messing about with hormones, as did Alyssa Lopez who can’t take the Pill due to a “hormonal imbalance and a history of migraines”.
Natalie Probst, 22, Student
Natalie Probst, who’s getting a copper coil in the coming weeks, also said that she wants to avoid “a lot of issues with birth control that run in [her] family, like depression and weight gain”.
Siân Farrington, 22, Mortgage Underwriter
Siân Farrington swapped because the pill made her “gain weight, be miserable and…just seclude [herself] from everyone”. Again, despite the “pretty brutal” insertion and “heavier and a lot more painful” periods, for Siân “it is worth the downsides”.
Jordan Gunselman, 20, Temple University Student
However, for Jordan Gunselman, her Mirena IUD had the opposite effect and “completely stopped” her periods. “It’s awesome,” she says, “I haven’t had to buy tampons in like two years. It’s like periods and pregnancy aren’t even things that exist. You don’t have to worry about forgetting about your birth control, and you don’t have to worry about your period surprising you.”
Others I talked to said that the long-lasting nature of the IUD (plus the option for reversal, unlike with many other long-term contraceptives) was their main motivation. Jennie Gale got her IUD right before going travelling, to save the hassle of finding herself halfway “across the world without anything”.
Leanne Rothery, 23, Mortgage Underwriter
Leanne Rothery also swapped from the pill, so she “didn’t have to remember to take something every day’ and apart from some cramps which she ‘never got with the pill”, “it’s fine now”.
Anna Hopkins, University of Georgia Student
And just remember, for every horror story there’s a Hopkins story. Anna Hopkins story, to be precise, who says “I have Skyla and I freaking love it! The entire experience has been awesome, way better than the pill for me personally.”
Idalia Alejandra Olguín, 25, Lawyer
Ale Olguín, who swapped from injections to the copper coil, also way prefers it. Despite being from Mexico, where insertion of a copper coil costs anywhere between £30-£110, it still worked out “cheaper and easier” than her previous method. Now she barely experiences any bleeding and says it was definitely “the best option” for her.
It seems that faced with an uncomfortable insertion, but also the promise of up to 12 years without a contraceptive worry, most women seem willing to get past speculum-based anxieties. While the Pill might have given us our first taste of sexual liberation, the IUD offers liberation from hormones (the copper version at least). And you can rest assured that with the IUD, you’ll never find yourself buying over-the-counter Mexican contraceptives or worrying where in deepest, darkest South East Asia you’re going to find your next monthly supply.
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