People don't tell you this before you go through with an IUD insertion, but it becomes abundantly clear afterward: To get an IUD is to immediately join a thriving coven of women who have taken a commonplace but metal-as-fuck measure to prevent pregnancy. Women with IUDs are essentially related, bonded forever by their common experience, because getting an IUD is like participating in an extreme sport, walking on hot coals, and doing your taxes all at once. But then you get to not worry about birth control for up to 12 years, which, YAHTZEE!!!!!!
But don't just take my word for it. To find out what getting an IUD put in really feels like, we spoke with 13 brave female souls about their IUD insertions.
1. "The minute or so it took to put in my IUD was the longest minute of my life. I have never, ever experienced pain like that before or since. Despite the three Advil I took before, it was so bad that I almost passed out after, and I had to spend an additional 30 minutes in my gynecologist's office drinking that horrible sugar water they give pregnant women to test for diabetes until they thought I had enough of my color back to leave. If that is what childbirth feels like, I want two epidurals." —Brenda, 29
2. "For me it felt like a pap smear, but much more intense and concentrated. It hurt. I don't think I have a particularly high pain tolerance—maybe my guy was like a pussy ninja. On a scale from 1 (paper cut) to 10 (wrist tattoo) it was about an 8. Just remember, you only have to bear it for one minute!" —Veronica, 35
3. "My doctor told me to take Advil about an hour before the appointment, which I stupidly forgot to do until I was sitting in the waiting room. No surprise, it didn't really help at all. The actual insertion was about five seconds of the most intense pain I've ever felt in my life. Once I felt OK enough to stand (it took a minute) I had to go straight back to work, which was terrible—you feel really crampy afterward and it was a bumpy cab ride back to the office. In hindsight, I wish I'd thought to take that day off from work or work from home, so I could have put on sweatpants and called my mom whining about how much it hurt." —Tina, 29
4. "I knew it was gonna be bad when a nurse came in to hold my hand but ohhhh my god, I underestimated the pain. It felt like someone was shocking my cervix with a taser. I yelled FUCK!!!! super loudly, and felt bad about maybe offending the nurse and said something dumb like, 'Oh, my mom would be so ashamed.' My legs were shaking like crazy and I went back to my ex-boyfriend's apartment and did squats around his bedroom because someone told me that would help the pain??? (It didn't). But TBH I would do it all over again because I want to marry my IUD and fully plan on making a shrine to it when I have to get it replaced in nine years." —Molly, 22
5. "I was definitely scared beforehand, but I think the best way to look at it is it might hurt, but definitely not anywhere near as much as having a child so ... worth it! That being said, I think it hurt worse than I thought it would. I thought it would be similar to a pap smear—and the first part of it was. I felt the most pain after the IUD had been put into my cervix and I was told to cough. I felt a ton of pressure combined with what I would describe as the worst period cramp I have ever had. I was yelling/wincing/making noises during the whole procedure as a means of coping. The doctor and nursing student assisting her were so great, and we were making jokes back and forth, which definitely helped me feel more comfortable. After they were done, they left me in the room to rest for a moment. I felt very dizzy and was sweating. I ended up sitting on the floor to catch my breath and cool down. Thankfully I didn't pass out. The rest of the day, I had cramps but the dizziness went away. And now I don't have to worry about it for another 12 years! Yay!" —Anna, 21
6. "I'd had unprotected sex too recently to be completely baby-free and had to take Plan-B before the insertion. I had a young woman about my age in the room—she was my IUD doula and just chatted with me. I maybe winced once but then it was over! I cried after the insertion, I think from relief and emotional exhaustion. Two weeks later, during my first post-Mirena period, I was trying to take out my Diva Cup (which I had been ASSURED was totally safe) when I felt something a little off. I stuck my hand up there and instead of feeling just strings, I felt the whole dang IUD dangling from my uterus. Pulling out your own IUD is actually not painful, just FYI. I was on a very heavy period on my second insertion, which I think was actually way better for insertion. IUD insertion for me has mostly been a winceworthy pain when the arms of the IUD open up inside your uterus. But if they give you a little heating pad for your tummy and you can hold hands with a doctor hero, then it makes it a lot better." —Sarah-Grace, 23
