I feel like it is time for a follow up post about my Mirena experience. My original post receives between 700-1100+ visits daily and has generated over 200 comments from women from all over the world who have shared their own, sometimes very personal, struggles and experiences with this supposed innocuous form of birth control. I appreciate each and every one of these women for sharing their stories, for listening to their gut and for persevering for answers when they were not getting any from their health care professionals. It is proving difficult to answer every single comment, but there are some common questions within a good majority of them that I feel like I can answer, at least from my perspective and from my experiences at this point, one year post-Mirena. The dreaded "Mirena Crash".
Before I had my IUD removed, I too did a lot of research and reading on the Internet and the number one thing you hear about is the Mirena crash. This plummet in hormones can cause all kinds if symptoms ranging from general malaise and feeling unwell to outright rage, depression and severe mood swings. It seems to last for about a week in its most severe form and then tapers off. Thankfully, I do not believe that I suffered through any major crash after my removal and I honestly started feeling better within days of having it out.
I did have some removal bleeding initially the first night and into the next day. It was very bright red, and I admit that after 3 years of not seeing that kind of blood with my 'sort of" periods, I was a bit concerned. Turns out that it really was nothing that a couple of sturdy panty liners couldn't handle and it stopped after that second day.
A return to normal menstrual cycles.
Since that initial visit from Aunt Flo 5 weeks after I had the Mirena removed, my periods have been like clockwork. I have a pretty nice 28 day cycle and a 3.5 day period. And all I use during that time is my Diva cup. THAT IS IT! I can't complain about anything on this front. I feel like a normal woman and aside from the fact that I think I may be a bit peri-menopausal now and experiencing an increase in emotional PMS symptoms, I feel good about all of it.
The hair loss that I was experiencing while I had the Mirena was REE - diculous!! I would run my fingers through my hair in the shower every morning and they would come out completely COVERED in strands of my hair. Normal daily hair loss for women is between 50-100 strands a day, with new ones growing almost immediately to replace the ones lost. I estimate (based on what I removed in the shower and what I swept up off the bathroom floor every other day) that I was losing about triple this amount EVERY DAY. Luckily I have a lot of hair to begin with and wasn't noticing any balding patches, but I do know that some women are not that lucky. In my opinion, I believe I am back down to a normal hair loss pattern and did notice this difference within about 4 months post-removal.
I'd love to tell you all that I had the Mirena removed and magically dropped 20 pounds. Alas, this did not happen. Unlike some of the brave women who have posted their stories and comments on the original post, I did not have a huge amount of weight gain while on Mirena. What I did have was an inability to LOSE any weight even with a pretty strict fitness routine and a healthy, balanced diet. One year after my Mirena removal and four months since I stopped nursing my daughter and finally, that extra 10-15 pounds of what I liked to call my "Milk Reserves" is slowly starting to come off.
This was one of the side effects that disappeared the fastest. I went from not being able to keep my eyes open while DRIVING and absolutely NEEDING to nap every day, to sleeping better at night (no more night sweats either) and having more energy throughout the day. I am serious people, the level of fatigue I was experiencing was dangerous. I would literally fall asleep at red lights and I even think I somehow fell asleep with my eyes open a couple of times and jerked "AWAKE" just in time to avoid crashing the car with all of us in it.
It's BAAA-aaack. And it was relatively soon after removal. The fact that I was not feeling like I could literally fall asleep at any given minute of any day had a lot do do with that. I had ENERGY again. To be with him, to care about my sensual and sexual needs again and to want to just get it ON! Now don't get me wrong, we are still a busy family with a lot going on in our lives and some nights I am thoroughly exhausted and it's a quick peck on the cheek and lights out, but now, I at least have my DESIRE back. While on the Mirena, it was as if that part of me was completely removed from my mind. And I am kind of a sexy beast, so this was very troubling for me! ;)
Abdominal Pain, Bloating, Cramping.
I am very happy to say that since my Mirena removal I have not had one bout of the severe abdominal cramping and the excruciating pain that was a monthly occurrence with it in. As it turns out, I do not have ovarian cysts, I do not have appendicitis or endometriosis and I do not have ridiculous levels of noxious gas in my bowels! Whether my doctor agrees with me or not, I truly believe that I had a device in my body that was poisoning me.
The one thing that has bothered me the most about all of the comments and stories that have been shared with this post, is the fact that so many women (including myself) have had to FIGHT with their healthcare providers to be heard, to be believed and to have this device removed from their own bodies . This speaks volumes to me about the state of our society, where a woman's voice and decisions about her body own are constantly questioned, where the simplest answer is not even considered and where women are being bombarded with more and more medications to treat what may actually be the side effects of what is considered a fairly benign medication.
So benign in fact that last September, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology made this statement in their Committee Opinion on Adolescent Health Care:
"Increasing adolescent access to long-acting reversible contraceptives is a clinical and public health opportunity for obstetrician-gynecologists. With top-tier effectiveness, high rates of satisfaction, and no need for daily adherence, long-acting reversible contraceptive methods should be first-line recommendations for all women and adolescents."
And while I understand that the issue that the College was addressing was the increasing rate of unwanted teen pregnancies, I wonder at the long-term effects of this kind of contraception (hormonal IUDs) on these teenage girls still developing bodies and hormonal systems. Will these long-acting contraceptive methods affect their future ability to conceive? We don't know the answers to these questions and I for one don't think it is a risk that I would want to take with my teenage daughter.
Of the 218 comments that have been shared on the original post, there are maybe 5 that reflect a positive Mirena experience. Granted, most women who find my post are doing so by using search terms like "Mirena IUD" and "Mirena side effects" (my post is second only to the official Mirena website on a Google search), the statistics of this small sample population make me feel very good about my decision to remove my IUD and return to a normal menstrual cycle. I am glad that my post has been helpful for so many women and I am grateful for all the shared stories. I feel for each and every one of you who have suffered so much because of this teeny tiny not-so-innocent device.
I can not tell anyone what to do in any given situation, even though a lot of you have asked. I can only tell you to trust your gut, trust your body, and TRUST yourself. If this form of birth control is causing you more problems than it is worth, than try to find an alternative. (For anyone wondering, my husband and I are condom users and NO, he still has not booked his vasectomy!) And if your health care provider is not listening to you, find one who will.
I have one last thing to say to those of you who have decided to have your IUD removed. Please don't let your family doctor or OB/GYN tell you that you shouldn't have it removed or make a big deal about the removal or tell you to go to the doctor who inserted it. If the strings are visible and reachable with a simple pelvic exam, then removal is a 10 second procedure that requires nothing more than a speculum and some medical tweezers. It pinches a bit, but if you have had babies already, well,... enough said.
I hope this follow-up post about my experience with Mirena proves as helpful as the first one has been. I am very happy that one year later, I can say without a doubt, that life has been a lot better since I broke up with my Mirena IUD.
Take care of yourselves ladies,