How I Googled My Way Into An IUD

After the 2016 U.S. election, I, along with many others with uteruses, searched online for long-acting contraception.

By Monica Torres

After President Donald Trump was elected, I cursed, cried, and typed three letters into my search browser: IUD. I was beginning a months-long journey that would end with me in medical stirrups, naked from the waist down, squeezing a silicone boob in stress, as an intrauterine device, or IUD, was inserted in me.

I was not alone in this journey. Immediately after November 8, the top Google search terms for contraception were “iud,” “iud Trump” and “get an iud now,” according to ABC News. After President Trump was elected, the idea of birth control that can work for over a decade by just sitting in your uterus spiked in popularity. In an uncertain future, people with uteruses wanted to take control of their reproductive choices. Around this time Planned Parenthood also reported it saw a 900% increase in patients wanting IUDs.

Before I could commit to a decision, I turned, as I usually do with my private concerns and neuroses, to the internet. I found Subreddits, Tumblrs, and Livejournal communities dedicated to all-things-IUD and I lurked in these spaces for months.

The more-recent IUD evangelism stems from all the benefits of long-acting reversible contraception. Beyond the gift of years-long contraception for zero effort, they’re low-maintenance and cost-effective. While pills, rings, and patches have a 9% failure rate, IUDs are over 99% effective because they don’t rely on you remembering to take something, at a certain hour, every day or month. Because the hormones in IUDs are localized in your uterus and not your bloodstream, my doctor even promised me that the mood swings that the Nuvaring gave me would disappear. It’s no wonder then that IUDs are the preferred contraception of choice for gynecologists to use on themselves.

And in the long-run, IUDs are cheaper that most other forms of birth control. The Affordable Care Act requires insurance plans to cover all government-approved methods of birth control without out-of-pockets costs. Under this mandate, an IUD is free under many insurance plans. If the ACA is repealed, an IUD could cost up to $1000. This may become a reality —President Trump has vowed to repeal the ACA and Republicans are desperately trying to fulfill this promise. So far, the administration has already cut $213.6 million in teen birth control research.

Even having science and doctors on the side of IUDs, what drove me to action was this last point. What initially had held me back from seriously considering an IUDfear of pain in the procedure, complacency, inertianow seemed silly. I made a commitment to myself. Once I turned 26 and lost my father’s health insurance and used my employer’s, I would celebrate this adult milestone with an IUD.

But first, I wanted to know the people whose forces I would be joining. I wanted a space where strangers would stop being polite and start getting real about the IUD side effects, like potential months of bloody discharge.

I found all that and more. In these online forums, there were success stories, testimonies to the limits of pain endurance, complaints of hormonal side effects, and pleas for advice. As each of the IUD communities is quick to emphasize, they are not a substitute for your healthcare provider. They are your space to support and vent. Unlike face-to-face interactions, on social media posts like these, you always have the mic, and can speak uninterrupted. This can be freeing for people to unburden themselves of big and small worries they’re unable to tell their lovers and families. Snaps of solidarity and applause are seen in the replies, reblogs, and upvotes your story receives.

What’s better is that there are referees. The moderators of IUD_Divas, an IUD livejournal community that’s been running since 1997, enforce a rule around pronouns. “Our users come from all over the world, get IUDs for myriad reasons, have different medical coverage situations, and vary in relationship status, sexual orientation and gender identity,” the moderators advise in their submission guidelines. “Say ‘people,’ ‘iud users,’ even ‘iud divas’ instead of ‘ladies’ or ‘girls.’ Don’t assume that everyone’s here to prevent babies, or that we’re all from your country.”  

In other words, speak your truths, but recognize that you can get your mic unplugged.

We make our private parts public knowledge because we seek answers we’re not getting from our known circles. For some IUD seekers, these online spaces may be giving them better advice than they’re getting offline.

“Through moderating this community, we have come to realize that many healthcare professionals prescribing birth control do not offer adequate education to their patients about possible side effects and how to use birth control most effectively,” the moderators of /r/ birthcontrol, who are a medical student and a lawyer in the daytime, told me in a message. We hope that this community serves the purpose of allowing patients to educate each other in a friendly and non-judgmental manner.”

