Mirena IUD or hormonal IUD is harmful to women

Mirena IUD and Medical Gaslighting

I was promised simple and safe birth control, I received an anxiety disorder and scarring acne.

Hormonal IUDs are not big where I’m from, so until the age of 29 I relied on condoms and didn’t think much of it. Yes, it’s suboptimal to use them every time but safe, reversible, and long-term birth control for any sex spoils the fun for pharma companies so we won’t see it any time soon.

Mirena was brought to my attention by a colleague who casually mentioned she hasn’t had a period for 3 years and that IUD has been a bliss. I’m starting with her story because my beef with Mirena is not in what it has done to my body, it’s in the fact that my reality has been denied by every single medical practitioner I have seen since.

Disclaimer: I’m aware that bodies vary, I’m aware that there are people with positive IUD experiences. If you’re considering getting one, please research possible side effects and listen to your body first, and your doctor second.

  1. Getting it in.

Let’s begin with the installation. It’s an invasive, quick yet extremely painful procedure. It requires anesthesia. All of internet will tell you that it requires anesthesia. Your cervix is forcefully opened and a tesla-looking device is shoved in. It feels like someone is twisting your guts with a knife. I almost fainted and was nauseous for half an hour. It was the worst pain I’ve felt in my life, and I’ve been hit by a car. You know what I’ve been advised to do before the procedure that nearly left me passed out? Take Ibuprofen.

2. Getting it settled.

I was told I could have spotting for a few weeks. Spotting is small amounts of blood that don’t quite qualify as a period, more like a few drops a day. I bled non-stop for 3 months. I repeat, I had full-on period for three months, with enough daily pain to force me to take painkillers and anti-inflammatory pills almost every day, god bless my liver for making it through.

Every practitioner I came to ask if something was wrong or if I should take it out, and that’s about 4 doctors in those 3 months, told me to wait it out. I lost so much blood and was in so much pain, I was on the verge of quitting when it finally stopped.

3. First year.

Once the settlement period ended and I stopped bleeding every day I thought I might finally breathe out and live the life I’ve been promised. My period was gone, my body seemed pretty stable, I could relax for a little bit.

That was until I started having sex with Mirena. It hurt after every time. I come, I hurt. Sometimes, I come, I bleed. Sometimes both. I had it installed to bleed less and ended up bleeding more, only off-schedule. I sucked it up, thinking it will eventually go away too. It did, in part. I was coming up on an anniversary of the installation, looking hopefully at the four years ahead where I’ll have no periods, no issues, no pregnancy scares, and only a few short pangs of pain after sex. Not a terrible trade-off, it seemed.

4. Acne.

About that time I started noticing odd changes in my skin. I had mild skin troubles as a teen, as we all did, then once I balanced out sunscreen and moisturizer, and discovered that people actually use face wash and not just plain water, my skin got pretty good and stayed like that for the last five years.

Then suddenly, about a year into Mirena, I started having acne. And not just small pimples here and there, awful, cystic mountains of pain, rising on my unsuspecting face and rooting themselves in for weeks, before their reluctant take-off and a deep-purple scar in their wake.

I blamed diet, sun, my innocent pillow case, water quality, skin care products, anything but the culprit. It took me a while to finally get the hint: the call is coming from inside the house. The hormones pumped into my bloodstream make my face light up red and hot every other night and the morning after brings a new slew of pink pyramids.

The next year I spent caressing the doorways of every dermatologist in town, trying to find a magical way to make it stop without taking out the IUD. The main suggestion was tretinoin, so I started with a topical solution that burned off the top layer of my skin, made me sun-sensitive and red, and caused an even worse situation that Reddit calls “purging.” It’s as bad as it sounds and I couldn’t stand it, so I stopped.

My next solution fixed the skin but screwed up my stomach. I started taking Spironolactone, a pill that dulled the hormones in my blood. Unfortunately, it also dulled my digestion by being extremely dehydrating so I developed an almost chronic stomach ache. So I stopped that too.

This was about the two year mark of Mirena. I was exhausted. It was post-covid, mid-war in Ukraine (I’m Ukrainian) so it took me the longest to notice the last and most devastating symptom.

5. Anxiety.

I’m not exactly the chillest person on Earth but I pride myself on being able to relax. I always carve out time to read in the park, go swimming, chill on my balcony, and walk around with some music. I cherish these times and the desire to be on BC was in part driven by how much I would like to not have a kid that will ruin it for me. Rest and relaxation became unavailable to me with Mirena.

I remember distinctly the moment I realized it’s not covid, or war, or work, or any reasonable explanation. I was lying on a blanked in the sunlit park, fresh after the swim, tired, with a good book…and shaking with anxiety. My hands were jittery, my heart racing, I couldn’t relax or focus on reading, and there was not a single reason for that. As someone who’s unfamiliar with chronic anxiety, I was not able to recognize it early on.

I tried to remember when was the last time I felt truly calm and relaxed, and I couldn’t. Days became a blur of constant rush with no destination, I started avoiding going out and seeing people, I had a hard time enjoying activities, my body was always tense, my thoughts covered in fog. I asked doctors, they laughed at me and told me to get on anti-anxiety meds. Mirena had nothing to do with my state, they said. “It’s not affecting the whole body, it’s local,” they said. I thought about the poor, scar-ridden skin of my face.


6. Freedom.

The first month after getting it out was pretty bad. My anxiety skyrocketed, I could barely work, I was angry and miserable 90% of the time. I had a very heavy period. Yet hope was on the horizon, I had to just weather it out.

It’s the end of August now, about 3 months since I got my Mirena IUD out. My mind is clear, I’m productive, I feel happy buying small trinkets for my new home where I’m moving soon. I wrote this article, even though I was thinking about it for a year. I was able to go back to writing fiction. I read again, without shaking and checking my phone. My skin is clear, my mood is stable. I feel like myself.

None of this, or a possibility of this has been communicated to me when I got the IUD installed. I was ignored and misled when I complained. My reality was denied, my guesses were laughed at. I was told to suck it up. I was told I’m imagining things.

7. The quiet cohort

On every step of the way, I went on Reddit to see if I was the only one. Granted, there’s a sub for everything under the sun and people lie on the internet, but the amount of stories that looked exactly like mine was overwhelming.

It’s a raging cliché to argue that female suffering is dismissed by the medical community, that everything is designed for men, and whatever is designed for women is understudied, lobbied through, and put on shelves because what are we going to do, complain? Who’s gonna believe that.



Senior Content Designer at Shopify

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