Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The IUD and Beyond

Coming from the US, I am very much in appreciation of the Korean healthcare system. In the most basic terms, it's a universalized system which everyone pays into and so a trip to the doctor is much cheaper here than back in the states. For a doctor's visit, with insurance, I pay maybe $2-3. Yeah. Cheap as hell.

So I had been contemplating different methods of birth control for quite some time after being on the pill for two years. After a lot of research and a lot of thinking, I decided I wanted a copper IUD. I asked around, and turns out that I could get it done here in Korea for about $150 total. A fraction of the cost than back home! I talked to some other foreigners who had had the procedure done and got their input, and they all said that they had had positive experiences, so I made the appointment for a Saturday at a big hospital that even had an English service.

I brought a friend with me and upon my arrival I was asked to take a seat and fill out a form. After a few minutes of being incredibly nervous, I was told to go into one of the exam rooms. There I "met" my doctor, a man who, when I said "Hello", responded with "What's wrong with you?" I figured that was his way of asking me what I was coming in for, and I figured Well I made the appointment specifically for an IUD, surely he should already know why I'm here? He looked at the form and then responded with: Based on your previous menstrual dates, you are in the luteal phase of your cycle. This is not the appropriate time for IUD insertion. Please come back when you are 5-11 days after your menses. And then he said goodbye and I was shown the door.

Erm...awkward. First of all, I had read that getting an IUD inserted while on your period would make it slightly easier, but I hadn't read anything that said that it couldn't be inserted during any other time. I found the visit to be pithy and awkward, and the doctor to be terribly rude and disconnected. His English wasn't incredible or anything, so I'm sure there was an issue of communication and he was trying to communicate this information to me in the best way he could but I found it to be very cold.

So I rebooked an appointment for the following week and asked specifically for a female doctor, as I felt that I would be more comfortable. I came in the next week, and when I was called into the exam room, had a sit down with the doctor. Her English was pretty good, and I had heard that it is common here for doctors to cut the IUD strings very short. I didn't want that, as I wanted to be able to check them myself from time to time. I discussed this with her and she told me how short she would cut them. Then I was told to go behind a partition where there was a chair suited for an exam. I undressed my bottom half, put on a paper skirt and sat in the chair.

There was a nurse there, but the weirdest thing was that she pulled a curtain between me and the doctor. So I was just sitting there, staring at the ceiling, while two other people were messing with my lady parts on the other side. I felt a real lack of bedside manner, as the doctor didn't even tell me when she was going to begin or what she was even doing. I was just lying there when all of a sudden she just went ahead and started things.

All the things they tell you about IUD insertion and how it hurts...yeah, they're not kidding. Since I had no idea what was happening, I kept thinking it would end but it just got worse. I was staring at a spot on the ceiling, trying to breathe but I started to break into a sweat. They say that it feels like the first pain of labor (except labor just gets worse), and I can officially say that I am so happy that I will never be experiencing that shit.

The whole procedure probably took only like 2 minutes, but because I was clenching my sweater and it hurt so damn much, it felt like ages. At one point the doctor told me to please relax but how is that even possible? Sure I'll relax while you stretch my cervix, it's no prob!

Afterwards I felt a dull cramping, but nothing too bad. She told me that since I had never given birth, it was difficult to insert and that's why it hurt so much, but that in future if I get another one, it should be less painful. The following week I came back for a checkup and she did an ultrasound and everything was in place and totally fine. She then asked me if I had any more questions and I thought of one that I, in hindsight, probably should have asked straight away but just kind of assumed...

I said, So, this is good for 10 years right? And she said, Oh no, only 5. And I stopped for a minute. I had gotten the copper IUD instead of the Mirena, and everything I had read said that Mirena is good for 5 years and the copper IUD is good for up to 10. There were many factors that influenced my choice but the 10 year thing was a big one. Needless to say, I felt very upset. Violated almost. Maybe it was my bad for not knowing that not all copper IUDs were the same, but I didn't really know that there were such a variety, or that they had different lengths of efficacy. Five years is still good, but damn....I was definitely upset.

But yeah, that was in February, so it's been 4 months now, and things are pretty alright. Definitely worth the money, but if I could do it over again, for the total experience, I might have waited until I got back to the States. Just me tho.

Until next time!