Friday, January 13, 2017

This story doesn't really have a point, I just want to tell it

I decided last night, after the following story took place, that I wanted to blog about it. There’s not really a point, but I was incredibly emotional when I decided “I should post about this,” and I dunno, I weirdly want to honor that? Just go with it. I think part of what I was thinking was that I had NO idea what happened could happen, and it would have been nice to not have been so completely blindsided. I also want to shout out some incredible people, even if they’ll never read this.
I recently decided to have an IUD implanted for long-term birth control and hormone regulation. I have been on hormonal birth control (the pill) for over a decade, for a combination of reasons including family planning and the management of a reproductive disorder, which I wrote about here and here. I will be 100% transparent: the impetus for my initial search into information about the IUD was the election. I rely on the Affordable Care Act to provide me with no-cost (because I pay a monthly insurance premium) yearly check-ups and no-cost hormonal birth control packs each month. Now, there is no telling how long that protection will last, and I am absolutely terrified of what my pain will be like if I am not able to take hormonal birth control or unable to be under the necessary care of my gynecologist.

Of course, in my research and conversations with my doctor, other great reasons to continue with an IUD implantation were revealed: it is as effective as the pill I have always relied on for family planning, if not more so, because there is no room for error. (I’m embarrassed by how many times my “BCP” alarm came up on my phone while I was running and then I completely forgot until the next day to take the pill after arriving home.) I don’t have to worry about pharmacy pick-ups or calls to the doc for refills, as the IUD can stay in for 3-5 years with only an occasional check-up. And since I’m not planning on staying in my current town forever, this is especially appealing—because I have no interest in finding a new doctor; my OB-GYN is great and the only one I’ve ever had.

So back to yesterday. I had a 3:15 appointment and honestly expected to be out by 4 based on all my research and the doctor’s explanations. Let me preface the rest of this story by saying my doctor is incredibly experienced (he delivered my little brother nearly 24 years ago…) and a very smart guy. He knows his patients well and always remembers every detail of my last visit, including complaints, worries about my endometriosis, etc. He knows what he’s doing; there wasn’t human error at play. He walked me through every step of the implantation, showed me the device and it all seemed very routine. He performed a pelvic exam and explained the quirks of my body from a gynecological perspective before the implantation began. Here’s more information than you ever wanted about my uterus: it tilts downward and to the right, meaning the long wand that wants to go straight in to implant the IUD is quite literally against a wall. He warned me of a few pinches and a bit of cramping, and I thought I could just breathe through it. I’m a yoga teacher, after all.

During implantation I felt immediate cramping, compounded by the fact that I was already cramping from being off the pill (for a whopping one day. THAT’S how much of a hormonal mess I am.) and experiencing discomfort before having a device implanted in my uterus. Doc kept explaining everything, including “I’m changing my gloves” and checking in, “Feel it? You okay?” every couple of seconds. I am just so glad I had the wear-with-all to tell him that it was starting to hurt WAY more than I had anticipated. And that I was able to articulate that I was starting to feel lightheaded. Luckily, that didn’t come until the implantation was complete.

What followed was one of the scariest experiences I can remember having. The nurse put a cold compress on me immediately; I was sweating profusely. She kept running back and forth between the sink and me to keep my temperature down with cold towels but I just kept getting fuzzier and fuzzier. I told them I was losing feeling in my fingers. They kept encouraging me to take deep breaths, relax, don’t panic. Doc kept his hand on my wrist the whole time, monitoring my pulse and communicating it to the nurse. They kept me talking, asking questions and explaining what happened and was happening: my heart rate plummeted and I was having so much trouble breathing, which was making things worse because I couldn’t oxygenate properly. My vision started to go, and I asked to roll to my side so I didn’t have to hold my head up anymore. My fingers and toes went tingly. They propped up my legs and kept rushing over cold towels as long as I was talking and responding about my levels of “okay-ness” and, I imagine, my heart rate wasn’t in a dangerous place. This went on for, I believe, about 20 or so minutes. I vaguely remember finally letting my eyes close and not breathing well. Doc goes “Snap her” which I then immediately learned meant for the nurse to give me smelling salts, which… oh my god. Ow, that burned. But it got me to breathe, which was the goal.

