The best decision I made my first year of college was getting a piece of plastic shoved up my vagina.

I was the first person I knew to get an intrauterine device (IUD), a form of long acting reversible contraception. I had been on the pill since I was 16 and I was terrible at it. For those of you who have never been on the pill, the tricky thing is that with most kinds you have to take it at the same time every day for it to be effective, and effectiveness really matters.

I tried all the tricks. I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to take it, I carried my little cardboard pack around in my backpack. I tried taking it in the morning and I tried at night, but my schedule was so constantly variable that I regularly slipped up and took it too late or skipped days all together. Sometimes I’d forget to call in my prescription refill to Hannaford until it was too late.

I flipped out. I took Plan B. I tried to find a place to buy a pregnancy test in the middle of the night in Brunswick so I could quiet my baby-anxious mind and sleep (there are none).

I was the poster child for “user error.”

Going home for spring break was eye-opening. I remembered that I had not always lived a hectic life where some days I wake up at 7 a.m. and some days I wake up at noon. My user error wasn’t because I was a bad, irresponsible person; it was because I was a college student.

I needed to change my method of birth control, not my habits.

I started by scouring the Planned Parenthood website, where there is a helpful overview of all the types of contraceptives available. My criteria were simple, I needed something easy and effective. I was curious about IUDs because they seemed to fit my criteria more closely than any other method; they have a tiny failure rate and are effective for five years with no maintenance. 

But getting an IUD also involved going to a doctor to get a small piece of plastic stuck up my vaginal canal, wiggled through my dilated cervix and inserted into my uterus. And that didn’t sound fun.

So I turned to Physician Assistant Julie Gray of the health center to get the guidance of a medical professional. Will it hurt? I asked her. How will I know if it comes out? Isn’t it just for women who have already had children? Will it wreck my uterus so I can’t have children in 10 years? Her answers: no, trust me you will, no and no.

Convinced and heartened, I called the Planned Parenthood in Topsham to make an appointment. The whole ordeal was quick and professional. Then I went home, put on sweatpants, took an ibuprofen and went to bed early. There was some intense cramping that night, but it went away the next day.

Friends often ask me questions:

Q: Can you feel it?

A: Nope, not even a little bit.

Q: What about the strings? Can you feel those? (There are fishing wire-like strings that extend down to aid removal).

A: When I first got it I could more easily. Now the ends of them have curled up and I’ve really got to go digging to feel them.

Q: What about your partners? Can they feel the IUD?

A: No, god bless the cervix. I had one partner who one time said he could feel the strings during intercourse. This was soon after I had it put in.

Q: Did it hurt to get it put in?

A: It was a little uncomfortable.

Q: Do you still have periods?

A: No and it’s great.

Q: If you don’t have periods, how will you know if you’re pregnant?

A: IUDs are damn near 100% effective. I’m not worried about it.

Q: How much did it cost?

A: I have Bowdoin health insurance, which covered the full cost. It was free for me.

Notably, everybody is different, and contraceptive needs vary wildly. Do your research, talk to your doctor. I’m not telling you all to go out and get IUDs tomorrow, but I am suggesting you think about it as a serious option.

Controlling fertility is hard. People have come up with some wackadoodle stuff to keep from having babies in the past (tying weasel testicles to their legs, shoving crocodile poop up their vaginas prior to intercourse, taking shots of mercury after intercourse). Unpleasant and ineffective! We twenty-first century, insured, American college students have the good fortune to have an array of ever easier, and ever more effective options, at our disposal.

By getting an IUD, I was finally able to control my fertility, and the less energy I spend controlling my fertility, the more time I have for other things, like writing columns about controlling fertility.