Thursday, February 8, 2018

How my IUD has Helped my Endometriosis

Happy February!

I realized the other day that I've now had my Mirena IUD for over a year - I don't remember the exact date I got it, just that it was sometime in January of 2017. A lot of my friends and coworkers have an IUD or are thinking about getting one, and I thought I would talk about it on my blog since I've mentioned that I have endometriosis in previous posts.



IUD + Endometriosis Back Story

Let's start out in the beginning: when I first found out that I had endometriosis I was 14 or 15 (how has it been that long?!), and my family and I had absolutely no idea what that diagnosis meant. The months following my diagnosis were filled with countless doctor visits, ultra sounds, and even surgery, and finally a treatment plan. I was on birth control pills for about five years before my new gynecologist mentioned I should get an IUD, or at least read more about them.

From my understanding, IUD's were only for women who had already had children, especially since my own mother had gotten one just a couple of years prior. After reading up on them, I realized many women my age - I was 20 at the time - were getting them and foregoing other birth control methods. I was interested, but after years of being poked and prodded, the last thing I wanted was to have a painful IUD insertion. Honestly, I've been in and out of the hospital so many times as a kid, so I'm generally a trooper, but if you have endometriosis, you understand that you can be in so much pain already so the thought of adding even more can be daunting.

The whole reason my doctor wanted me to switch to an IUD was because I get blind migraines, or aura migraines as they're sometimes called. It basically means when I get migraines, all it looks like I can see is the classic "ant screen" on old TV's - all gray and fuzzy. The first time I got one I was terrified I was going blind, but now I can recognize the warning signs and I'm able to get myself somewhere, hopefully my bed, and just sleep off the aura part.

Apparently this puts me at higher risk for strokes when on birth control pills, so my doctor really wanted me to switch to a different birth control method, like an IUD, to reduce that risk. Of course I wanted to be safe, so after a couple of months of thinking, I decided to give the IUD a shot.

I'm not going to lie, the insertion process was one of the worst experiences of my life. I was a baby and had to have my mom in the room with me to hold my hand, and asked the doctor for anti-anxiety medicine to help me calm down. My doctor was really sweet and talked me through the whole process, and continuously checked to make sure I was okay.

Honestly, the pain afterwards once the numbing gel wore off was the worst. I unfortunately cannot take ibuprofen because of a severe allergy, so tylenol was all I could have and it definitely wasn't strong enough. I had extreme cramps for several days afterwards, and I'm wondering if it's because I have endometriosis that I had such a terrible experience the entire week after I got the IUD put in. My friends who have IUD's say that they only really had pain a day or two afterwards, but for me, I had cramping much longer than that.

My parents were absolute saints and made a ton of food for me to have for leftovers at my apartment, so the "healing" process was a little bit better. Like I said earlier, it took about a week to start to feel normal again, and for about 8 months I didn't have a regular period cycle, just spotting every now and then.

In September, right in the middle of my vacation to Disneyland, actually, I got a full blown period. It came out of nowhere, and the cramps were awful. It lasted for about two weeks, and in October and November I had a two week period for each month, again with terrible cramps. In December and earlier this month, I had more of a "regular" period that lasted about 10 days, but still with terrible cramps. My doctor said this was all normal and probably just my body getting back on a regular cycle again. I honestly don't mind the periods since I didn't have one for about five years while on birth control pills. I guess we'll see how February goes!

Looking Back on the Past Year

As far as how my IUD has affected my endometriosis, it's helped a lot. I haven't gotten any cysts that didn't resolve themselves, they've all gone away with time. While I have had horrible cramps again (I had forgotten how bad mine are!), I'm used to it and my cycle seems to be getting more regular. It's nice to not have to remember to take a pill at the same time everyday, something that I was terrible at before.

I am a bit of a paranoid person, so I went into my doctor's office to get my IUD checked out when I started getting my period again. They did an ultrasound to make sure it was in place, and they found no problems with it. I check the strings every month, something I was initially scared to do, (I don't know why) and it's nice to have that reassurance that it's still in place.

My IUD has been great in regulating my endometriosis, and I'm glad to have found a method that doesn't put me at a higher risk for stroke, as many people I'm sure would be! If you have endometriosis, or just want a different birth control method, I highly recommend getting an IUD. While it sucks at first, and is really painful to get, the benefits far outweigh that part. I definitely do have a love hate relationship with it since I get pretty bad cramps again, but that also just comes with having endometriosis and is something I'm used to.

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Getting an IUD is not for everyone, and you should definitely talk to your doctor extensively before getting one. Everybody reacts differently to different things, and not a single solution works for every woman's endometriosis. I'm not saying an IUD is the end-all cure-all to endometriosis, but I just wanted to share how it's helped mine. If you do end up getting one, I hope that it helps!

Do you have an IUD? If so, what's been your experience?

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