I woke up on the morning of my 13th birthday with a surprise gift from Mother Nature: my first period. Ever since that fateful time of gangly limbs, training bras, pimples, and braces, I've been on a hormonal roller coaster. One week out of every month brought on waves of cramps strong enough to keep me in bed, nausea and digestive issues, the token monthly breakouts, and mood swings to end all mood swings. My flows were so heavy, I would become lightheaded and extremely fatigued, and I went through super tampons with backup pads on a near-hourly basis. I went on birth control at age 15 to help ease the pain.
After being diagnosed with PCOS a few years later, I learned many of my horrid PMS symptoms could be attributed to the extreme hormonal imbalances taking place in my body. I tried nearly every birth control pill out there in an attempt to regulate my cycle, clear my skin, and calm my symptoms, to no avail. After my sister mentioned she got an IUD, I decided to ask my doctor about doing the same. A year and a half ago I got the Mirena IUD, and I haven't looked back since.
I will be honest: IUD insertion is less than comfortable. I experienced cramping for about a week after, but once the cramps subsided, I never noticed them come back that fiercely again. I can't feel my Mirena, except when I reach for the strings to check placement each month, so I hardly know it's there.
Pound by pound, the extra puffiness I'd gained around my middle from PCOS seemed to melt away.
At first, I continued to get my period monthly, with only two days of breakthrough bleeding in my first three months. As time went on, my flow became lighter and lighter until it stopped all together. Saving money on tampons is now one of the many perks of my IUD, especially when I was used to cycling through a super tampon nearly every hour.
But the biggest benefit of switching to Mirena? I lost weight. Yup — pound by pound, the extra puffiness I'd gained around my middle from PCOS seemed to melt away, and my sweet cravings all but disappeared. This feel-good benefit carried into the next few months, and I eventually adopted the Whole 30 diet and discovered a new way of eating more in line with what my body needs.
The IUD isn't perfect, and everybody is different, so what worked for me may not work for you. I still get some PMS symptoms, and I can anticipate my cycle (even sans bleeding!) like clockwork. I know when to expect my mood changes, my one token monthly zit, and minor bloating. But I no longer experience the loss of sex drive or extreme crankiness I once attributed to my cycle (my partner is more than stoked).
I finally feel like I am more in control of my cycle. No longer am I a slave to the birth control pill alarm on my phone, stopping by the pharmacy every month, and freaking out if I accidentally skip a pill, forget to bring it on holiday with me, or — gasp — drop one of those microscopic suckers into the great abyss that is my fluffy carpet. The IUD suits my lifestyle, PCOS, and lack of desire for children in the near future. For me, anything that helps lighten the load of an awful period is worth celebrating.