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I just got back from West Virginia. Whenever I’m home and run into a high school friend (which always seems to happen at Wal-Mart), I always ask 3 questions: who’s married?, who’s engaged?, and the big one: who’s pregnant? At least ten of my high school friends are pregnant or already have children. The scary thing is that most of them are my age, and I’m just turning 20 today. After spending time with a friend’s baby, I couldn’t help but wonder if I want kids.

Honestly, I can’t see myself having children. At least, not for five years.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love children, but I have enough trouble taking care of a cat. In my defense, he’s even more of an attention-whore than I am, but I’m pretty sure that litter-duty is a lot less daunting than diaper-duty. This desire to not have children until later is normal, but we all should know by now that a “benefit” of unprotected sex is procreation. Or, depending on where you were taught sex ed, death.

There are various methods of birth control, some more effective than others. Abstinence, while the most affordable and effective, doesn’t appeal to me. Condoms, on the other hand, though equally accessible and cheap, since they’re free from dorm bathrooms, resident MedLinks, and the second floor of MIT Medical, can still break. As for the pill, I puke when I tend to drink, which decreases its effectiveness. The shot, well, I’ve heard too many horror stories of massive weight-gain. As for the NuvaRing, a friend recounted how he fucked a NuvaRing out of a girl, and then handed it to her in a Ziploc bag the next day after discovering it in his sheets. After hearing that story, I ruled out that option pretty quickly.

The solution to my dilemma turned out to be an Intrauterine Device, or IUD. A high school friend got the Mirena version after giving birth, and said to me, “basically, it’s a simple procedure where doctors insert a T-shaped device into the uterus, which releases small doses of progestin daily to prevent pregnancy over the next five years, and it’s more effective than the pill.” Excited, especially after I found out that MIT heavily subsidizes the cost to $45 for those under extended insurance, I made an appointment at MIT Medical. The device usually runs in the several hundred-dollar range for those uninsured.

I hadn’t fully done my research, though. After getting my annual pap smear, I was cleared to go through with the procedure. I scheduled the appointment during my next period. For women who haven’t given birth, doctors prefer to insert it during menstruation, as the cervical opening tends to be wider.

It wasn’t until I was in the room suffering through the insertion that I learned exactly what I signed up for. The doctor warned me about a 6-month bleeding period that some women experience. Generally, it’s only spotting for 3 months, but in some rare cases, it’s an all-out period for 6 months. It’s believed that the Mirena depletes the uterine lining during this time, and no matter what, bleeding will initially be irregular for anyone who gets it. After the six months, 2 out of 10 women report not experiencing a menstrual flow again, making the Mirena a great option for women experiencing heavy menstrual cramps. For those that aren’t in the lucky twenty percent, there’s still the chance of a lighter period, as ninety percent of users report. Bleeding for 6 months with the prospect of never bleeding again for the next four-and-a-half years? It seemed worth it.

Then, I went through with it. The insertion of the Mirena was painful. I’m talking worse than Brazilian waxes and the worst PMS cramps combined, Guys, imagine getting kicked in the balls. By a horse. An angry female horse. (Okay, I might be being overdramatic, but suffice to say, I was in a considerable amount of pain.) For the next few days, I suffered the worst cramping, so much so that I even began defining love as buying a girl Midol.

I would love to say that my relationship with the Mirena has been great since the insertion. However, I admit that the sporadic bleeding is inconvenient, particularly around white sheets. Also, I’ve heard complaints about men being jabbed by the strings at the end of the device. I’m told these soften after the first month. Therefore, it’s advised most people use a condom during this period.

Besides these inconveniences, the biggest fear regarding IUDs is infertility. The Dalkon Shield, released in the 1970’s, caused infertility in a disproportionately large percentage of users, which is why the United States has a negative perception of IUDs. The FDA doesn’t recommend the Mirena for women who have never had children, which seems somewhat unfounded, as problems only occur if the cervical opening isn’t large enough (which, according to the nurse I talked to at Medical, only rarely happens.) In Asia and Europe, the IUD is the preferred method of birth control, as it’s long-lasting but not permanent. Infertility tends to occur during bad insertions and when Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is contracted. Therefore, some gynecologists will refuse to place an IUD in a female who engages in unsafe, promiscuous behavior.

Overall, I’m satisfied with my decision. However, I don’t believe the Mirena is necessarily a panacea. There’s also a non-hormonal copper version that MIT Medical supplies, but it’s known to give a longer period. With birth control, it’s vital to choose what you feel most comfortable with, and my advice is to make an appointment with MIT Medical to discuss the best option for you. As for me, for my birthday, I want dark-colored sheets.