Learning To Be My Own Health Advocate
Not long ago, we had to take one of our cats to the vet (due to behavioral problems), and while I was there I asked a million questions, the type of questions you normally ask when it comes to the health of a pet and you are treading unknown waters. It wasn’t until a few days later that I started to realize that, when it comes to my own health and concerns, I am nowhere near as diligent. I ask a few questions and then trust the doctor's judgment, and I’m not the only one. It is almost like the relationship I had with my parents when I was very young, ask a few questions but trust absolutely. Even when I hear news about all the malpractice lawsuits, and watch Discovery shows about medical procedures going horribly wrong, it never really registers to me that those types of things could happen to just about anyone, they could even happen to me. It really does amaze me that I am so knowledgeable in what can happen, and still I am not as proactive in my own health as I should be. Recently I paid the price for this, luckily it was only a very small price, it could've been a lot bigger, and in the end I came out with my eyes wide open and a promise to never again trust so blindly after not doing my own research.
A little over six months ago, I made an appointment to change my birth control from the pill to whatever non-hormonal options I had left. I was on the pill for about a year and was unhappy with the weight gain and the interaction it was having with another medication I was on (even at its lowest dose). I did a small bit of research on my own and decided that, if it was an option, I would like to try a copper IUD. Really I should have looked deeper, but once I brought the idea up to my doctor she ran through most of the stuff I had already read on the ParaGard website and added how it was a really good choice for the non-hormonal option and how safe it was (given I didn't have a copper allergy), and that they were even doing tests showing that someday soon it could be used for up to 20 years. Fertility also comes back right away so whenever I get to the point that I want to start a family, I could. You are even warned to not have sex five days before having the ParaGard inserted, or removed. Anyway, the gynecologist pretty much gave it a five star review and I was sold. There were no pills to take, no silicone domes to worry about, and no more condoms.
The experience, of having the IUD placed, was unenjoyable but that was to be expected. They do warn about a bit of discomfort, though discomfort doesn't really cover the feeling. Lately I've read some people describing the pain almost as prelabor pain. Knowing that sooner would’ve been nice, but I don’t imagine it would’ve made much a difference to my pain level. The pain lingered for about four or five days before my body regulated itself again. I had about two months of heavy periods and a bit more pain than normal. Around month three, I started to have break though bleeding, which then turned into a full on period that lasted about three months, with only a few days in between without bleeding. It was almost always fresh blood, and I was told that a three times a day Ibuprofen regimen would take care of it and the pain eventually. Eventually never came and, sadly, that is when I started to question just what exactly I had done to myself, and really look into what I had inside me.
I found forums upon forums of females experiencing the same symptoms I was experiencing, and we all had one basic thing in common- ParaGard. Now, I am not going to say it caused everything directly but its malfunctioning, coupled with the stress of that, caused most of the physical and all of the emotional issues. I was lucky, it didn't embed itself, I didn't have to have surgery to remove it, and, once it was out, the pain and bleeding stopped. I am far from back to normal though and, even though it’s been out for two months, I have yet to have a normal menstrual cycle. The thing that really angers me is that some of the warnings and material used in making the ParaGard were very much unlisted in the reading material, and packaging from the company itself, and was not even mentioned by my doctor (assuming she even knew about the missing information). I had to dig and eventually call and talk with a paid representative, once I knew the exact questions to ask (like a secret handshake or code word). The copper wire that is what makes the ParaGard work as non-hormonal birth control, isn't pure copper, there is nickel in it, which is kind of a big deal.
All I was asked before insertion was, 'did I have a copper allergy/sensitivity?' nothing was ever asked about nickel. The only reason I knew to ask about it to a representative, was because a few forum posts mentioned this and how it’s not talked about at all and I really felt like it couldn't be true. Something that important (a breakdown of what is in something that is going to be residing inside you shouldn't be kept secretive, in such a way) would be written in letters easy to find. But it wasn't and I am supper disappointed, not only in ParaGard but also the gynecologist that gave ParaGard a five star review. How hard is it to put in a warning about the product containing trace amounts of nickel, if a type food is even made in the same manufacturing plant as another type that contains peanuts, there is at least one warning label slapped onto it, why can't it be the same in the medical world.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying boycott IUD's all together. I can understand that, for some women, they are sometimes the only option that works. There are tons of women out there that have no problem during their 5 to 10 years with their IUD's and that is great. All I am saying is that we, as women, need to take charge of our own sexual health and not just trust that the pharmaceutical, manufacturing companies, and doctors have our best interest in mind, or are even all that informed on the product they are trying to sell you on. Take charge and dig deeper, make sure all your concerns are addressed, and if they are not all addressed in one place, go that further distance to collect the information from everywhere until you are personally satisfied that you know what you are putting into or having put into your body. I sure wish I did then, and I know I definitely am informed now. I learned my lesson, so please learn from me.