I got the ParaGard IUD (http://www.paragard.com/) for FREE the other day, thanks to Illinois Healthy Women (http://www.illinoishealthywomen.com/) and Planned Parenthood (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/).
Step 1: I applied to Illinois Healthy Women. Other states, such as Minnesota, have similar programs that cover costs for female reproductive health. This was roughly a 2 month process since they had to process all my paperwork, including my low income.
Step 2: Upon receiving my Illinois Healthy Women card, essentially an insurance card, I had a consultation at Planned Parenthood for the ParaGard IUD. I knew that I didn't want anything messing with my hormones, and the ParaGard is just plastic with copper coils. Upon getting the information from the doctor at Planned Parenthood, I decided to get it.
Step 3: The actual IUD insertion procedure. I had to eat and treat the morning like any other day, no fasting. The staff at Planned Parenthood gave me 600mg of ibuprofin and checked me to make sure I'm clean of STIs. For privacy and security, no guests were allowed past the waiting room - I have great pain tolerance, but I was nervous and wanted someone's hand to hold. Since I was texting my closest friends the whole time, I squeezed my cell phone.
Just like with a regular pap smear, I was all set up with the stirrups and speculum. This is uncomfortable for some people, but doesn't bother me. Then the doctor, with whom I was discussing sexual health the entire time (she loved me for being so well-informed and curious), coated my cervix with a numbing agent - this looked like brown vaseline. Next, she dilated my cervix with a metal rod about the thickness of a regular chopstick. This was the most painful part! I felt like I was having the biggest menstrual cramp of my life!
Finally, she inserted the ParaGard IUD. I had asked to see it before the entire procedure, it was much smaller than I was expecting: I'm very petite and the Y-shaped IUD was the size of my thumbnail. A string hangs out of it, outside the cervix for about an inch, so that it can be removed quickly and easily.
Step 4: Recovery. The entire insertion procedure took less than ten minutes, but the intensity of the pain made me nearly faint. I told the doctor that I felt like I was passing out and she greatly appreciated this - people pass out all the time, but they don't tell anyone so how can the doctor know whether this is normal or a diabetic seizure or something else?
I lay on the medical bed, free of the stirrups and speculum, for about 20 minutes until the dizziness subsided. There was no blood, but all the cramps felt like a much stronger version of my normal period. My periods are very light and I was glad that the doctor had warned me that they would be worse from now on (still better than pregnancy!). As soon as I was steady, I got to go. The rest of the day, my cramps were terrible and I mostly lay around in bed with more ibuprofin and hot soup. Two days later, I felt completely back to normal.
The ParaGard IUD lasts for 10-12 years. The copper wires on it irritate the uterine walls to great more buildup, so an egg can't implant. Also, the acidity of the vagina is altered by the copper so much that sperm cells can't fertilize an egg. At 99.5% effectiveness, the ParaGard IUD works more often than getting your tubes tied. It doesn't not protect from STIs/STDs or HIV/AIDS, only pregnancy. Again, the only drawbacks are stronger periods (spooting should be expected, but I haven't bled at all) and that menstrual cups (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup) can't be used. The ParaGard IUD is effective immediately, though the doctor told me to not put anything in my vagina for 24 hours - with all the pain I was in, I wouldn't have wanted to anyway.
So now all my condoms will be used only when toys are shared and with new male sexual partners.