THE COIL: EXPOSED


The coil: exposed

First hand experiences from young women on their experience with the contraceptive coil

 


By Phoebe Green

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On paper, the coil appears to be the perfect form of contraception.

It is more than 99% effective in stopping pregnancy, reversible at any point, does not impact fertility, and once it’s in, it’s in. You can forget about it until it needs to be replaced 5 years later. But is this the whole truth of the situation? Are doctors choosing to leave out negative side-effects when suggesting the coil?

There seem to be so many biased articles providing contrasting information and making transparency an impossibility when it is most needed. It is equally harmful to rely solely on that one friend who had an amazing experience. So, in the hope of making you feel confident about your decision and prepared for (and not shocked by) any likely side-effects, we have collected honest first-hand accounts of young women’s journeys with the coil.

You’ll need to know that there are 2 types of coil in the U.K.: the IUD and the IUS. They both consist of a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your uterus by a doctor. The IUS (hormonal coil/ either ‘Mirena’ or ‘Jaydess’) works by releasing the hormone progestogen into the womb and it lasts for 3-5 years. The IUD (non-hormonal / copper coil) releases copper into the womb which makes it difficult for the sperm to reach an egg and it lasts for 5-10 years.

The hormonal coil (IUS)

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The decision process

Holly - “I knew nothing about it before hand. I did some research, but I couldn’t find anything written by young girls, most of the comments were from older women post children. It made me worry that this wasn’t for me. I went to the doctor because I wasn’t getting on with my pill and they said the coil was the best thing for me and it would 'change my life'. I was told I wouldn’t get a period nor have any other side effects because the ingredient is localised. They definitely pressurised me and only told me the good points.”

Eloise - “I chose the coil because of the pain I experience from endometriosis. My gynaecologist said it was the best treatment for a lot of people because the hormones work locally in the cervix. The pill had never reduced my pain from periods, and I’d started getting regular pain, so I decided to get the coil.”

Talia - “After bad/difficult experiences on many forms of contraception (4 different pills and the implant), I hadn’t found anything that worked for me yet. When I went to see my doctor, she explained to me that the hormonal coil has less hormone in it than the other forms of hormonal contraception and it is concentrated in your cervix. This means that very few women experience ‘typical’ side effects.”

Libby - “I chose to go on it because I was on the pill before and it made my hormones go all over the place. I didn’t really know that much, my friend had it and she said it was amazing and she only bled a month after so I thought it’d be the ideal situation because it lasts for at least 3 years.”

The procedure

Holly - “I got it done at my local village doctors surgery and it was such a painful and traumatic experience. Once it was (finally) fitted the nurse said, “high five! You’re a pioneer! That’s the first time we have done that at this surgery”. The pain the following few days was awful, it was intense stomach pain. I’m certain this is because the insertion process was so long and problematic.”

Eloise - “I had it put in during my laparoscopic operation. I was already under general anaesthetic, so I didn’t feel anything. I’ve heard the procedure can be painful, but I would’ve got it done anyway to help with my pain even if I didn’t have the operation.”

Talia - “I can’t deny it; the procedure was painful. My doctor advised me to bring a friend to take me home as you can feel a bit woozy after. During the procedure they put a speculum in your vagina to open the cervix and measure it, which is quite painful. Because there’s a foreign object in your cervix and uterus, you get really bad cramps which feels like really severe period pains. For me this lasted for 3 days.”


Libby - “I went to a sexual health clinic and they made me watch a video and do a pregnancy test. It was SO painful getting it put in, like absolute agony, I couldn’t sleep that night because I was in so much pain.”


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The aftermath

Holly - “Within the first month the wire section of my coil had cut my boyfriend until he bled a few times! But eventually it softened and stopped doing that. I kept the coil in for 2 years and throughout that time I had intense mood swings, headaches and increased appetite. My periods actually became more irregular. When I had it taken out because I began to realise it was affecting my mental health, the weight just immediately started to fall off me without changing my eating habits.”