Here, your pain is believed. Advice is taken seriously. Misery over jammed IUDs is shared. Whatever happens, you’re not alone. There are never enough public spaces for people to talk about their imperfect bodies, full of irregular bleeding and unwanted pain, and have them be recognized and celebrated as valid.

Each time I wanted to back out, I would read these stories, and I would watch healthcare legislation battles on the Senate floor. I eventually chose the newest IUD approved by the Federal Drug Administration, Kyleena, that is slightly smaller than Mirena, has fewer hormones19.5 mg of levonorgestrel vs. Mirena’s 52 mgand lasts just as long five years.

Bolstered by science, the looming threat of Trumpcare, and the stories of many IUD divas behind me, I turned 26 in May and booked an appointment for the middle of July.

***


When the day finally came, the wait was longer than the procedure itself. My doctor’s office only had one room equipped for IUD insertions. My appointment was delayed for over an hour because insertions were taking too long. At least that’s what I was told. But when you’re the only person sitting in a waiting area, you hear too much. The woman before me fainted getting her old IUD out and her new one in. The woman before the woman who fainted got sent home because she was too nervous and kept bucking away from the doctor’s hands. I overheard one nurse tell another that it would take a while to “clean up the mess.”

Foreboding! I did not want to check my heart rate on my watch because I could already feel it pounding in my ears. When it was my turn to enter the room of horrors, I undressed from the waist-down and toured my cell. Someone had tastefully covered the medieval scissors that would be used to cut my IUD strings with a paper towel. There was a footlong box that carried the insertion device that would soon be in me. It looks like this.

Despite knowing all the ways this procedure could go wrong, the months of online reconnaissance had left me at peace with my decision. I had read all the timelines that could happen. At best, I would be like the lucky woman who said the pain was so minimal she could’ve “gone back to work.” At worst, I would black out from pain or be sent home because my uterus was too small to fit an IUD. All my fates were laid bare before me.

The physician assistant’s advice to me was to bear down and not move. If I moved, the doctor may need to reinsert the device. The threat of having to go through the insertion process twice was enough to make my body go still.

The physician assistant would be too busy helping the doctor to hold my hand, so she gave me a silicone boob to squeeze my anxiety into. During the insertion, there are three obstacles your body needs to overcome to reach birth control Valhalla. After your clinician disinfects your vagina, they will put an instrument up your cervix to stabilize it for the insertion. This is where the pain comes in: your cervix is the gatekeeper to your uterus and will attempt to expel this foreign invader. It will helpfully alert you to this intruder through an intense, sustained cramp that reverberates from your core. “Out, damn’d spot! out,” it protests. The next moment of rebellion comes when an instrument reaches your uterus to measure its depth. Your queen uterus is unhappy with this action and will tell you so. The cramping insurrection continues. If your uterus is big enough, your reward will be the third moment of pain when the IUD gets released into your uterus. This all happens in less than a minute.

Theoretically I had known this, but the cramping still made me suck my breath through my teeth in shock. I crushed the silicone boob in my hand, but I did not faint. The IUD successfully went inside me. The experience was better than the “molly sweats” of dizziness one woman described, but worse than the vague possibility of “discomfort” the Kyleena pamphlet undersold. The closest parallel of pain I found was with the woman who recorded her IUD insertion for a podcast. Her strained ‘hah haaaaahhhhhhh’ of discomfort was me.

After conquering the IUD, I downed the painkiller the nurse gave me, shook myself off and hobbled to the subway like a newborn deer. My cyborg body was still attempting to expel this foreign object and adjust to its new reality.

Following the advice of Redditors, IUD_Divas, and my doctor, I had made an end-of-day appointment and had cleared the rest of my schedule for the day. A heating pad, my favorite takeout, and Motrin awaited me at home. Whatever you do, my advice is to take it easy and treat yourself tenderly afterwards. You deserve it. The next day, I woke up with minimal pain, five years of continuous, foolproof birth control, and a sense of deep satisfaction.

