I may have mentally reached the twilight of my child bearing years, but physically it is broad daylight in terms of my fertility. I have at least 10 years of fecundity ahead of me.
This is a good thing, yes? Usually it would be.
But, personally speaking, I have two children already. And while they have brought untold joy to my life, the truth is, we’re done.
There were a few days at the end of last year in which I worried that I might be pregnant again. My period was 9 days late and my boobs hurt like heck.
For those few days I found myself in the unenviable position of choosing to keep the baby or to terminate. I knew I was leaning towards terminating. I didn’t even know if I was pregnant, but I knew there was no way I could keep the baby. Not that I would need to justify that decision, but frankly I have to be at work, at least part-time, for my own wellbeing, and I can not afford to have three kids in childcare.
In the end I wasn’t pregnant. That’s a good thing because despite the fact that I am pro-choice in absolutely 100 per cent of circumstances, it’s not a choice I think I would be able to make for myself easily or without grieving. After all, I know what kind of life my husband and I create together.
If you think the pill is for you, Planned Parenthood have made this video to help women compare the different pills available.
The result of this? Let’s just say the incident has prompted a new found interest in contraceptive efficacy.
Six weeks after my second baby was born, my GP asked me what I was thinking in terms of contraception. I hadn’t quite healed from the stitches after birth, so when she suggested an IUD I could barely wrap my head around the concept of being sexually active again, let alone the idea of someone shoving something the other way back up my birth canal.
Besides, I thought, those things aren’t really all they’re cracked up to be, right? I vaguely remember reading something in one of those books about puberty and sexual health my mum gave me as a young teenager, 20 years ago now, about IUDs being perhaps not very effective and maybe dangerous in some cases.
Not to mention, the very idea of anyone ANYONE at all messing around with my lady garden so soon after giving birth gave me the heebie jeebies.
Nope, no way was I getting an IUD.
What I know now, is that an IUD is in fact as effective, if not more so, a form of contraception as your partner getting a vasectomy.
(Here is a fantastic resource from the Family Planning Alliance Australia if you want more details.)
In fact a condom is only 82 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy.
Say, what now? (Frankly, I’m surprised I’ve only had two babies.)
So how did we end up in a world where a form of contraception second only to a contraceptive implant in terms of effectiveness is regularly passed over in preference to a condom, which it appears to be slapdash at best?
(Note: you know what isn’t slapdash? Using condoms to prevent chlamydia. Safe sex, ladies. It never goes out of fashion.)
There is a lot to sell me on the prospect of getting an IUD, not just their success rate at preventing pregnancy.
They’re relatively cheap, varying anywhere from under $6.20 for a concession card holder (when the device inserted is listed on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme and the appointment is bulk billed) to about $150 (for a device not listed on the PBS and where the patient is charged for the procedure). They last for 5-10 years, depending on the device you choose. Compared to the contraceptive pill, which can be anywhere from $6.20 to $60 a month, it makes an incredible amount of financial sense.
They seem to be fairly quick and easy to insert. Dr Kathy McNamee is the medical director at Family Planning Victoria. They insert approximately 500 IUDs each year and I asked her to walk me through the procedure.
Following an internal examination to check the position of the womb, the doctor inserts a speculum. The cervix, the womb and the vagina are washed, and you may or may not be administered a local anasthetic spray. They apply an instrument to hold the cervix open, measure the size of the womb and then insert the IUD. The doctor then checks everything is okay and cuts the strings.
They sound uncomfortable but not particularly painful. (Compared to going through second stage of labour with no epidural because you left it too late asking for one, just saying.)
“There is a huge variation in how much people feel it,” Dr McNamee says. “Generally, for women who haven’t given birth it’s going to be a little more painful.”
For women who’ve had a baby, they usually say the pain is about 4 out of 10, and for women who haven’t they say it’s about a 5 out of 10.
“They’re often very easy to insert after giving birth… [those women] usually don’t feel very much at all.
“We find having someone just talking to you at the end of the bed helps enormously.”
There are risks just like there are with every medical procedure, infection, pregnancy, perforation of the uterus. But all in all, there’s a lot going on that make an IUD a pretty attractive contraceptive option.
Dr McNamee says that for the most part, the women they see for IUDs have heard about them through word of mouth. Their friend got one, and now they want one.
Perhaps my GP was onto something after all. I reckon I might get one. Would you?
Do you have an IUD? If not would you consider getting one?