Paraguard Paranoia

2014-12-15 14.28.25I recently had my Paraguard Copper-T removed and what I discovered was kind of shocking. So, doing what I do best, I hit the internet to look for people with similar experiences. Oddly enough, I only found one. I figure that I can’t be the only one, so I’m posting my own Paraguard experience in case other women like me need to commiserate. 

Oh where should I start. Probably the best place would be back when I had my Paraguard inserted. I had just had a miscarriage at 14-16 weeks and I REALLY didn’t want to go through that whole shebang again, so I opted for a birth control method that I couldn’t forget to take, forget to put on or in, or experience a user-error with. The IUD fit all those bills and then some. Perfect!

My doctor assured me that insertion wouldn’t be any worse than my period cramps, even though in the back of my mind the word “LIAR” was shouting at me.

In my experience gynecologists are the biggest liars of all the doctors. I’ve never had a single one be truthful about what sensation I’m about to experience. I’ve heard more times than I can recall how “the cervix has no nerve endings” so I couldn’t possibly be experiencing discomfort during that Pap smear. I’ve had them tell me to expect a small cramp when instead it felt like a spiked mace was driven into me. I’ve had “pinches” feel more like waking-hysterectomies. They lie. Lie. LIE.

I should have known. But I was desperate and depressed and too trusting.

Insertion

No one ever told me they do it twice! Well, basically, that is, if you’re just counting the amount of times the pain makes you want to puke.

I got myself all comfy-cozy in the stirrups and dealt very stoically with the pressure of the speculum. Kept my mind off the clinking sounds as she used tongs to wipe off my cervix with an antiseptic solution. Then she said, “Big cramp.” But, before the word “cramp” came out of her mouth, it literally felt like someone had used a vice grip sharpened to a fine point and squeezed my entire lower abdomen with it. It was such a sudden, overwhelming pain that I felt it all the way to my throat and once it hit my solar plexus, I struggled to breathe.

I’ve only had the breath knocked out of me once in my life and this is the exact experience I had when she clamped her magical tenaculum onto my cervix. It knocked the wind out of me. I gasped for air. Sweat poured off my forehead, but the rest of my body felt cold and clammy. I really had a hard time coming back from that pain.

I remember once when I was a kid watching my step-father castrate a grown bull using what looked like two, giant inverted spoons. He called it the nut crusher, and that’s basically what it did. You tie the bull down so he can’t move too much and get his nuts between the bowl of the spoons and you use all your strength to pinch them together. This magnificent, 1000+ pound bull, groaned, his eyes rolled into the top of his head so that only whites showed, and he collapsed.

That’s what having the tenaculum clamped onto my cervix felt like, visually.

After the tenaculum (the pincers of doom), were applied, the pain didn’t stop. Every time she wiggled them, it sent shooting, gripping pains all over my stomach and deep into my lower back. At this point my legs were shaking like I’d been doing squats all afternoon. She told me that I’d feel a “pinch” this time. Well, it wasn’t a fucking pinch, it felt more like someone had welded four razorblades together to form a sort of razorblade pinwheel and had shoved them into the depths of my stomach. It was a burning, slicing, sharp, piercing pain. It felt like it wasn’t going to end.

This was the part that I was completely unaware of. I was under the impression that this was the IUD being inserted.

Surprise! It was just the sounder.

When she bottomed out at the top of my uterus this strange spasm went through my stomach and I got even more nauseous than I was to begin with. Pulling the sounder back out was just as painful. She fumbled around in my vagina a few more seconds and out came this strange strip of pinkish, bloody tissue that she set inside a stainless steel bowl. I don’t know what it was, but I would guess that when she drove the sounder up my cervix that it sliced off about a 1.5″ long part of the lining. It looked like about the thickness of a strip of bacon, but was about as big around as…… the sounder! Which, by the way, a sounder is essentially a ball bearing welded to the end of a coat hanger. It’s used to find the depth of your uterus.

At this point, I’m thinking “Phew” it’s over. I was having shooting pains still, throbbing, stabbing pains that occurred in time to my racing heart and with every movement. I asked her if I was good to go and she said, “Oh, I haven’t inserted it yet.”