I had finally become the IUD diva, a Redditor “experience” story tag that I had read so much about. The billed procedure would be over $800.00 but thanks to health insurance, I would pay nothing. I would never need to wait in line at the pharmacy for birth control again. I was bleeding on a pad. I couldn’t wait to tell people on the internet about it.


Iranians Face a Cloud of Uncertainty During the Muslim Ban

We spoke with four Iranians about Trump’s executive order. Here’s what they said.

By Sara Afzal

We spoke with four Iranians about Trump’s executive order. Here’s what they said.

On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily prohibiting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. The travel ban comes as a shock to many Iranians after the diplomacy of President Barack Obama, who opened up U.S.-Iran relations after 36 years, with the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal. In the days following Trump’s order, Iran issued its own travel ban preventing Americans from coming into the country. There have been reports of a ballistic missile test by Iran; shortly after the U.S. imposed new sanctions on the country and Trump said that military action is not “off the table.”

Trump’s Muslim ban serves as a catalyst for renewed complications and tensions between two nations with an already tumultuous history–caught in the middle are the Iranian people who now have to deal with the fear and distress of an uncertain future.

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Saira Rafiee featured on the #GetSairaHome Facebook event page.

Saira Rafiee, a Ph. D. candidate in New York City

Saira Rafiee, who is on a student visa, was on her way home to New York after visiting Iran when she was prevented from boarding a connecting flight in Abu Dhabi. After 18 hours at the airport, she was sent back to Tehran. “You can probably imagine how humiliated one might feel when her whole future, and the future of so many other people, is changed just by a stroke of a pen,” Rafiee said.

“I am very much worried that what has happened is just the first step towards more horrifying policies. I am truly concerned about the future of the U.S. and the world,” Rafiee said. “I think not only Iran, but all the countries that rightly hold that this ban is inhumane, illegal, and against human rights should take every action within the limits of human rights and international laws to oppose this policy.” Rafiee studies political science at City University of New York.  

Rafiee returned to the U.S. on Saturday, Feb. 4, after a federal judge temporarily halted the executive order on Friday. She has not responded to a request for comment since then.

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Photo taken by Joubeen Mireskandari.

Emir Mohsseni, a musician in Tehran

Emir Mohsseni, of The Muckers, most recently completed a visa application for artists invited to perform in the U.S. After years of backgrounds checks and paperwork, Trump’s executive order has imperiled the status of his visa.

“To be honest, I have no idea what will happen to my case,” Mohsseni, whose band was invited to perform at SXSW, said.

“The reason that I’m trying to play my music in the U.S. is because of my love for Western music and American musicians. It’s inspired me my whole life. I remember when I was 5 years old, I was playing air guitar in front of the TV to Bryan Adams,” Mohsseni said.

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Photo provided by Shahab Paranj featuring his mother (on top left) as well as his nieces and nephews.

Shahab Paranj, a Ph.D. candidate in Los Angeles, and his mother, Azam

Shahab Paranj, who is finishing his doctorate in music composition at UCLA, said he spent a year and a half and about $10,000 on his mother Azam’s green card application. The money went towards lawyer fees and travel costs for his mother’s vetting at a foreign embassy he said. (Iran has not had a U.S. Embassy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution). After the order was signed, Azam was held for 10 days in Ankara, Turkey, where she was waiting for her application to be processed. Her passport was also taken away.

“Even the Trump administration doesn’t know really what the process is,” Shahab said. “There is no proper guidance.”

Ultimately, Azam’s green card was not issued during her trip to Turkey. Following a federal judge’s nationwide injunction on the ban, the Paranj family is now waiting for an update. In the meantime, Azam has returned to Iran.

“I am afraid about what is going to happen in the future. We don’t have a wise leader. These reactions are coming from a dictator,” Shahab said. “I have experience with seeing dictators growing up in Iran, and I know how they react. This is not good news for the U.S., the Middle East, and the world.”

