My Experience with the Intrauterine Contraceptive Mirena

Editor's Note: Mirena is a intrauterine hormonal contraceptive device that releases small amounts of a synthetic progestogen known as levonorgestrel. The small, t-shaped plastic device is inserted into the uterus, providing birth control for up to five years. This is one woman's story about her experience with this form of birth control. -- AVF

I'm a mother of a beautiful, funny, smart and flirty boy. I love this little dude so much and I can't wait to give him a sibling or two to run around with.


Baby Bumpkin

While on the one hand my husband would like us to have another baby soon to keep at least two of our kids close in age (in hopes they will be close in their relationship as they grow), I'm so scared to burn the candle at both ends, so to speak, and I want to prolong having another for at least a few years.

I decided to get Mirena after the birth of my son because he was the product of Mommy's bad birth control-taking habits. My practitioner didn't tell me any of the negative mental and physical side-effects of Mirena; she just boasted about the lack of periods and the convenience of not having to remember taking a pill everyday. I was warned that at the time of insertion, the coil ran a small risk of perforating my uterine wall, in which case, they would need to take surgical action. The risk didn't concern me -- I was sold on the idea of Mirena, and I figured that if I had Mirena, I would be as close to baby-proof as one could get. And since my practitioner hadn't warned me of any side-effects, I was taken with the positive aspects of Mirena: no more daily doses of birth control; the prospect of no more periods; going up to five years with a single Mirena coil. It seemed too good to be true. And for me, it was.

Immediately after having my Mirena coil placed, I noticed negative changes within my body and mind. I bled continuously for the first three months with Mirena -- a bleeding "phase" which I was told by my practitioner would pass. And the bleeding did stop. As a matter of fact, my periods stopped altogether beginning in my fourth month with Mirena (awesome)! But with the absence of periods is when things for me started to get worse.

Severe headaches; indescribable mood swings; complete lack of sexual drive; hair loss (we're talking clumps of hair down the drain, people); total weight gain of 19 pounds over nine months; phantom fetal movements; pains like urinary tract infections all the time; insomnia; sleep-restlessness and nightmares; acne (although I think some of the acne I've experienced post-partum is due to Bumpkin's obsession with touching my face with clammy little fingers); heart palpitations that would cause me to lose my breath or cough; cramping after the rare occasion I would allow my husband to be intimate with me; and the worst bit for me, depression and anxiety unlike I've ever known before.

I nearly considered anti-depressants as my moods were so prolonged that I didn't think I would ever snap out of it. I thought my moods were due to my personal attempt of healing my past for a few months in the beginning -- and it's possible they were, but I believe Mirena helped intensify my emotions.

I've always been attuned with my body and aware with my surroundings, easily calling out whatever was in my environment that was affecting me in a negative way. With Mirena, I had always known somewhere deep in the back of my mind that it was the cause of all these negative side effects, but I decided that the plus of not having to worry about another baby due to faulty pill-taking was worth putting up with the side effects. I guess I also tried to tell myself that things would get better and I just needed to give my body enough time to make adjustments to the new birth control, but for me, nothing ever got better: I got more depressed, gained more weight and lost more sex drive, rationality, and hair the longer I kept the Mirena in.

Finally, after nine months with Mirena and reading countless online forums from other rational mamas who had the same (and devastatingly worse side-effects than me, like infertility problems), I decided to remove the damn thing myself.

My doctor's office couldn't offer an appointment for removal for at least a month and I couldn't take one more day of the negative side effects I was experiencing. I may not be keen on having another baby right now, but the more I read forums from other women who are now experiencing infertility issues they believe to be linked to Mirena, I decided the risk of not being able to add to our family in the future wasn't worth the convenience of being virtually baby-proof at the present moment.

As for my removal experience, if you are at all interested to know about it, I made sure to wash my hands thoroughly before I located the strings and slowly -- with a lot of courage -- pulled down and out (like removing a tampon). I didn't feel a thing - no cramps, no bleeding, nothing. I just continued pulling on the strings and the next thing I knew, the Mirena was there in my hand. I'm not advocating you do the same as me, as I am not a medical professional, but I didn't have any weird problems with the placement or insertion of my Mirena, so I didn't feel I needed to have medical assistance in removing my coil.

I know some women think I'm nuts for having risked doing the removal myself, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Had I felt the slightest wince of pain, I would have stopped and waited to see my doctor.

Despite how my Mirena was removed, I gotta tell ya, I've been a week without the coil and I feel fantastic. The weight is literally dripping off of me (2.5 pounds in one week); my face is clear; I have a whole slew of little "baby hairs" on my hair line; I haven't felt phantom fetal movements, heart palpitations or headaches since; my mindset is becoming much more calm and peaceful; and I just feel like I'm becoming myself again.

On the one hand, there are women out there who are just made for Mirena, having no problems at all and that's wonderful to know it does work without side effects for some. But there are countless others out there who have had the same experiences as me, so I know this is a much more common experience than not with Mirena.

Here's the thing to consider: depression rates in America are much more common in women than in men. In current decades, depression has seen a dramatic increase. It's very complicated and hard to gather the proper information on just how each pill possibly affects a woman's body, but typically the higher the dose of progestin, the higher the chance of depression being a side-effect.

My aim in sharing my Mirena experience is to open up and talk about the things we normally don't discuss with each other as women. Your mental and reproductive health and general well-being are as important to me as my own. I hope if you've experienced similar things with Mirena, you also open up and identify it.

Here's to mamas everywhere staying healthy and informed.

Reanna Pettigrew writes at: Bumpkinandme.com

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