I just about peed on her. Deliberately.

And I would have but I was in so much pain that I couldn’t think about revenge.

When that little gem came out of her mouth, I tried to sit up. Nope, that just resulted in screaming pain so I layed back down. I have no idea what I said but it was something to the effect of “you’re fucking kidding me.”

I told her that I couldn’t take the pain, that she would have to stop. She told me that it would only take a few more seconds if I’d just let her do it. I told her she wasn’t touching another part of my body unless she numbed me. She told me that “they don’t give local anesthesia” for IUD’s. I told her that “they’re” barbaric. She asked the nurse for something she called “hurricane”??? and squirted my cervix with it for all the good it did. It felt cool but did nothing to ease the pain.

She assumed the “hurricane” was the answer to the mind-altering pain I was in. It wasn’t. I gripped the sides of the table and then she started to drive the serrated bulldozer (she called it a catheter) which contained the IUD into my cervix. Well, I thought the sounder hurt, but the catheter was even larger and didn’t have nice round edges like a ball. It’s rather blunt and about twice as large. If it had felt like razor blades going in the first time, I simply can’t describe what this felt like. It was hot, sharp, tons of pressure, this complete-stomach mega-cramp that really wasn’t as much cramplike as I’m being drawn and quartered. Imagine Mel Gibson’s character in Braveheart at the very end when they disemboweled him. Kind of along that line.

The IUD went in way too slow for my liking. I have a closed, tight cervix and it doesn’t like to have things shoved up it, so I guess it takes more than a little force to get blunt objects up it. Yippy.

She got the catheter out, relieving me of a portion of the pain, then disengaged the tenaculum. I felt immediate relief.

Until the cramping started.

It was a strange sort of cramping, unlike any I’ve ever had. It was kind of sharp, kind of dull, but I could deal with it. They wouldn’t let me go until my blood pressure went back to normal so I had to lie on the table for about 20 minutes to regain my sense of normalcy.

My husband and I checked out and got, oh, about, 1/2 mile up the road when the most hellish, evil, monstrous cramps came over me. I wanted to scream they hurt so bad. I was doubled over, rocking back and forth. I believed that the IUD had pierced through my uterus and had ruptured my color/bladder/intestines, everything. Because these cramps felt like I was dying. They were relentless and full-body. Like, OMFG if this pain doesn’t stop, I will go insane.

This was before cell phones were commonplace. I was begging my husband to return me or take me to the ER. He pulled over to a payphone and called the gyno. She said she didn’t really want to remove it and that it just needed to settle down.

Settle down my fucking ass.

Well, it did after about two hours.

But those two hours were worse than any gallbladder attack I ever had. Holy fuck a duck.

Post Insertion

Everything went swimmingly for a few months. My periods were a little heavier, lasted a little longer. I occasionally had break-through bleeding. But, it was good birth control so who cared!

Then, slowly, over time, my cycles shortened (look up luteal phase defect with copper IUD), and my periods lengthened. Soon I was having a period every 21-24 days that lasted for 10-14 days. You do the math.

A couple more years went by and I started up with the mid-cycle spotting. My doctor told me I probably had cysts. Well, the images from the sonogram showed cysts, but the report said I had none, so who knows. It can’t be both ways. Since doctors only read the reports and don’t look at the images, it was declared that I was cyst free.

At this point I’d have 14-day periods where the bleeding was so heavy that I had to keep a towel under me and one near the bed because if I sat upright in the morning, it looked like a massacre had happened between my bedroom and bathroom. I was bleeding so badly that when I sat on the toilet, I didn’t hear a slow drip, I hear nearly a steady stream. I was going through two boxes of super tampons each period on top of a box of pads.

And that was just the bloody part. There was also the pain. I had pain during sex, bleeding after sex. I was getting cramping every ovulation, cramping a full week before my period. I was having stabbing pains that went from my pubic bone to my inner calf. I felt like something was always swollen and burning just behind my bladder and around my bladder. I was having pinching, poking, and pulling sensations.

Another ultrasound showed a completely normal appearing IUD.

