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Thinning hair, fainting, or a godsend: 12 women share their experience with the Mirena IUD.

The Mirena IUD  is a rather nifty form of contraception. It’s an intrauterine device which is inserted into the uterus and can protect women from pregnancy for up to five years with a 99.5 per cent effectiveness rate.

When it’s removed, it takes six weeks to return to your normal cycle and regain full fertility.

But, just like the contraceptive pill, or any form of birth control, there’s no fool-proof results for every woman.

Mamamia founder, Mia Freedman takes us with her to get her Mirena.

Video by MMC

The T-shaped Mirena releases the progestin, levonorgestrel and although the dosage absorbed into the bloodstream is a lot lower, some women can still experience side effects including mood swings, weight gain and acne.

Dr Ginni Mansberg told Mamamia some symptoms like breakthrough bleeding will commonly happen within the first few months of having the Mirena, and she’s seen many women affected to the point where they choose to get their IUD taken out. However, she also said it can be an “excellent form of contraception.”

We asked 17 women to share their experiences on the Mirena. This is what they had to say:

Gail, 43.

I was on the pill (Brenda) from the age of 16 to the age of 30, until I had my first baby. He’s now 12.

I went on and off the pill between babies, and after the birth of my youngest, we decided I’d get a Mirena as I wasn’t quite ready for my husband to get a vasectomy – we were still thinking about a fourth (we’re crazy people).

I’ve had my Mirena in for about four years. At first it definitely affected my mood. I was more emotional and erratic but I’d say this settled after six to 12 months. Having it put in was easier than a pap smear, and apart from being moodier than usual to begin with, I’ve had no other side effects. I’ve suffered from anxiety and mild depression since the birth of my first child, so I was wary to begin with, but it definitely settled and was worth it for the hassle-free contraception.

Louise, 38.

After five years of unsuccessful IVF I was well and truly over it, and decided to have a Mirena inserted.

I’d tried years ago when living in the UK but my cervix was too small and let’s just say that after having three nurses and two doctors trying to fit the equivalent of a cabana through a key hole made me give up.

Fast forward to having a Mirena inserted under an anaesthetic: I had the initial spotting which actually turned into a 10 month long period. That was it for me. I had acne and lactation on the Depo-Provera injection, serious mood swings on the Implanon and constant bleeding on the Mirena. Back to the pill it was and all is good with the world.

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The Mirena is a little T-shaped device. Source: Getty.
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Karyn, 43.

My experience was negative. I met with a female doctor who said there would be no side effects from the insertion of the Mirena, and while it didn’t really hurt to insert, for the remainder of the day I felt very ill, faint and was unable to drive myself home.

I felt really flat and had no energy to do any exercise. My boobs also hurt continuously. I left the Mirena in for three months but my boobs still hurt for months after.

Ange, 52.

I love the Mirena but I've experienced two side effects: little or no spotting when I get my period - I can't remember the last time I had to use a pad or tampon, and now that I'm perimenopausal, it helps to reduce my hot flushes.

I get a bit of cramping on the day following the insertion, much like bad period pain, and then I feel nothing for the next five years. Insertion and removal is very much similar to a pap smear, which, in my case, means very minimal discomfort.

Kelly, 41.

I got my first Mirena at 39 to assist with adenomyosis symptoms such as crazy heavy bleeding. It’s taken 18 months for things to settle down, but now I just need a panty liner for a few days instead of both a maternity pad and a tampon change every hour! I have noticed some weight gain but I'm tackling that now and will definitely replace it when the five years are up.

I've tried every form of contraception, like the Pill, Implanon, injections and had worse side effects with all of them.

Sacha, 30.

At 26, I got a Mirena knowing I'd studying for the next seven years and didn’t want an accidental pregnancy during that time. After six months, my hair started thinning. A girlfriend and I hypothesised it could be my Mirena. I did some research and found out that it’s a common side effect which can extend to having 50 cent-sized patches of hair falling out.

The insertion was painful and I can’t believe she managed to get the Mirena in, especially since I was advised to only take a couple of Nurofen beforehand. When it came time to remove it (due to the hair loss), the string wasn’t through my cervix so my gynaecologist had to put a clip on my cervix and put a claw-like instrument through my cervix to try to coax it through... it was incredibly painful and I nearly passed out.

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I also had to get it removed under general anaesthetic which cost me around $900 (all this for contraception that was meant to be $250 for five years as opposed to the pill which would have been around $2000 for five years).

Ella, 23.

I've had the Mirena for a year and a half. I had no issues with the insertion process, only slight cramping, but I was still able to go to work after the procedure as I opted to get it in the chair. I had very light spotting for a month and since then, I've only had my period twice.

When I was on the pill, I gained weight, felt lethargic and had really bad headaches. I find it empowering that the Mirena protects against pregnancy for five years, and is very economical (I only paid $35 as my doctor bulk billed the insertion appointment).

Marie, 44.

I’ve had three Mirenas inserted. The first two were extremely positive experiences with zero side effects.

The third was inserted in June, 2018 and it's been seven months of hell. Every month I've been so unwell. Debilitating dizzy spells, horrible bloating, mood swings bordering on psychotic, and terrible nausea and hot flushes.

I've since had it removed and my doctor wondered whether the bad reaction this time was due to hormonal changes as I’m 45 this year and possible perimenopausal (urgh), so I've had both extremes!

Sarah, 41.

Getting a Mirena was one of the best things I've ever done.

I had my first one inserted after the birth of my second child at 32. I was on the pill or the Implanon before that.

Having it inserted was uncomfortable and after insertion, I had continual light bleeding for about three weeks, which wasn't ideal, but my obstetrician said this was not uncommon and promised it would stop. And it did.

From then on, I have not had a period since - and it's been nine years. It has seriously changed my life.

I had the first one removed and another inserted five years later. Equally unpleasant, but bearable.

IUD-mirena-side-effects
Unlike the copper IUD (pictured) which doesn't contain any hormones, the Mirena IUD still releases progestin to prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. Image: Getty.
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Michelle, 42.

I've had both a Mirena IUD and a copper IUD and my experience between the two differed greatly.

I had a copper IUD inserted after breast cancer treatment, as I wasn't allowed to use any contraceptive that had hormones. The insertion and removal were no real issue, but the mental heaviness and period irregularity was a nightmare. I didn’t think I had any other options so I toughed it out.

When it was time to replace it, I was considering having my tubes tied. My gynecologist then suggested the Mirena. He disagreed with the specialists, and considering I'd had another child since my treatment (something they felt was never going to be possible given the treatment), he believed that such a small hormonal dose would be okay.

I went ahead with the Mirena and it has been a godsend for me. I haven’t had my period since.

Reidun, 27.

I have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), and when I did get a period, it would last up to two months, leaving me fatigued and frustrated. So I tried the Mirena.

I spotted for six weeks after, but once that stopped, I've had no issue with it. I find relief in not having prolonged periods as it affected my quality of life so much.

Victoria, 26.

I’m 26 and have had the Mirena for about four months now - it's my second one. The first one only lasted two months as I had continuous spotting. The first insertion was absolutely horrific and the second insertion was probably worse. I didn’t go under for insertion and was just prescribed one Valium.

The doctor told me because I hadn't had children, they pretty much had to pierce my cervix.

The side effects have been interesting the second time. I’m so emotional and find myself being quite irrational at times when I am generally really calm.

So far I've been on four different types of the Pill, and the Implanon, but, to be honest, I feel my absolute best when I am not on any contraceptives.

Have you had the Mirena inserted? What are your thoughts on this method of contraception? Tell us in a comment below.

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