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Copper IUDs (and birth control in general)

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  • Copper IUDs (and birth control in general)

    In my younger days, the only method of birth control I used was the condom. That really worked best for me because it didn't bother me (condom vs no condom doesn't feel any different to me) and didn't require *me* to do anything. Plus, since I was rarely in stable relationships, condoms were necessary for the prevention of STDs.

    In my mid-20s I decided to give oral birth control a try because I wanted to see if I could control when I got my period. (A friend of mine was able to use it to delay her period when she needed to.) That turned out to not work for me, but I decided to stay on it anyway. I took birth control pills for five years. Then last August, I decided to switch to Paragard (copper IUD). I did it for a variety of reasons. I took a brand name birth control pill, and although a generic version is available, I didn't like the generic. The brand name was expensive--$50 per pack even with insurance. Additionally, I was getting older and wanted to avoid the horrible side effects (i.e., blood clots), which became increasingly likely as you got older. A friend of mine suffered a pulmonary embolism caused by the pill, and although it was terrible, she was lucky in many ways because (a) it didn't kill her and (b) she survived it unscathed (i.e. no long-term damage). I mean, it could have been a stroke. I didn't want to have a similar experience. (Plus, there's all that stuff about how hormonal birth control could increase the risk of breast cancer--something else I didn't want to experience.)

    So here we go with the copper IUD. Getting it inserted sucked. It wasn't the actual insertion that sucked, it was the part where they stick the "sound" in you to measure your uterus. I never experienced menstrual cramps before--not ever--and now I do. But they're not horribly bad.

    The annoying thing is that I gained weight. This could have been completely coincidental and not caused by the IUD (I can think of no scientific reason why a copper IUD would cause weight gain, and weight gain is not listed as a possible side effect). But if you look online there are a gazillion people who think that Paragard caused them to gain weight. Although that could be complete coincidence too, and if you look online you can find zillions of people who think really stupid thoughts. So I don't have any evidence that Paragard causes weight gain, but my weight gain occurred right after I had it inserted.

    The second annoying thing is lower back pain. Now, this is a listed side effect. I haven't been able to figure out the biological mechanism behind this lower back pain phenomenon. Some of the things I've read suggest that the lower back pain is really caused by menstrual cramps because the cramps can "radiate" to the lower back. (I guess that means the pain is diffuse so that you may think that your lower back hurts when it's really your uterus? I don't know.) But I get lower back pain (it's not so much "pain" as it is soreness/stiffness/tightness) even when I'm not experiencing menstrual cramps so that explanation is entirely unsatisfactory to me.

    The pain isn't terrible--usually just in the morning. I can usually get it to go away by etiher doing the founder (foundational training exercises) or by foam rolling. But it's annoying because it makes me feel like I'm 10 years older in the morning someitmes. It's not every morning, but some mornings I feel so stiff and sore that I dont' even want to get out of bed. And I never felt like that before I got the IUD.

    So...has anyone else had any experiences with copper IUDs? What do you think about it? Anyone know of a better birth control method for someone who doesn't want to use hormones and isn't ready to have her tubes tied? (Not 100% sure that I don't want kids.) My boyfriend doesn't like condoms so that's not really an option right now.

    My journal

  • #2
    I found that getting an IUD has made PMS worse versus while on the pill, including bloating and overeating for that TOM. That alone may cause some weight gain. I've had mine for a while, I think it is fine, but I miss the days of minimal periods and minimal PMS that hormonal methods offered.

    That said, pain outside of menstrual cramps and maybe some related to ovulation is something I have never experienced and could be a sign you have something amiss with your IUD. I'd get that looked at ASAP
    Check out my blog. Hope to share lots of great recipes and ideas!


    • #3
      The lower back pain alone would be enough for me to use an alternate form of contraception.

      Aside from fertility tracking (to avoid penetrative sex on days when the egg is present), your options are things like diaphragms or condoms. Nuvaring is only localized hormones (as is the Mirena IUD), though I understand if you still would not want to use that.