My doctor told me it was all perimenopause.

A year before my Paraguard was set to expire, I was at the doctors again. She told me that they’d extended the life-span of the IUD by two more years and that some studies suggested that the Paraguard could be effective upwards of 20+ years. I was terrified about the removal so this was a good thing in my book. I could put it off a little longer.

Comprehensive List of Symptoms:

  • Mid-cycle spotting
  • Post-period spotting
  • 14-day periods
  • Pre-period cramping (these always felt like incredibly strong cramps)
  • Ovulatory cramping (these were always the ones that felt like stabbing, shooting pain from pubic bone to mid-calf)
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Pain during sex
  • Luteal phase defect
  • Shortened cycle (went from 28-29 day cycle to 21-24)
  • Pubic area pain (pinching, poking)
  • Spotting after bowel movements (if I bore down during the poo’ing process)
  • Rectal pain
  • Bladder discomfort and pressure

Removal

The twelve year mark came and went. I chickened out on a couple of appointments to remove it. Then after a non-stop year of bleeding and pain, two years after the recommended life-span, I had it taken out on 12/17/14.

I had my physical on a Friday and was scheduled for removal that following Monday. I spent all weekend reading forums about removal experiences. As bad as insertion was, my mind was conjuring up all kinds of bad shit about removal. Interestingly enough, all the stuff I read described quick, painless procedures. Most women reported feeling nothing more than odd sensations or pressure. I was pretty excited until the day came.

First my doctor fitted me for a diaphram (long story for another blog post, don’t get me started). She wanted to do the removal first then fit me. I told her that in the event I was uncomfortable after I really wouldn’t want more poking and prodding.

This is how it went. She inserted the speculum. Looked around. Adjusted it so she could see my cervix better. She had to use a swab to drag the strings into position. They hadn’t retracted, they were just curled up around the backside of my cervix. This was painless. Then she stuck in a pair of tongs with o-ring looking things at the end, I forgot the name she used. Foreceps or something like that. And she said, “I have the strings in the foreceps.” And that’s when I tried to say, “Can you give me a test tug?” But she’d already started pulling.

Ouch!

And she pulled and pulled and tugged and tugged and every movement felt like a horrible sharp, stabbing, suctioning feelings. And then I let out a yelp (or actually a long series of “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow.” And a few seconds later I had a wickedly sharp stabbing pain and it was over. She held it up and said “this definitely needed to come out. It was not making your cervix happy.” After questioning her about what she meant, I guess she was referring to the state of the IUD and all the scraping it must have been doing on the uterus-side of that organ. She told me that “it felt like pulling out a rusty nail.” And, having had the pleasure of pulling a rusty nail out of my own foot when I was younger, I can attest that the way it felt coming out was very similar. It was like it was attached to me still and having to be pulled OUT of my tisses every time it slid down a little further. Hard to describe but it was more like it was a part of my body that was being ripped off than something that should have been separate from my body and just slid out. She said if it hadn’t come out when it did, she would have sent me to have it removed via hysteroscopy. Yuck! I’m so glad it didn’t come down to that.

I asked her if I could have it and she washed it off (it was covered in blood) and then we examined it more closely.

Here is what a Paraguard is supposed to look like:

paraguard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what my IUD looked like upon removal:

2014-12-15 14.28.25

Notice what it’s missing?

A LOT of copper.

Now, before you start saying how it was a little past its expiration date, let’s revisit what my doctor told me. “New studies suggest it could be effective upwards of 20 years or more.”

So, to me, that says that this thing should remain intact and effective for way more than 14 years. I mean, do you honestly believe that this amount of degradation occurred solely in the last two years?

No way!

I’ve been experiencing discomfort to an extreme for at least five years. Slight discomfort the entire time it’s been in there.

This thing clearly began breaking down long, long time ago.

The question I have is:

“Where’d all the copper go?”