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©NYU Photo Bureau: Heuer

Azi Amiri, an art educator in New York

Azi Amiri is a green card holder who has been living in the U.S. for 9 years. She is planning on traveling to Iran in mid-February, for her niece’s first birthday, but says she is worried about being able to return to America.

“We didn’t expect it to happen to Iranians,” Amiri said. “We have learned to resist. We do our best to keep our rights. We belong to the second wave of Iranians that were born after the Islamic Revolution. We have learned how to resist and how to keep our rights as much as we can.”

Amiri says she immigrated to the U.S. to escape the instability of their home country after war and to secure better job opportunities. As a teacher, she describes herself and her husband, who is an engineer, as hard working. “It is not fair. We feel that we have been betrayed after this ban,” she says.

Dear Mr. President, This Is What Resistance Looks Like

An open letter to the 45th president of the United States.

                                                                   Dear Mr. President,

I know, I know, you like to grab us by our pussies. You’ve been trying to deny it but you know how they say actions speak louder than words? Your actions have only echoed your words. You cheated on your first wife with your second (you once described this period of your life as a “bowl of cherries.”) You married your third wife in 2005, which was, incidentally, the same year your infamous Access Hollywood tape was recorded. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss,” you said. Sprinkle in some of the sexual assault and harassment allegations against you and let’s face it: we have a pretty clear picture of how you view us.

You’re a familiar adversary, Mr. President. I have known men like you for my entire life. Several women I know were in abusive marriages, most of my school friends dated controlling, obsessive, and, at times, abusive boys. I grew up around boys—now men—who weren’t looking for companions, they were looking for women to possess.

I’ve been resisting men like you for a long time: Men who believe they can say and do anything to women, who believe that only we should change diapers and that sexual harassment is the woman’s problem. You’re not the first person to have said this, and you surely won’t be the last.

It’s not just your sexism that’s tired. Your Islamophobic rhetoric is old too.

Last year, when you attacked Muslim women, by way of Ghazala Khan, the mother of the late U.S. Army Capt. Humayun Khan, for not speaking as she stood next to her husband, you perpetuated a stereotype about Muslim women that served as the American call to war post-9/11: that Muslim women need saving from their misogynistic counterparts.

You surely can’t have forgotten about Laura Bush’s radio address about the oppression of women and children in Afghanistan or the countless op-eds, articles, and covers dedicated to documenting the plight of Muslim women. Overnight, people went from not knowing where Afghanistan was on a map to advocating for the rights  (they thought) Muslim women should have. Naturally, this savorism manifested itself in Islamophobia. In the years that followed 9/11, globally, we’ve saw the passing of laws banning hijabs (in some cases, men actually ripping them off of women) and an uptick in hate-crimes against Muslims. Remember the response when the Muslim lawyer Saba Ahmed who wore an American flag hijab on Megyn Kelly’s show? And let’s not forget about the language of Brexit.

This language of white saviors reared its ugly head again on Saturday. As millions of women around the country took to the streets to protest your presidency and proposed actions, many of your followers took to Twitter to remind us that we (American women) don’t have it so bad.

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I can’t help but recall that the last time such concern was feigned for Muslim women, Iraqi women ended up with a Constitution that caved to the religious right and guaranteed women equal rights—as long as those rights don’t contradict Islamic law.

The thing is, Mr. President, misogyny knows no borders, no color, no religion. It knows gender and the shape of our bodies. It follows us from our homes to our workplaces, permeating every aspect of our lives. It is on the streets in the form of catcalls, in bars in the form of grabs. Sometimes, it lives deep within the people we love the most and comes out when we least expect it. It bleeds us. It breaks us.

Last week, you saw what our resistance can look like. We protested you on all seven continents. According to experts, nearly 3.3 million men, women, and children across the United States marched to voice their dissent. More people turned out against you on Saturday than in support of you on Friday. And this was just day 1 of your presidency.

So, Mr. President, trust me when I say this: you can eat your cake in the White House for the next four years, but know that we’ll always be standing outside, ready to rain on your parade. We’ll always be marching in the streets. We’ll always be shouting our dissent. We’ll always be asking questions. We’ll always be resisting.

Enjoy the White House while you have it.