Awhile ago I wrote a blog post about my challenges finding suitable birth control for long-term travel. I had been on the pill for 10+ years (!!!) before I went to Germany, but I couldn’t load up on my prescription a year in advance.
Plus, at the time, I only had personal health insurance rather than group insurance, and most birth controls aren’t covered under a PHI. Yes, I agree that’s some bullshit.
When I started working for the film fest, I went back to a group insurance plan. Hallelujah, what a luxury! All of da birth control! And then I found out that my insurance would also cover the IUD. The total cost of the IUD without insurance was nearly $500 – but with insurance, it brought the whole thing down to just $80.
The IUD appealed to me as a long-term traveller because:
- I didn’t have to think about it once inserted
- It was the most cost effective option spread over five years (different IUDs have different lifespans)
- I wouldn’t have to worry about periods anymore
- Its effectiveness rate is extremely high — for most gynaecologists, this is personally their birth control of choice
There are a few different options for IUDs, including a copper IUD that doesn’t release hormones, and a Mirena IUD that does release hormones. I went with the Mirena, because HELLO NO PERIODS. The dreams of long-term travellers.
I’m not going to sugar coat the experience, though. The insertion process lasted a very short time, but it was so unbelievably painful. I started sweating on the bed, and shaking like crazy, until the nurse brought me orange juice and told me to stay there awhile so I wouldn’t pass out.
This was the day after my birthday. Like, welcome to 31, Candice.
And oh my god, the cramping. I was given some pretty strong painkillers, but it took me awhile to leave the clinic because I was in excruciating pain. After an hour or two, once I was home with a heating pad on my belly, things started getting better. For weeks after that I’d get cramps occasionally as well, which apparently isn’t typical for most people. I have that ginger curse.
But now? I love my IUD. I’d marry it if I could. This is a relationship for life, you guys. I ain’t ever turning back, and I’ll happily go through that ordeal all over again, and again. It’s well worth it.
I do have some friends for whom the experience didn’t go so well – like complications with removing the IUD. These stories always seem particularly horrific because nobody wants a plastic antenna-like object floating around their uterus, but such stories always have a way of overshadowing all the positive outcomes.
Basically, I’m not a doctor and I know nothing about your body. But I could rave about this all day.
I appreciate that women can mostly count on an IUD. (Although, of course, it doesn’t prevent against sexually transmitted diseases.) I love that you can forget about it for a few years once it’s inserted. I love that you don’t have to carry along all those feminine hygiene products when you’re travelling, and you don’t have to worry about surprise periods. I could have used this on the Camino, when some towns didn’t even have shops — never mind a place to purchase pads or tampons.
(I should also note that your period stopping altogether isn’t entirely promised. They could just end up being months apart. Still awesome.)
I was lucky to have group insurance, though. That $500 price tag isn’t great. But neither is unwanted babies, or sucky periods. Even though I’m freelance again and back to a PHI, I’ll probably still spring for the IUD in five years time.
I’d love to hear your experience on birth control abroad — especially since the topic never seems to get covered.