In a healthy relationship, doing something to support the partnership or help your partner should be a natural reflex, not conditional on receiving something in return. Like, sure, I’ll get dinner for us when you’re working late. You bet I’ll wipe the cat poo off the carpet when you’re having a bad day. The idea is that if both people in a relationship embrace this philosophy, everyone is supported without feeling the need to keep a mental tally of their contributions.
But when it comes to being in a heterosexual relationship where alone A of us (read: me, a cisgender woman) is should get birth control so that we both not having children until we’re ready, I’m definitely expecting something for my efforts—a bit like a baby pushing gift, but in this case, to actively prevent birth. Especially when you place this contraceptive inside your body, it feels like your insides are being scraped by the claws of a demon.
Why, yes, I have an IUD. How did you know?
I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever had and I’ve been on birth control since I was 15. But let me tell you: when I had my IUD inserted for the first time a few weeks ago (i used to be some kind of girl with arm implants) the first thing i thought was this man better give me something really nice to have endured so much pain for both of us.
I was so heated that I did a TikTok video just to get rid of some things. It was nothing wild; I just said that anyone who gets an IUD inserted to maintain the current state of a relationship deserves dinner, ice cream, maybe a manorof their partner for their Herculean efforts.
Well, I’m not the only one feeling this. The video exploded. It has nearly 3 million views, 260,000 likes and thousands of comments from people who have had IUD experiences as crummy as mine, who thought they too deserved a little something.
“Real. I deserve compensation for being bedridden for a day and a half,” wrote one user. pass out from heavy flux/low iron)… I deserve a fucking Hawaiian vaca and a new car,” another wrote.
My feelings about deserving a gift from my partner for getting an IUD are only partially about the pain I feel; the other part is main.
Now, I’m not trying to be a fearmonger here—everyone reacts differently at the insertion of an IUD, and some people do not even feel more than cramps (how lucky they are). Anyway, my feelings about deserving a gift from my partner for getting an IUD only partly relate to the pain I felt (more on that below). The other part is main.
Men and those without a uterus do not give birth and should not be on birth control. Women and womb carriers do and are. Therefore, the first group can – and should – repay the second group in some way (food, gifts, verbal affirmation, etc.) when tackling the often painful biological demand of birth. Or contraception.
Why I think it’s important to normalize acknowledgment (like a gift) from a partner for getting an IUD
The expectation that naturally falls on people with a uterus to manage contraception in a relationship is what drove my desire to grow the IUD. “I think the most important feeling here is that women want recognition, and some may see that as a physical gift,” says the therapist. Beth Gulotta, LMHCwho specializes in dating and relationships, when I ask her what the reasoning behind my request is.
“The feeling is that their partner sees and validates (the act of getting an IUD) as contributing to the relationship, especially if it’s a joint decision on the best form of birth control for the relationship,” adds Gulotta. “They want to feel like it’s appreciated by their partner and seen as doing something for the relationship and not just an implied responsibility because of (biological sex).”
Indeed, it is the implicit responsibility so often placed on women and carriers of wombs that hurt, both physically and emotionally. For starters, the societal roles that women are traditionally expected to fulfill (not just working in the labor force, but also domestic work and family care) account for a longer list than what is expected of mensays the clinical psychologist Roger B. Fillingim, PhDdirector of the Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence at the University of Florida.
i.e. women always operate in a broken system with higher demands on time, attention, and general bandwidth than men. Given the systemic issues that underpin this reality, some of the roles women occupy “are not ones they can easily take a vacation from,” says Dr. Fillingim, meaning that when they are in pain, “they are often in the position of having to cross it.” Worse still, her data suggests that women also bear a greater burden of pain, in part because “historically, and to some extent still, their pain is undertreated.”
That brings me to my next tiff with the IUD process, and that’s even more of a reason why we IUD wearers deserve some recognition. Most often, people who have an IUD inserted do not receive painkillers or anesthesia; the recommendation is just to take ibuprofen an hour before. Much to my surprise, the stuff I use to treat hangovers hasn’t done much to make my cervix feel any better when attacked (to put it dramatically ).
When I got my IUD, I felt like the lovely, very sweet, kind OB/GYN was tearing my stomach apart from the inside. In reality, Jonathan Schaffir, MDan OB/GYN at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says the doctor simply measured my cervix, disinfected the area, then placed the swab.
This description certainly sounds a lot less gruesome than I imagined, but alas, it’s hard for doctors to know how to prepare patients for what to expect from the procedure. “The (pain) is rather unpredictable given the wide variety of experiences women have,” says Dr. Schaffir of IUD insertion.
While some doctors (and many Google results) report that the level of pain during IUD insertion is mild to moderate, one of the top search results even lists the process as a “2/10″ on the pain scale— some studies suggest that the experience of a larger amount pain is common. Indeed, a report 2016 of 100 women who received an IUD found that 78% reported experiencing moderate to severe pain during insertion.
This is one more reason why I think we evil IUD wearers deserve some kind of gift. AKA support, according to Gulotta. “I think it’s important for the partner (of the person receiving the IUD) to make sure he’s available to care for her through her recovery,” she says. “They should be there to go with you, take any necessary prescriptions, stock the fridge with drinks and snacks – small gestures of appreciation and thoughtfulness are important.”
“I think it’s important for the partner (of the person receiving the IUD) to make sure he’s available to care for her through her recovery.” —Beth Gulotta, LMHC, therapist
This also includes emotional gestures, adds Gulotta: “It’s important to just share that they recognize this contribution to the relationship and take care of you emotionally and physically.”
As for an actual gift from a partner for an IUD insertion? Gulotta isn’t so quick to say it’s necessary. Some of the resentment I felt towards my wombless boyfriend was probably misplaced, she says, and may have more to do with society’s faults than anything he did or should have done. .
“It can seem unfair that women have to bear the full burden of reproduction, in some ways…and it’s easy to place that anger on a partner and develop tales of unfairness,” Gulotta says. Clinging to the idea that women are meant to do this and men don’t need to acknowledge it can make you resent a partner who isn’t necessarily wrong, she adds. But on the other hand, they should definitely be there to offer support as they would for any difficult or painful experience, in alignment with how you would like to receive it, she adds.
If it’s a physical gift – like I wanted – then I think that’s fine. After all, if you get an IUD inserted in a relationship (or any type of birth control that could send your body into a spiral of hormonal rage caused by cramping and bleeding), you deserve recognition. a non-uterus. -having a partner they’ll never know what it’s like…and maybe a meal, some chores, and lots of “thanks.”
And in case you’re wondering, yes, my lovely boyfriend did all of this for me, and he’s safe in our home, no longer experiencing the inappropriate frustration I exhibited the day my IUD. But I’m still a little heated towards men and society as a whole. I bled for almost a month straight and had so many cramps I could feel them in my ears. Can you blame me?