The broom method! Haven’t tried that one yet!
Ladies: I have big news! Gents: I have a huge overshare! So consider yourselves informed and warned.
I got my Mirena IUD out.
For everyone who is not breathlessly following the status of my uterus (can’t imagine why), the Mirena is an intra-uterine device that prevents pregnancy by releasing a small amount of synthetic progeterone (progestin). I’ve had one for years both between babies #4 and #5 and again after Jelly Bean was born two and a half years ago. (I KNOW.) Up until just a few months ago I would have told you that I unequivocally loved it. I might have even recommended it to you. Indeed there is a lot to recommend it: totally fuss-free, completely stopped my periods and has the lowest failure rate of any contraceptive.
But then I made an unsettling connection. To know me is to know me crazy. I think it’s safe to say most of you are well aware of my, um, many quirks. Yet I was not always this crazy. After looking back over my medical history and journals I realized that the only times in the past 15 years I’ve had to be on my anti-depressant medication was when I had the Mirena in. After digging around – I had to go to the CANADIAN website for the official side effects since the US one only lists a few! – I discovered that the Mirena is contraindicated for women who have a history of depression and/or anxiety. Because it can make them worse. And this isn’t just one of those super rare side effects, mood disorders are listed as a “severe” side effect affecting 5-15% of users! With my history, had I known this I would never have gotten it.
When you have little kids, it can be hard to tell what’s you, what’s the stress of a young family and what might be attributed to outside causes. So ever since Jelly Bean has been born, I’ve chalked up my increasing anxiety issues, hair loss, fatigue, mental fog, weight gain around my waist**, inability to focus, PMS from hell and extreme irritability to the fact that I’m a working mom with four young kids, a husband in graduate school and no childcare. Which does make sense. But on the other hand, I’ve been in this situation before and not been this overwhelmed or this insane. Plus, when my doctor measured my hormone levels they told me my progesterone is so low that it is as if my body is in menopause. AT 33! Do you know what the hallmark symptoms of menopause are? Read that list three sentences up. Yeah. I pretty much had everything except the hot flashes. Considering the IUD is supposed to be giving me extra progesterone this just seemed like even more evidence my body doesn’t like the fake stuff. While it’s possible I could be hitting early menopause I think it’s more likely that being either pregnant or on hormonal birth control for the past 15 years has royally jacked up my hormones.
My doctor recommended that I switch my anti-depressant, go on Ritalin to help the concentration/focus issues and start using progesterone cream. All so I could keep the *$&% Mirena in? In the end, I finally narrowed my problems down to either getting older or getting the Mirena. And since I can’t do a thing about getting older, one week ago I got my IUD yanked. (Literally. It felt like the doctor snapped my cervix with a rubber band.) And thus the real Experiment began.
The past week has been… interesting. First, the mental fog disappeared almost immediately which was a huge relief. In the first 24 hours I peed out like two pounds of water (I didn’t weigh my own urine, just guessing, I swear!) and I lost some lower tummy bloat. After several days the irritability started to fade. Nothing major but it just felt like I wasn’t so… prickly. Feeling happy didn’t feel like such an effort. Things the kids did that used to make all my hair stand on end didn’t really bother me anymore. And even better, over the past few days I’ve even found myself seeking out their company. I hate to admit this but for awhile I’ve just felt like that while I love my kids (I really really do) I just couldn’t stand to be around them. It made me wonder if maybe I’m just not suited to be a good mom. It made me envious of other moms who genuinely enjoyed taking their kids bowling all day. It made me read a lot of parenting books and then feel guilty that I’d rather read about parenting than actually parent. All of this made me really sad. Especially since I didn’t used to be this way! So the fact that that feeling is pretty much gone and I really want to do things with them again is huge for me. Huge.
But there’s one big problem (and no it’s not an accidental pregnancy – heaven forbid!): the first night after I got it removed I had the worst panic attack I’ve had in 13 years. I spent all night sitting on the couch literally vibrating with anxiety. It got so bad I vomited and had diarrhea. While I was able to talk myself down with mantras and yogic breathing and America’s Funniest Home Videos (Thank you Netflix and years of training! In the past this type of attack would have sent me to the ER to be sedated.) it was incredibly unpleasant and it took an extreme amount of energy. And while subsequent nights haven’t been quite that bad, my panic/anxiety has definitely increased. I don’t know why this is. All I can think is that this is exactly what happens to me after I give birth – I get post-partum anxiety instead of post-partum depression – and perhaps if the IUD was tricking my body into thinking I was fake pregnant then now it’s like I had a little fake baby and am now going through fake post-partum? There’s also a lot of reports on the Internet about other women suffering from a “Mirena crash” after removal where they get depressed and feel awful while waiting for their body to pick back up production of progesterone. So maybe it’s that? Whatever it is, it sucks.
I wanted to be able to report to you that everything is amazing now and that it totally fixed all my problems. I really wanted to. But I think I need to give it more time – they say it can take up to 6 months to get all the fake progestin out of your system – before I can say for sure how I feel about all of this. Right now I just feel really fragile.
Any of you have the Mirena? What’s your experience been like? Anyone else super sensitive to drugs? And please – any tips for dealing with anxiety/panic attacks would be MUCH appreciated!
P.S. Because I know someone will ask – the paragaurd IUD (or “copper T” or the non-hormonal IUD) is not an option for me. I had it once for a few months and let’s just say that Aunt Flo staged her own production of Carrie. Not cool.
** Three of the Gym Buddies have also used the Mirena (yes, we’re that close!) and all three of them reported that while it didn’t make them gain weight they absolutely couldn’t lose any weight with it in. Kind of a problem when you get that sucker inserted 6 weeks post-partum! One Gym Buddy had the Mirena removed, lost her baby weight, and then had a new one put in once she reached her maintenance weight. The second Gym Buddy had it inserted twice and removed twice because of weight gain/inability to lose. The third Gym Buddy still has hers but also complains of irritability, extreme PMS and inability to lose weight. For myself, I haven’t noticed any weight gain from it but I haven’t been trying to lose weight either.
(NOTE: Which isn’t to say that any of this is the same for you. Lots of people love their Mirena! And that’s okay! I’m not telling anyone to quit taking their birth control or giving medical advice. I’m just trying to share my personal experience and I’m known to be extremely sensitive to any medication. 1/2 a Vicodin once knocked me out for 6 hours, is what I’m saying. Be sure to talk to your doctor and do your own research before making any decisions!)
UPDATE May 27, 2013: How I’m feeling about my Mirena removal decision one year later