A few moments after the salts I started to come to and then threw up everything in my stomach. After that, though, I started to stabilize. I got feeling back in my fingers and toes, and after about an hour, I was able to sit back up and start the process of figuring out what happened. I realized that I’d been panicking about things like my class I was supposed to teach that night, how I was going to get home, and the fact that David was all the way in DC for work and I was alone. That certainly hadn’t helped me breathe. When I could see well again, I immediately texted David since he knew I was in procedure, and a few friends to help me get my class covered. I got a few offers of ways to help me get home, should I need it. But after a long while—seriously, about 2 hours after the start of the appointment—I felt stable and back to normal and drove myself home. (No one panic; I only drove because I knew I could. I had enough offers for help and a few other people I knew I could call if need be that I wouldn’t have had to if I didn’t want to.)

I called David and my mom and was surprised to realize I was crying. Hysterically. I was so scared and so emotional, but also so grateful. This cannot be stressed enough: My doctor had to return to other patients about a half hour after my meltdown, but he checked on me every couple minutes. The nurse NEVER left my room. She held a water cup for me, she gave me more gowns to wear when I was freezing (after sitting in a sweat-soaked shirt for an extended period of time, that’ll happen), literally held the towels I threw up into, asked me questions to keep me talking, offered to put my socks on my feet for me, propped me up and down, helped me roll to my side and then my back. She was amazing, and I could tell I gave her a big scare—the other nurse in the office came in to check on HER at one point, on the doc’s request.

THIS is the importance of quality health care for women—and every American, really. This is the importance of letting doctors do their damn jobs. This is the importance of respecting the expertise of the medical community and not bringing opinions about acceptable behavior (or, to be more honest, the desire to punish women) into the mix. I was so, so grateful throughout this experience for a devoted nurse and doctor who care about women’s health and do their jobs in order to HELP PEOPLE. I will never cease to be thankful for nurse Maureen who sat with me, stroked my arm, answered my questions, and helped me feel safe. There was a point during the almost-blackout where I just didn’t know what was going to happen. I was in so much pain and couldn’t bring myself back to the surface, but at the time I was aware of the fact that I was in the hands of people I could trust completely and who would do everything necessary. (I heard them discussing whether I would need oxygen at one point, right before I started to come to.)

The why is a little sketchy, but a combination of the angle of the instruments during my implantation, due to the shape and slant of my uterus, and where my cervix came into contact is a big part. That caused a vasovagal reaction, which isn’t NORMAL, but can happen. The early stages of my reaction, Doc said, were common—I suspect it doesn’t usually go quite so far, but hey, I like to keep people on their toes. He likened it to the reaction some people have when having blood drawn. For me, I’ve had something sorta kinda similar happen years ago, in response to a SUPER painful tattoo, actually. I got lightheaded, nauseous, and almost lost vision for a few seconds. (A few seconds and 20 minutes are drastically different measurements of time though, obviously.) For whatever reason my body sees puking as a reasonable response to pain? Oh, and it also happened once when I had sun poisoning, but that’s another story for another day.

Anyway, the point is, there is no point, but I know for sure that part of my panic was induced by absolute fear and surprise. If you’re planning on getting an IUD, DON’T let this story deter you—but, please do be aware that if you feel lightheaded, it’s okay. It’s happened before to another person, so don’t panic. (I’m not a medical professional, this isn’t medical advice, etc.) I don’t know if reading a blog post about this happening to someone else would have helped me take more deep breaths and not be so afraid, but maybe it would have. Who knows?

Like I said, there is no point. This is just a thing that happened to me yesterday and now you know about it too.
But for real, I would love to hear from anyone with an IUD about their experiences, if you’d like to share. Moreso what you experienced in the days and weeks that followed. When I came to, I told the nurse I’d felt like I’d just gone through battle and all I wanted was to put on fuzzy socks and drink tea and go to sleep. And then the emotional rush was a fun surprise too. (Psst. I cried when writing this post.)

