Denise’s Story

I started dating my fiancé in April 2018. I was not on any form of contraception at that time. I thought that the copper IUD (Paragard) would be the best option for me because it was hormone-free. I had used the pill in the past, but it made me feel very muted and unamused, so I knew that I wanted to avoid the pill this time.

I went to the doctor to have it inserted, and the pain was the worst I’ve ever experienced. No one told me to take ibuprofen either. I left the doctor’s office keeled over in debilitating pain.

My first cycle with the copper IUD was terrible. I became extremely anxious. I developed severe depression that prevented me from exercising, which is something I’m very passionate about. I worked a customer service job at the time, and any time a customer raised her voice or started to get upset, I would burst out and cry while on the phone. I became remarkably erratic and unpredictable. I had to take off work when these outbursts would occur because I was incapable of performing my duties at my job. I also was incapable of socializing. I would have extreme fears of being around anyone other than my fiancé. It would give me anxiety to the point that I had a couple of panic attacks during this time. I had never been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or panic attacks, so these were all new elements to my behavior. Interestingly, these symptoms would only appear the week before my period (my PMS week). I would call it hell week.

I went on like this for a few additional months. I didn’t attribute it to the IUD until I had it in for about 6 months. My diet didn’t change, my stress levels were also unchanged. I started seeing a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and she prescribed Zoloft. The Zoloft did not help and I still had my monthly breakdowns right before my period would start.

In October, I went to the same gynecologist who put it in with the help of a resident. She is the chair of contraception at the University of Colorado med school, so supposedly, she should know about the various forms of birth control. My fiancé attended this appointment because I planned to have my IUD swapped for the Mirena IUD at the same appointment. I spoke with the doctor and explained that my symptoms are probably attributed to the copper IUD since I had not made any significant modifications in my life. She told me that it’s improbable that the copper IUD is causing the problems, and she prescribed the Yaz birth control pill to “regulate my moods”. The doctor refused to swap my IUD because she thought inserting the Mirena would create more physical pain that would produce the same results. She basically told me that it’s unlikely that the Mirena would solve my mood issues.

I was so mad and lost after that appointment. My fiancé witnessed the entire thing, and he thought that the doctor was out of line for dismissing me. I tried Yaz for a week and stopped because I disagreed with what she was prescribing me. I went into a research frenzy and I found several anecdotal accounts from other women who experienced PMDD-like side effects immediately after insertion of the copper IUD. I eventually figured out that I was experiencing copper toxicity. I spent one more cycle on the copper IUD and then I went back to a different gynecologist and had my IUD swapped out in 5 minutes. My next cycle on the Mirena proved that initial doctor wrong. My mood swings, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks disappeared once the copper IUD was out.

I had a positive experience with the Mirena for the first two years. However, I eventually began to lose my libido, and the PMS side effects that I had while using the copper IUD returned. They were not to the degree of severity that they were when I was using the copper IUD. I thought that it must be the hormones. I knew well enough that loss of libido is not normal for me. Before I used any form of birth control, my PMS symptoms were mild to nonexistent. I rarely had mood swings. It was time to remove the Mirena.

I had the Mirena removed last Monday, November 1st. The changes seem subtle from the outside, but to me, it’s night and day. My libido is coming back. My focus is much better and I feel like I can remember things now. Everything feels more vibrant. Even music sounds better. It felt like I had a blanket over my head and everything was fuzzy. My fiance proposed to me back in August and my reaction when he proposed was very toned down, which I attribute to my IUD. Now I wish I could relive that moment because I feel like I was robbed of my emotions for the past few years. I’m officially done with hormonal birth control.

One side note that the doctors don’t tell you. You may have to have your IUD removed surgically. I was in a similar situation. My Mirena IUD strings were cut too short and they were tucked inside of my uterus. The doctor performed a hysteroscopy and I had to have anesthesia for the procedure. Luckily, it didn’t migrate, so it was easy to remove. I’m now paying $2000 (with insurance) for my IUD removal. I guess the only positive thing to come out of the surgical experience was meeting this new gynecologist. She approved of me using condoms and FAM as a form of birth control – something I had never heard come out of a gynecologist’s mouth before. Before my procedure, the gynecologist said that she sees perforation or embedded IUDs all the time. In her practice, it’s a widespread occurrence.

My only regret is that I wish I had my IUD removed sooner. Now I’m on a mission to get my younger sister off the pill.

Submitted on November 11, 2021

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