      And I know this is bitchy, but "not an option" is "my boyfriend is highly allergic to latex and the latex alternate condoms and also somehow the lamb-skin ones", not "he doesn't like it." Tell him to suck it up, or try a larger (or smaller?) condom for comfort.
      Depression Lies


      • #4
        I was on parauard for about 8 months. The first couple months everything was fine then I started noticing sharp pains during ovulation, i was puffy all the time, and my periods went from 3 light days to 5-7 heavy days. This was odd for me because I am used to having such light periods. I talked to my OB and she said everything is fine and in place but since Ive never had a child before my cervix is not as open? as someone who has had one so that could mean the paraguard isnt a right fit for my body. Other symptoms I experienced were leg/joint pain, lower back pain, and headaches before period. I still get headaches the day im getting my period but everything else went away as soon as I had it removed. Ive been off it almost a year now and my periods are back to regular and super light. I am married and we arent planning on having children soon so we use the pull out method for birth control since everything else seems to mess with my system too much.


        • #5
          Originally posted by namelesswonder View Post
          The lower back pain alone would be enough for me to use an alternate form of contraception.

          Aside from fertility tracking (to avoid penetrative sex on days when the egg is present), your options are things like diaphragms or condoms. Nuvaring is only localized hormones (as is the Mirena IUD), though I understand if you still would not want to use that.

          And I know this is bitchy, but "not an option" is "my boyfriend is highly allergic to latex and the latex alternate condoms and also somehow the lamb-skin ones", not "he doesn't like it." Tell him to suck it up, or try a larger (or smaller?) condom for comfort.
          (and BTW I don't think that the last part is bitchy at all... it's realistic.)

          Him: "I don't like condoms" (I assume because of slightly less feeling during vaginal intercourse only, you don't need them during other play) vs. You: physical pain/discomfort every single day

          This needs to be about what works best for BOTH of your needs.
          “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
          ~Friedrich Nietzsche
          And that's why I'm here eating HFLC Primal/Paleo.


          • #6
            Way back when I had a copper-7 IUD. It took my painful cramps and made them much, much worse. I learned to live with the pain. After it came out I never had cramps again.


            • #7
              I love my Mirena, and it cleared up my "return to 16 year old" cystic acne it 3 weeks. While I now try to do most things naturally as possible, I will be returning every 5 years for a new Mirena until I'm told by more than one doctor I can't have it. I still get a little 5 day spotting on the 22nd of the month, but I'm okay with it.
              Primal since 4/7/2012

              Starting weight 140
              Current weigh 126




              • #8
                I have the copper IUD. I've had mine for almost 7 years now. At first I did have heavier periods and more cramping but over time things have gotten to be less and less. I no longer have any cramps at all and I'm back to 3-4 day periods. I don't have kids and I've never been pregnant.

                If I had daily back pain I probably would have gotten rid of the IUD right away. That just sounds horrible and I wouldn't want to deal with it. Is it possible that there is an issue with the placement or something? I've never experienced back pain. More cramping? Sure. Heavier periods? Yes.

                I also agree with namelesswonder about the condoms... I mean, seriously? You have to have daily pain because he doesn't like condoms? How is that fair to you?


                • #9
                  You guys make some good points about the condom thing. It is a problem. But I'm pretty sure that the lower back pain is easier to deal with than his bitching and complaining.

                  I have had the IUD checked, and it is in the right place. I think different people just react to it differently, which is why some people experience worse side effects. The menstrual cramps have gotten better with time so I'm hoping that the lower back pain will diminish as well. Guess I'll give it a few more months. The insertion was so unpleasant that I don't want to remove it just to have to put it back again.

