Escaping the Unsafe Sex Olympics with the hero of the story: my new IUD

Jimena Alvarez candidly shares the process of getting her new IUD whilst exploring the empowerment that comes with sexual autonomy

Sex is a deeply personal and complex part of human existence, and for the longest time, I struggled to understand it. The idea of not using condoms or contraception baffled me, and I found myself mocking those who made such choices. The thought of disregarding the potential risks of unprotected sex seemed foolish and irresponsible. However, life always finds a way to humble me. On a random Sunday morning, with the sun reluctantly rising, I found myself in sweatpants and an aura of embarrassment, marching into the pharmacy determined to buy the morning-after pill. At that moment, I didn’t just feel like the fool I once mocked, but I had officially become a hypocrite. 

After talking with some of my friends, it became apparent that for many people, unprotected sex had become so normalised that the potential consequences were often overlooked or downplayed. Myself included. It may sound completely absurd, but I had convinced myself I was infertile. Did I have any proof? No. A history of infertility in my family? Never. What I did have was a  flimsy and ungrounded sense of security which, when I woke up the morning after, would transform into intense anxiety and disempowerment. It then dawned on me that it was nobody’s responsibility but my own to ensure that I felt safe in my own sexuality. 

Almost as if it was a sign, while scrolling on Instagram, I stumbled upon a post from Healthy Trinity. Right there, in big colourful letters, read “Contraceptive Coil: Clinic on Campus”. With a mix of curiosity and intrigue, I registered my interest via a Google form. After all, what life-changing event ever arises from a social media post? I received a call a few days later to arrange a free consultation and booked a procedure for a month later.  When the day of the consultation came around, I had completely forgotten, and a notification forced me to rush into the College Health Service, where I arrived just in time, or rather 15 minutes late.

Deciding what path to take regarding my reproductive health required me to carefully evaluate my options and assess what these would look like in my day-to-day life, which led me to the world of Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). I won’t lie; the main reason behind feeling more inclined towards the Copper Coil IUD was because it was being offered free of charge by Trinity’s Health Services. Since I had never been on hormonal contraception, I was glad to learn that it would spare me from the hormonal fluctuations that another option could have caused. So, I agreed to undergo the procedure.

This is not to say that the Copper Coil IUD is the best option for everyone or that an alternative form of contraception would not be suitable for someone else. If anything, this experience has taught me that every person should possess the autonomy to make their own decisions about their reproductive health.Embarking on such a significant change in one’s health journey can undoubtedly take a toll on both physical and mental health. This is why I believe so strongly in the importance of being informed about alternative options and associated risks, especially in the context of one’s own individual circumstances rather than a generalised source. 

“If anything, this experience has taught me that every person should possess the autonomy to make their own decisions about their reproductive health”

Two weeks after my first consultation, it was finally time for the procedure. I was given a prescription for painkillers, meant to be taken half an hour prior. I ended up taking them just 5 minutes before. I would soon learn that this was a big mistake. I then had to provide a urine sample for testing chlamydia and gonorrhoea and, of course, to check if I was pregnant. Those agonising 5 minutes of waiting for the results half naked on the clinic’s bed felt like an eternity. As soon as the doctor confirmed I did not have chlamydia, gonorrhoea and, more importantly, wasn’t pregnant, it was time for the insertion.

I anticipated that the IUD placement would be somewhat similar to having my cervix measured. Another physician stood by my side, holding my hand for support, as she shared stories from her years of practice assisting mothers during childbirth. I thought to myself that this couldn’t be nearly as painful as giving birth.  Realistically I’m sure it isn’t, but if I have one crucial piece of advice, it would definitely be to take the painkillers on time. There was no reason for the procedure to hurt as much as it did if only I had remembered the one thing I was meant to do beforehand. Nevertheless, from the moment I knew it was placed, the mild pressure I felt was overcome by a massive sensation of relief. Those fifteen seconds of (very avoidable) pain suddenly became insignificant when compared to the five years of highly effective, affordable, comfortable, and safe contraception that lay ahead. I finally had the freedom to focus on other aspects of my life without the constant burden of worrying about unwanted pregnancies and uncertainties.

Risking sounding like a broken record, I have to say that everyone’s experience will be different. Personally, this decision has given me more manageable periods and no need for daily pills. It has left my hormones unbothered and given me unparalleled peace of mind. Thanks to the IUD, I find myself embracing a newfound sense of control over my reproductive choices – something that should be a given, not an exception. Through this journey, I have developed a deeper connection with my body, intimacy and sexuality. I believe that getting an IUD is worth exploring. But above that, safeguarding our mental health by making empowered choices and asserting our bodily autonomy is of the utmost value.

“Thanks to the IUD, I find myself embracing a newfound sense of control over my reproductive choices – something that should be a given, not an exception”