Women’s health

Blood Be Gone: Why I LOVE Mirena

Let’s talk periods for a blog entry. And no, I’m not talking punctuation marks.

What I am talking about is Aunt Flo. The Curse. Your monthly.

Whatever you call it, periods are something all women from teens to well into their 50s have to endure, and I’m no exception. We shell out hundreds of dollars a year on tampons, pads, cups, pantyliners, and other things to stop us from being the vampire victim every 28 days or so.

CSI: Constantly Soiled Items

Speaking for myself, my periods have always been a horrid curse. I was diagnosed with menorrhagia (abnormally heavy periods) in my early 30s. As early as my late teens, I could sleep with a tampon, two pads, and be on a towel, and I would still wake up on a bed that looked like a crime scene. I ruined countless items of clothing and bed linens. “Ultra heavy” pads and tampons were utterly laughable. As a teacher with one 20-minute break in a nine-hour day, I had to wear yoga pants so I could drag through the day. And it was gross. Just gross.

Sick and tired of the blood and anemia, I drew a line in the sand at the age of 31. I went to my OB/GYN, begging for something, anything, to relieve my symptoms.

That was when the miracle of Mirena was introduced into my life.

What Is Mirena?

Mirena is one of four hormonal IUDs available in the United States (the others being Skyla, Liletta, and Kyleena). It is a small, plastic, T-shaped device about 1.25” long and just as wide. Prescribed and inserted by a medical practitioner into your uterus, it shells out a low dose of the hormone levonorgestrel. There are strings that are trimmed after insertion you can still feel, but it shouldn’t interfere with your normal activities.

Advantages of Mirena

  • Up to 20% of women reported periods stopped altogether after their first year
  • Has a five-year success rate of 99.3% in preventing pregnancies
  • Effective for five years (although some women get a new one after 3 years)
  • Thanks to the ACA (Obamacare), many health plans cover Mirena
  • On the market in the US since 2001 with an extensive body of literature supporting its effectiveness
  • Nothing needs to be done prior to sex – it really is a “set it and forget it” form of birth control
  • If you change your mind and want to start a family, 90% of users who wish to become pregnant do so within 2 years of removal

Disadvantages of Mirena

  • Mild to moderate discomfort when it is inserted (from my own experience, I won’t lie – it hurts like a bitch)
  • Irregular periods and spotting after insertion
  • Side effects include: lowered sex drive, nausea, acne, weight change, change in glucose tolerance, lower back/abdominal pain, and mood swings

Of course, check with your physician to see if you are a candidate for Mirena. But in my personal experience, I saved my pennies to get it and gave my OB/GYN the green light to insert it. And the day I got my Mirena was the last day I had to worry about periods. Other than a couple days of light spotting, I haven’t had a single problem with my periods.

And it has been liberating. I can travel without worrying about my period. I can swim whenever I want. Stained clothing is but a distant memory, and I can even wear white pants without fear. My quality of life has gone up dramatically since Mirena came into my life. And yes, I do suffer from some side effects, but that is nothing in comparison to the joy and freedom to live my life on my terms without suffering from menorrhagia and anemia every month.

So what do you have to lose? Discuss Mirena or another hormonal IUD the next time you go to your GYN. You may just change your life, and for the better.

What has been your experience with birth control? Has it enhanced your quality of life? Comment below!

My Journey with PCOS

My Journey with PCOS

Surprise! You have ovaries full of cysts!

That is definitely not what I wanted to learn from my OB/GYN after an ultrasound, but she confirmed my suspicions.

Between 5-10% of woman of childbearing age have PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I want to share with you what PCOS is, and what I have done to help manage my symptoms.

Basically, PCOS is a hormone imbalance that causes small cysts to develop in a woman’s ovaries. They usually come and go, although sometimes the cysts do need to be popped.

While PCOS is not fatal, it is a pain in the ass to live with. It also predisposes women to heart disease and diabetes if it goes untreated. It sucks that no one knows what causes it, and there is no cure.

Here is a list of common PCOS symptoms:

  • Elevated risk for diabetes. Many women with PCOS take Metformin to help regulate this.
  • Depression or anxiety.
  • Acne, oily skin, dandruff.
  • Excess hair growth, known as hirsutism. It can be on the chin, neck, chest, stomach, or back.
  • Fertility issues. Many, though not all, women with PCOS have difficulty conceiving.
  • Irregular periods. They can be to frequent, too infrequent, or extremely heavy.
  • Thinning or balding hair. It can be in small patches or full-on pattern baldness.
  • Difficulty losing weight. Because of those icky, stubborn hormones, women in our condition are most always overweight and losing weight is harder than for most people.
  • Sleep apnea.
  • Skin tags.

After I was diagnosed at age 31 – and I suffer from every single symptom mentioned above – I wasn’t about to live with PCOS without a fight. I got an IUD to help ease the suffering with my extremely heavy periods. It was a lifesaver because my Mirena made my periods stop altogether. Gone were the cramps, bizarre food cravings, and wild mood swings.

However, my OB/GYN referred me to an endocrinologist to help with the prediabetes and the stubborn weight I could not lose no matter how hard I tried. But the less-than-compassionate endocrinologist said all she could do was refer me for bariatric surgery.

Have my stomach stapled? She couldn’t even refer me to a dietician?! Screw that!

That experience left a bitter taste in my mouth, but I took up jogging and did lose some weight. Because of that and taking Metformin, I am no longer prediabetic. I also take anti-depressants, which I am not ashamed to say.

I can’t deny that living with PCOS sucks. Because it does suck – a lot. I can live with the bald spots and the nasty hirsutism, but barely being able to lose weight and the depression due to hormones make me furious. I don’t like the thought of my own body betraying me.

You do not have to suffer in silence. There are some great Facebook groups for women with PCOS – the biggest being “Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).” Just type that in the search bar. It has over 16,000 members, but so many of them are trying to conceive that the drama is too much for me. I like “PCOS not TTC (trying to conceive”. At over 1,000 members, it is still a big group, but we are all just trying to live with our symptoms and not baby-crazy.

It’s strange to think tiny little cysts in my ovaries have caused so many issues with my health. But I do not let my PCOS define who I am. I got birth control that works for me, I eat healthy (most of the time), and I exercise to manage my symptoms. Menopause is a long ways away, but I will manage this disease as best I can.

Do you know anyone who suffers from PCOS? Comment below!