                  My journal


                  • #10
                    I've had my Paragard for 3 years (after having a Mirena for two and HATING it), initially I almost regretted it because the first few months were pretty painful and very heavy, and I had random pains throughout the month. The pain lessened month by month and now things are pretty much normal. I also switched to a diva cup (tampons were making my cramps so much worse, wonder if it's some sort of backflow issue) and now my periods are even shorter--while I do have one super heavy day, it's only 4 days total so I take the bad with the good! Last year I started having trouble with mid-cycle pain and extremely painful periods, but in hindsight I was also eating pretty crappy and I bet it had more to do with eating inflammatory foods rather than my IUD. I had a pelvic lap just to make sure my endometriosis wasn't coming back, that was clean (whew!) and since I started eating a lot better (I am strictly gluten free now) I haven't had the pain again. ::knocks on wood::

                    How long have you had it? It does take a while to "settle in" (I've heard 3-6 months) and there could be other factors contributing to the inflammation. There are also smaller copper IUDs but they're not as common in the US so doctors usually have to special order them. That might be worth a try if the Paragard simply isn't working out.


                    • #11
                      I'm not using any BC right now, but most recently (stopped to try and troubleshoot some other health issues) I was using an oral option called Centchroman (or Saheli) that's not hormonal (as in no synthetic hormones)...but also not available by prescription as a contraceptive in North America. The drug itself (ormeloxifene) is approved for use here, just to treat other things.
                      I found out about it on Aphrodite women's health forum while looking for options to hormones after going nearly insane being on Yaz. I had been on it for about three years until I stopped this January and am impatiently awaiting the go-ahead from my internal specialist to get back on's really that good. No PMS, no acne issues, no cramps, no weight gain, easier periods. I've noticed a significant difference just having been off it three months.
                      After the first three months taking the pill at a twice-weekly dosage, it's one pill a week and the best part is how cheap it is - an 8 pill pack costs $0.85 or some ridiculous thing like that. Even with extra shipping (I have to have a PO box in the US, have it sent there, then forwarded here to Canada since the supplier won't ship here), a year and a half worth costs like $25.
                      Sort of off topic, I know, but I looked long and hard at getting a copper IUD when I had to stop the pill (Mirena not an option, progestin-only makes me go batshit nuts), but the negatives I've read about have me convinced this pill is still my best option.


                      • #12
                        I use the copper IUD i love it. no problems. no hormones. I highly recommend it. if you aren't a over sensitive person, it's no issue. good luck!


                        • #13
                          Hi Serenity, havent you been doing the "Eating a Ton" thing for the last month..?
                          "I think the basic anti-aging diet is also the best diet for prevention and treatment of diabetes, scleroderma, and the various "connective tissue diseases." This would emphasize high protein, low unsaturated fats, low iron, and high antioxidant consumption, with a moderate or low starch consumption.

                          In practice, this means that a major part of the diet should be milk, cheese, eggs, shellfish, fruits and coconut oil, with vitamin E and salt as the safest supplements."

                          - Ray Peat


                          • #14
                            Does he like wearing condoms more or less than he likes sex? Would the condom thing be a relationship breaker? If it is, is that important?

                            For years I've been off BC because it didn't seem "right" to be regulating my cycle with synthetic chemicals and hormones. Boyfriend at the time (now husband) doesn't love condoms but understands that preventing pregnancy doesn't have to lie totally on my shoulders and is willing to wear them for me. If he had his preference I'd be on BC Based on conversations with friends this doesn't seem to be the "normal" male response to this request.

                            Up until recently I was pretty sure I was right about not screwing with nature by using BC but then started to think that in the past "natural" was being pregnant an awful lot and not menstruating... so maybe having a cycle every 28 days is actually going to turn out bad for me... who knows.


                            • #15
                              I used the copper IUD for years and had really heavy periods, but other than that it was fine. Except for the time I got pregnant with it in - definitely not fine, but also extremely unlikely. After that, I never replaced it and have been doing the condom thing. I don't like hormones and the Depo shot or that thing that gets inserted into your arm freaks me out. I can't imagine that taking birth control that stops your cycle entirely could be a good thing. I wish there was a better option. I would like to try tracking my fertility cycle but the costs of a mistake are pretty high.