COLUMN: IUD’s and discrepancies in pain management

Gisella+Mancera

Gisella Mancera

Gisella Mancera, Columnist

When becoming sexually active, one of the most important questions people can ask themselves is what birth control should I be using? While the pill and condoms are some of the most common forms of birth control, IUD’s, or intrauterine devices, have skyrocketed in popularity over the last 50 years. Reproductiveaccess.org shares the history of IUD’s, first appearing in 1908. While its design was reworked for the first half of the 20th century, a safer generation of IUD’s emerged in the 70s. The copper IUD, or ParaGard, was approved by the FDA in 1988, while Skyla and Mirena, were not available till the 2000s.

IUD’s are attractive to women who want easy, long-term protection, while pursuing careers. There are also more women deciding not to have any kids and IUD’s afford the luxury of a one-time implant with up to 3-12 years of protection, depending on the type of IUD. While these are very attractive qualities for a birth control, many women have shared their experiences of feeling uninformed about IUD insertion and the pain and side effects that accompany it.

Stories of getting IUD’s have made their rounds on the internet and anyone who goes diving for more information will be able to discern a common theme. The language medical providers use to detail the process of IUD insertion is not fitting to the actual experience people have. Briefing the patient includes a quick reminder that the patient will feel some cramping. Conversely, many people have reported cosmic levels of pain and feeling unprepared for the immense pain they were experiencing and the side effects to follow.

There are historical discrepancies in pain management regarding gender that are still prevalent today. The article, “Do Gender and Race Affect Decisions About Pain Management?” published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine states, “In general, women and minorities receive less analgesic than men and nonminority patients undergoing similar medical procedures.”

Female pain is often minimized and this is reflected in pain management practices for IUD’s. While some doctors may prescribe pain meds, more often than not, women are given nothing to help their pain. They are only advised to take Advil before their appointment to take the edge off which is grossly insufficient for managing the intense pain some people have when getting their IUD’s. Because this problem is coming to light, it is becoming more common for doctors to use local anesthetics, but has yet to become a standard of care.

All of this shines light on gender discrepancies within health care, but also begs the question of what we consider proper informed consent. How informed are these women going into their procedures if their pain levels and side effects are reduced to mere discomfort?

Gisella Mancera is a senior sociology major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]