Talia - “I had severe period pains for 3 days and was spotting for about 5 days. But the only side effect I’ve experienced has been lack of periods. For the first 3 - 4 months, I barely got a period. Since then I’ve just experienced spotting every few months and some PMS symptoms around the time I would have got my period, but it’s more than manageable.”

Libby -“I’ve bled ever since March [2018] when I got it put in!”

General review


Holly - “Overall not a great experience. The literal only benefit was not having to remember to take the pill every morning and have that piece of mind. When I realised the coil was causing me so many problems, it actually took me a while to have the confidence to have procedure to have it removed, because I found the insertion so traumatic. The nurses did nothing to make me feel comfortable and happily made me feel like a training experiment.”

Eloise - “It’s been a very smooth ride with the coil – I haven’t had any problems. However, as recommended by my surgeon, I’m taking the pill at the same time to prevent any more pain while I was healing. I’m meant to stop the pill soon, then I will be able to see the full effects of the coil!”

Talia -“10/10 would recommend to a friend. Obviously, many women have many different experiences, as they do with every from of contraception, however, if the coil works for you, I don’t think there’s a better form of contraception. It’s very freeing not to have to think about it ever (only after 5 years).”

Caitlin - “I got the coil in September [2018] and I’ve had no issues so far with it! Even stopped my period being heavy as well!”


The non-hormonal coil (IUD)

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The decision process

Maria - “I got the non-hormonal coil for contraceptive purposes and to be able to take Roaccutane (you have to make sure you’re not pregnant taking this drug).”

Sophia - “I got the coil as my first ever birth control but to be honest, I didn’t know that much about it. I read the little pamphlet at the doctors and spoke to two friends that had it, so I felt quite confident. I got the copper one because I don’t want to mess with my hormones and want a regular period.”

Salma - “I have a history of breast cancer in my family and we are told the pill can contribute to increased risk, so I’ve wanted an alternative form of contraception for a while. My mum had the coil and said that it was a form of non-hormonal contraception which worked for her, so I decided to get it too.”

 

The procedure

Maria - “It was one of the most painful experiences of my life, it felt invasive and a bit embarrassing- it’s not exactly normal to have 3 nurses looking into your vagina! It was a long process because they could not get the right size of coil to fit in, but they were all so kind and made me laugh which was a nice distraction.”

Sophia - “It felt like extremely intense and focussed period pains, but it only lasted 10 mins max. I felt lightheaded and weak for the rest of the day.”

Salma - “It was pretty uncomfortable. It feels like a really, really deep period pain and it made me a bit faint, but the nurses were really nice and were checking on me and explaining what they were doing each step of the way to reassure me.”

 

The aftermath

Maria - “It was incredibly sore afterwards too, and unfortunately I had an infection about three days afterwards (this is a common occurrence) and so I had to have more tests and antibiotics. So overall, the process of it getting put in and recovering from the infection took about a week and a half.”

Sophia - “I had very light bleeding for 3 months and my periods were heavier, but later on my periods got lighter and shorter but more irregular which is actually the opposite to what the doctors said would happen. My boyfriend says he can often feel it during sex and when I first got it put in, he and I felt often nervous that it would cause the other one pain. I went to the doctor and she reassured me that feeling the strings is normal and it won’t hurt anyone.”


Salma - “When I first got it, it was quite painful for the first three days, it would wake me up every morning around 9am with intense period pains but then would pass in a few minutes. But I just had general period pains for the first couple days which were worse than usual.”

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General review

Maria - “Since then it has been absolutely brilliant, you don’t have to worry about pregnancy. The only notable difference is that my periods are much heavier, but I think that’s due to having a foreign object in your womb and it takes time to adjust. Definitely worth the pain!”

Sophia - “Overall, my experience has been really positive with the coil and it feels so good to not worry about condoms or getting pregnant!”

Salma - “I’ve had it for a week and a bit now. So far, it’s pretty good I don’t have the pains anymore and my period was only 5 days, I was scared it would be longer than usual.”

It is clear that many women have many different experiences with the coil, as they do with every form of contraception. It always seems to be a case of trial and error. But now that you are in the loop about the coil and all its glorious side-effects, hopefully you feel empowered and able to make an informed decision.

Words by
Phoebe Green

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