I sincerely hope this doesn’t deter anyone from getting an IUD if it’s something you want to do. Everything else went just as the doctor explained it would and the implantation was a success. From what I understand, most people would have been out of that 3:15 appointment by 4 p.m. I just had to be ~special.~

Oy, ladies. Turning it over to you now, because I’ve talked enough for one day.

17 comments:

  1. Well, that is terrifying! I've had two IUDs inserted with nothing really notable to share about the experience itself, although I definitely had my concerns and my fears beforehand and did lots of research (which I guess was both good and bad).
    Also to piggyback on your comment about the importance of women having access to quality healthcare, I would just like to say that both of my IUDs were inserted by Planned Parenthood - the first one because I got kicked off my parents' insurance when I turned 22 and didn't have it through my employer (yay pre-Obamacare days!), and the second one (when I DID have insurance and a regular doctor) because PP was more accommodating than my regular doctor. I got a copper IUD first, about 7 years ago, because I had been on all different types of HBC for years and always had side effects from the hormones. I wanted the ease of something I didn't have to think about taking or refilling, and I just wanted the hormones out. I was happy not dealing with the hormones, but (sorry for getting super TMI all up in your comments section) I did get heavier and more painful periods with it, a normal thing that can happen, as time went on. I was waking up in the middle of the night with cramps, crying, and when I almost had to call into work one morning because I couldn't move without pain, I decided it was time to reluctantly switch to the hormonal one. I've been going to a NP in my regular doctor's office since I was a teenager, but because they're general care and not technically OB/GYN apparently they couldn't actually take it out, so I had to get a referral. Bottom line, it was going to take weeks just to get a consultation at the OB/GYN and then who knows how long to get the appointment to get it taken out. I scheduled the appointment but when the next month rolled around and I still had the IUD and no appointment and was still in so much pain during my period that I could barely function, I called up PP. I had an initial appointment within a few days (different PP than the one I had gotten it from originally so I was a new patient) and one week later I got it out. Not really relevant to my experience having an IUD (I'm sure you got the hormonal one, which has been MUCH better for me - having it inserted was more painful than the first one but I think that was more because getting the first OUT hurt so much, but I've had none of the symptoms I used to get with other types of HBC and I haven't had a period at all since I got it in September 2015), but just a little anecdote to remind everyone that PP doesn't just dole out abortions and actually provides a wide range of important services to all different types of women in this country.

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  2. This is terrifying just to read, so I can only imagine how you felt at the time, but I'm so glad you had an amazing doctor and nurse who were with you to help you stay calm the entire time-- that is sooo important!

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  3. Wow that is super scary!

    I'm on IUD #2 and didn't have that type of experience. With my first IUD I hadn't been diagnosed with my endo yet, but it caused no problems. I stabilized (hormonally) and other than some mild discomfort if I move in just the right way, I've had no issues. I also have a tilted special angled uterus (I can't remember which way).

    My first IUD was the copper one and within two-ish years of it being in, it started to fall out. It was actually getting infected because it was sitting IN my cervix, which would explain that crazy cramping and bleeding I was experiencing. Honestly, I would have never found out if I hadn't been assaulted (silver lining?). When they did the exam she noticed the strings were really far down and after more investigating said that she could see the IUD poking out. Gross/cool. I had an appointment to remove it that same week. The doc where I was stationed at wouldn't install a new one because I wasn't a mother and I hated him. I went back on the patch (and went crazy), then the pill (which I forgot to take and was still crazy AND my endo gave me the big FU).

    After my endo removal surgery, the doc actually suggested an IUD for me and I was all over it. He reinstalled it. It hurt more than the first one (prob because I was still a bit sore from the surgery) and it was the same type of cramping. I did cramp for longer when I got home, but it only lasted for a day or so.