7. "Literally I was texting a friend and I'm like, 'I'm at the gynecologist!' and she was like, 'Oh my god, I hope you're not getting and IUD put in because it hurts SO BAD,' and I was like "......" I just stared at my phone and scrolled through Twitter the entire time. Might have even live-tweeted it, but it fully distracted me from how terrified I was. In the end, it wasn't worse than a pap smear. The fear was serial-killer-in-the-house bad, but the insertion was just a pinch. I'm super happy to have it, as scared as I was to get it, it's better than the endless fear that I would always somehow get pregnant even if I wasn't having sex. It just takes away the pregnancy panic." —Dana, 23
8. "I've had a Mirena IUD inserted twice. On a scale of 10, the pain was a 10. I screamed, I yelled, I cried. It was both painful and extremely uncomfortable and gross feeling. It's been almost 10 years since the first, but I think the second insertion was slightly less painful because my doctor gave me a pill to take beforehand that softened my cervix. The pain after the first insertion was intense, bad enough that I went back then next day quite sure they'd punctured something. But the pain was gone in a few hours after the second insertion." —Lilly, 38
9. "I'd been on the contraceptive injection for two years, which I'd loved, but is difficult to get in North America (I'm British but am currently based in Toronto). The injection had completely stopped my periods, but that was a major downside when it came to getting the IUD. They recommend you schedule your insertion during your period, when your cervix is softer, but as a woman who's never had kids and hadn't had a period for two years, I was screwed. My doctor prescribed painkillers and misoprostol to take vaginally before the insertion. I don't believe it helped much. The doctor was lovely, and 90 percent of the insertion was just discomfort, but there was under a minute of such blinding agony I could barely see. I've had major surgeries in the past and have a pretty decent pain tolerance but this was something else—at least it was just a short amount of time. I felt fine for the first 10 minutes afterward, and then my blood pressure dropped and I nearly lost consciousness. I'm not looking forward to getting another one in four years but I will do—it's incredibly convenient and I love not having to worry about pregnancy for such a long time." —Rebecca, 26
10. "My gynecologist told me the pain would be roughly that of a pap smear, and that was about right. The pain simply lasted longer, like five to seven minutes. I took 1,000 milligrams of ibuprofen about an hour before the insertion, at the advice of my gyno, and I think it helped with cramping and soreness afterward, not so much with the pain during. The insertion wasn't comfortable by any means, and I had to do some deep breathing, but it wasn't unbearable. The worst part was the unfamiliar location of the sensation, I guess. Like I've never been aware of an internal organ like that before, and you can definitely suddenly feel exactly where your uterus is inside your body. Which was a little freaky." —Melissa, 25
11. "I wasn't on my period, I was only 24, I'm pretty petite, and had never had kids—all of which I heard makes insertion more painful. So I was wary going into it but decided it was the right choice. The actual procedure really wasn't that bad at all. I drove myself there and back with no problems. It starts like a pap smear basically, then the insertion definitely doesn't feel great. It was like a really bad cramp that only lasted about 90 seconds max. Not bad enough to make me cry, but I tensed up a lot and gritted my teeth. Hurt way less than a bikini wax or either of my tattoos, and it was over so fast." —Liz, 25
12. "It was both more and less painful than I thought it would be, to the extent that I was prepared to be in tears and doubled over, but also my doctor told me it's pretty much just like a pap (it wasn't.) It was a super-fast process, maybe 10 minutes? I could certainly feel a pinch—it felt pretty much like someone was taking tweezers and pinching me from the inside." —Kaianne, 25
13. "I was nervous and had heard it can hurt a lot, but I have pretty high pain tolerance and wasn't too terrified. It hurt way more than I thought it would. It was basically a minutes-long, super painful cramp that wouldn't end, and I was almost screeching aloud. The doc actually had to remind me to breathe. Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of having a small object shoved through your cervix. It was a solid 7 on the pain scale. I was nauseous afterward and couldn't really talk. The experience was painful but I'm really glad I did it, because the only thing more painful than an IUD going in is a giant baby coming out." —Laken, 22
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