Is it still in my uterus? Embedded in the tissues? Did I expel it and not know? I have had my fingers in there many a time and have never felt anything that resembled copper wire. I have never wiped and looked at it and seen objects. Yes, I ‘ve seen blood and fluid and what not. But it seems unlikely to me that at least one time in the past 10 years, if this copper was expelling, that I wouldn’t have noticed at least one of these coils on my panties or the toilet paper. And it’s missing dozens and dozens of coils. I didn’t count them, but as you can see, over half of the wires on the stem are gone. The remaining ones are loose and broken and frayed.

No wonder I’ve been in pain for so long. No wonder I’ve been bleeding constantly for 14 years of my life.

Post IUD

I had the IUD removed on 12/17/14 and my period came within a week. I had minimal cramping. Literally one episode that lasted about 1/2 hour and was barely worth taking an Advil. My period only lasted 8 days. Something short of a miracle in my book. Oh, and when my period stopped, it actually stopped, unlike the past 14 years of my life where my period would end and SURPRISE, come back two days later and last for 3-4 more days.

Once my period was over I waited to see what would happen during ovulation. For a good 5-6 years now I’ve spotted for 3-5 days around ovulation. This month – nothing. Not even a hint of pink on the toilet paper. I knew I was ovulating, but I wasn’t bleeding for the first time in a long, long, time.

Normally when I’d have sex with my incredibly sexy and endowed husband I’d spot. Always a pink tinge to the toilet paper afterwards. This month? Nothing. And the sex-pain is gone too. If he bottomed out before I’d get stabbing pains. Now hubby can do the jackhammer and it’s okay. It’s amazing.

I’m coming up on period #2 since the IUD removal and here’s another new thing. Generally I would have pre-period cramps staring about 6 days before my period that would be accompanied by brown spotting. This month I’m due for my period tomorrow and I haven’t had a single cramp or spot. I know I have PMS because I have other symptoms, but everything down there is NORMAL for a change.

I want to high-five my internal organs because I know they are as happy as I am about this.

Conclusion

I’m not saying that everyone will have a similar experience with the Paraguard. I am saying that it’s common. I’ve been to more than a few message boards where women describe similar symptoms. Could something else be causing them? Sure! So make sure you tell your doctor just in case.

I’m not unhappy that I had my Paraguard for as long as I did. The years of sexual convenience far outweighed the discomfort. For the first say, 7 years. After that, it just became a constant agony. I did a lot of suffering and I wish now that I’d had it taken out when the severe symptoms began. And, they began well before the expiration date.

I also think that the degradation of my IUD is cause for concern. The presence of copper is what makes this an effective form of birth control. It’s toxic to sperm and it’s toxic to the uterus. If my hubby’s swimmers somehow managed to survive ground zero and make it to an egg, I had full confidence that there would be no implantation occurring.

So the question that remains is that if all this missing copper is still inside my uterus – which is entirely possible in my opinion – is it still acting as a sort of birth control device? This isn’t important to me in the sense that I’m trying to conceive, but might be for a woman who had her Paraguard (or other copper IUD) removed and still had copper inside of her uterus. Do these coils, in smaller amounts, still deter pregnancy? That’s a big question.

The reason I bring this up is that I found another woman on the internet that experienced a Paraguard disintegration well before her expiration date. Her Paraguard IUD, too, was missing a lot of coils and had begun to break down inside of her.

Read her story here.

In the end, the IUD is a wonderful method of birth control, but take my advice and consider removing it when you begin experiencing discomfort. In my experience, it doesn’t stop, it just gradually worsens. I can’t believe I suffered as long as I did, but after you live in pain for that long, you get used to it. I had forgotten what it felt like to have a normal feeling reproductive tract and I wish I’d realized this sooner and not waited another 7 years.

 

 

 

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    • Sh99
    • March 11th, 2016

    I’ve been having the same experience of copper degradation, except I knew it was happening. My gyn had never heard oh this and was a little skeptical until I told her I could count on 1/2 circles of coil being passed every or every other month. I’m at the 6.5 year mark, which is too early for any of this to be happening. This is my 2nd paraguard and I never had any issues with the first one, which makes me question a couple things: is the company now using inferior materials? Is it copper or an alloy? Are there greater health risks at stake? It’s being removed later this month. I would still recommend an iud to anyone in the right situation.

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