    I'm actually about to get IUD #3 installed by the end of the month. I am also afraid of the new ACA changes and I am fearful that the IUD will become too expensive for me, even with insurance. I know we're not kid ready and I know that I'm inconsistent with other types of BC and they make me absolutely crazy (headaches, mood swings, every PMS symptom imaginable through the entire month, weight gain.. ugh), so IUD is the way for me.

    I'm interested to hear how your next few weeks ago! Hopefully smoothly!

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  4. yikes; so glad that the nurse and doctor were amazing. thanks for sharing your story.

    i was always scared of the IUD and i was also scared of long term effects of the pill so i stopped taking it...that was about 15 years ago?

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  5. I am SO sorry you had such an awful experience with the IUD! After the election, I immediately started researching the IUD and actually went on 1/3 to have it implanted. My number one concern was having it before the inauguration because I was paying $60 a month for my birth control before the ACA and don't want to pay it again and I truthfully don't really want kids while he's president. Unfortunately, after 3 failed attempts, the doctor said that I'm "too small" and "my body isn't ready for it right now and maybe that will change after kids". But, during the attempts, I felt very similarly: sweaty, lightheaded, hard to breathe, etc. Thankfully, it only lasted a few minutes once they stopped trying but I felt so thankful to the doctor and nurse as well because they were very communicative with me and took great care of me until I felt well. I am discussing the Nexplanon option with her next month, but for some reason that one freaks me out! I hope your IUD is a pleasant experience from here on out :)

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  6. As I was reading this, I knew exactly what happened to you. I have those reactions relatively regularly, and they don't get any more fun. I will say, though, after having this condition for years, the worst part is trying to explain to people that I'll be fine while I'm in the throes of it. (I once almost had some people call an ambulance for me at the gym. Embarrassing.) All of this is to say that it is really good that you had that reaction around medical professionals because it can be scary at first (not to mention awful)!

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  7. So this reminds me that I meant to blog about getting my IUD this past fall and never did and now I wish I had because you're right, it IS nice to discuss with people and to let others know what to expect.

    I had to go through it twice because my cervix would not cooperate the first time and I needed a cervix softener - the first time was absolutely terrible and I had the sweats and tunnel vision and nearly fainting and just a lot that I was NOT expecting. Although my body reacts similarly to stress as yours did here - puking, etc. I hemmed and hawed about actually going through with it the second time, but after 18 years I was just done with the pill. I did not feel well the rest of the day the first time (not successful) or the second time (successful) or in the first few days after. Ovulation is more apparent to me now too.

    I was also grateful for the team of women with me - I go to an all women doc for all women practice, and there are a number of specialties under one roof, gynecology of course being one - I felt comfortable and safe with them, and they explained why it was not working the first time and what I could expect the second time (also tilted, and a really small cervix, and something about if I wanted to get pregnant I actually might have a hard time because of something I blocked out when I was sweating and never asked about again because I don't want to get pregnant).

    I am lucky to have felt really cared for by a lot of gynos I've had - my first independent one was at Planned Parenthood because that's what I could afford. I got TOP care there and I take it personally when this shit ass male dominated government tries to defund it.

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  8. I'm so sorry that happened to you! I do think your instincts to check out long-term birth control given the current situation were smart, though. I got my third IUD in November, and I really love them. Getting the first one in was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced (though not nearly on your level; just insane cramping and discomfort). But I've had like 3-4 periods in the last decade and no issues with pain or it falling out or becoming displaced. And the second and third insertions were a piece of cake (though I did take some ibuprofen beforehand. And anticipating the discomfort might have helped, too). I hope your experience improves going forward!

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  9. I'm so sorry this happened to you! I felt like I was right there, reading this. I had a very similar experience to yours last year. It was a reaction to pain too. On top of the embarrassment is the anxiety about it happening again. It's terrible. So sorry, but glad you're okay now!
    -Kristen
    www.pugsandpearls.com

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  10. Wow, I'm so sorry you went through this. I remember when I donated blood and almost fainted, it was not a good feeling. I had to lay down with my legs up and I had a skirt on lol. So embarrassing. Also will look into getting IUD in the future. In the meantime though, I don't think I'll ever get a tattoo. I forgot that there's pain involved and I don't want to pass out because of that.. I rather give blood lol.

