Switching birth control methods can be daunting, especially when you’ve defaulted to the same one for over a decade. That was true for Morgan, a 31-year-old integrated marketing professional who spent 10 years on hormonal birth control before deciding to make the switch to the hormone-free Paragard IUD. Below, she shares why the change was right for her. As told to Melissa Kravitz.
A few years ago, I decided to take a more holistic approach to my health and wellness for the first time. I was having digestion issues and other stomach problems and wasn’t sure what was causing them, so I saw a naturopath in Portland, where I was living at the time. She encouraged me to work on resetting everything, which meant elimination diets (abstaining from certain foods that could be causing an allergy and then reintroducing them one at a time) and avoiding any medications, so I could “know what my body needed.”
During this process of examining medication, I started to wonder about the hormones in the birth control pill I’d been on for the last decade, and whether or not I should stop taking them. I had friends who had stopped taking hormonal birth control, and they said there was a noticeable difference — a lot of them felt more in tune with their bodies and their emotions.
So, I did my due diligence, researching the possible side effects of long-term hormonal birth control use. The final push in my decision to go off the pill was the realization that I wanted to be more in touch with my natural cycle — without additional hormones. It was something I felt I'd truly never experienced before.
When I moved from Portland to New York shortly thereafter, it felt like everyone was talking about IUDs. This was around the 2016 presidential election, so there was also a fear that laws or prices would change. IUDs come in two varieties, hormonal or copper, and since I was looking for options without hormones, the copper one from Paragard (which is actually the only hormone-free IUD) interested me. I liked that I didn’t have to think about it much: It wasn’t like taking a pill every day or even having to worry about picking up a prescription — it prevented pregnancy for up to 10 years just by being there. Plus, I could remove it at any time, and it lacked the side effects commonly associated with hormonal birth control, like mood changes and nausea.
The idea of having anything new inserted in your body can sound scary, so I went to a friend’s trusted gynecologist to get more information and discuss the pros and cons of both types of IUD. At first, she recommended the hormonal IUD for me, as it’s known to relieve menstrual cramp pains (which I'd been having), but I was sure that I didn’t want to be on hormones anymore, so she understood and supported me going off the pill for the copper IUD.
When I returned for my appointment to get it placed, I was still a bit nervous; the only procedure I’d ever had at the gynecologist prior to that was a pap smear. But my doctor did a great job talking me through the process. She explained they’d essentially be placing a tool that looked like a straw, with the IUD at the end of it, through my cervix. Then the IUD would open up into my uterus. It ended up being a lot thinner than I thought it would be, and it was surprisingly flexible.
In the end, the procedure actually wasn’t very painful. The feeling was definitely unique — I wasn’t used to that type of pressure on my cervix — and there was a little bit of cramping during the insertion, but the whole thing was over super quickly, like a pap smear, only a little higher up.
Afterwards, I felt brave and happy to have made a change I felt impacted me in a positive way. A heating pad helped with some of the immediate cramping once I got home, and I was soon able to log back into email and finish up my workday, like normal.
It took about six months to really feel the changes of being off hormonal birth control. I wasn’t having regular cycles at first, and it took some time to finally feel like everything was in place. Now that it is, I can definitely tell the difference.
Now that I am not using hormonal birth control, I feel more aware of the changes to my body throughout my cycle, so I can associate my moods with times of month. Plus, I’ve found that my cramps are actually manageable, even without a hormonal contraceptive. The hormone-free IUD may not be the right choice for everyone, and other women may have different results (you should always go over your options with your doctor and do your own research) — but for me, feeling more in touch with my body has become a new marker of my health and wellness.
This story has been edited for brevity and clarity by Paragard.
Paragard Consumer Indication and Important Safety Information
Paragard is a small IUS (intrauterine system) that prevents pregnancy for as long as you want, up to 10 years. It works differently using one simple active ingredient — copper — instead of hormones.
Important Safety Information
Only you and your HCP can decide if Paragard is right for you. Available by prescription only.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA at www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088.