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Pain management should be discussed with your providers before IUD insertion, removal, and other procedures.

As an aesthetic provider at HerMD, I was no stranger to the discussion about pain management in gynecology. However, I did not realize that medical professionals had normalized my pain until I was getting my IUD replaced at HerMD.  

Growing up with a father as my primary caretaker, I learned to navigate women’s healthcare issues independently and by relying on medical professionals. Unlike today, there were not as many educational resources available via the internet at the time for young women. The conversation around pain was similarly less. Women, especially young women like myself, were socialized to accept pain as a part of our care. Throughout my adolescence,  I experienced regular pain with PAP smears and tampon insertion. I thought it was supposed to hurt because no one told me otherwise. 

When I decided to get an IUD placed as a form of birth control over the years, I learned to expect pain. And there was. It was not until what was supposed to be a routine IUD removal/insertion at HerMD with Jackie Martin turned into an unforgettable experience – that I truly unpacked my relationship with pain and my healthcare. 

Ahead of my appointment, I was instructed to take ibuprofen and given misoprostol to assist with cervical dilation and reduce pain. Once the procedure started, I began to experience an indescribable amount of discomfort, and my current IUD was nowhere to be found. Yes, that’s right. The IUD was nowhere to be found. Instead of continuing the search and causing additional pain, Jackie recommended an ultrasound followed by anesthetics to proceed with the insertion/removal. 

As it turns out, the IUD was far up in my cervix, hidden by a surrounding sack of liquid – an atypical experience for people with IUDs. My healthcare team at HerMD recommended I be put under to have the device surgically removed and a new IUD put in place. While under, my healthcare team confirmed my reflexes, combined with a history of pain, presented as vaginsimus

As someone who worked with OB/GYNs and regularly heard of patients’ experiences with vaginismus and their dismissals by healthcare professionals and partners, my mind was blown. This was the first time I had fully realized the extent of my pain as a condition. A condition with a name and treatment options. This was something  I could seek treatment for. This was something I did not just have to “live with.” Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to advocating for your care. 

Are you concerned about pain management for an upcoming procedure? Here are my recommendations for  managing pain and reducing anxiety ahead of your appointment: 

1) Have a discussion with your healthcare provider about their plan for pain management. Do they have any service add-ons to reduce anxiety and minimize pain? 

2) Make yourself comfortable! Bring a pair of sunglasses, request music, and/or bring extra comfy clothes to feel your best. 

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