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  11. YIKES! I'm so so sorry that you went through all of that just to get an IUD. Thank goodness for that doctor and the nurse staying with you throughout that entire time! I've had the Mirena for a little over 2 years and was NOT expecting the pain I felt during the insertion. I remember getting a little light headed, sweaty, and the worst cramps I've ever felt in my life. The type of cramps where I wasn't sure if I was going to throw up or if it would go the other way. And then I had to drive home when I probably should have had someone else drive me. As nice as it has been to not have a period, I don't know if I want to go through all of that again! I've had a good pretty good experience with it & haven't had any of the crazy symptoms that you read about on Google. I still get random cramps every once in awhile which is kind of weird because they come out of nowhere. And yes, it's a little concerning about where our healthcare is going now & what our options will be for BC. Prior to the ACA, I knew someone who had the Mirena and paid around $800 for it while thankfully I didn't have to pay a dime. I hope that you have a good experience with it as well & that everything from here on out goes smoothly for you!

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  12. OMG, this story is terrifying; I'm so sorry that happened to you. I take BCPs and like you, it's not just to prevent pregnancy - I take a certain kid of pill that only gives me my period 4x a year because I get awful, crippling and debilitating migraines during my period. I can't imagine anyone limiting my access to something I really need. All the things going on right now in the world of healthcare and women's health is beyond alarming.

    Glad you're doing better!

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  13. Whoa, friend. This is so scary and I'm so sorry that it happened to you. Thank goodness that you were with a great team who was able to take care of you in exactly the way you needed. This world of healthcare is heading down a scary & dangerous road.

    Glad you're doing better now. Sending you lots of happy vibes and good thoughts! <3

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  14. That is so scary! I'm glad you're ok and that your doctors were good and made your comfort and feelings a priority. I can't even imagine what I would do in that scenario.

    I've never had an IUD but I did have the Implanon stick thingy in my arm. I liked that it wasn't so invasive (let's leave my uterus out of this, thanks), but in general I wasn't a fan of the effects of the long-term hormones. It was good at the time because I was terrible at remembering to take my pill! But now I'd rather use the pill and not deal with spotting and unpredictable period stuff.

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  15. This is frightening but I'm glad you had quality nurses and a doctor to help you through it. I fear what's going to happen with all the changes but I hope like hell it doesn't change the quality of care most of us are able to get.

    I'm glad you're better now!

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  16. Alyssa! This shit is scary! I'm so glad you finally got around to feeling well enough to drive home, and write this post. I bet you're pretty sore right now from the vomiting and shivering... Minus the cramping, this happened to me on every pill I tried. It comes in waves. I'll be fine for a few hours, then I'm totally not; and it goes on alternating all day long. That's why I've been pregnant so many times! I can't take birth control pills! And I can't count well enough to do the counting method my husband and I rely on. Hence, three of my pregnancies were surprises. My insurance in Vegas wouldn't cover the non-hormone IUD. The insurance we have now does, but I'm scared to go for it because my body just doesn't seem compatible with birth control. What if the reaction is more extreme than the pill? While I'm alone with my kids? Or driving with my kids? I can't. But by all means let's make women's health care options even shittier starting Saturday. I hope your IUD is in fact intact and won't cause you any issues from here on out. And for whatever it's worth, both to you and to me, I will most definitely think of this story if I do go for an IUD.

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  17. first, sorry i am so behind on reading/commenting.
    second, holy shit balls this is terrifying. i'm glad you are okay and were surrounded by professionals who knew what they were doing and could take care of you.
    lastly, i agree with everything you said and i read Tracy's comment and agree with what she said about PP (which i know you know/agree with) that they do so much more than abortions or whatever. when i first moved here i couldn't go to a normal doctor, PP were the only ones who would see me. I will be forever thankful for them and it had absolutely nothing to do with abortions. Anyway.

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