Thinking about getting the coil? TSR users share their experiences below
The coil - also know as the intrauterine device - is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device inserted into the womb to prevent pregnancy.
The IUD releases copper, which stops you getting pregnant, and can also protect against pregnancy for between five and ten years!
Some facts about the IUD, taken from the NHS website:
- When inserted correctly, IUDs are more than 99% effective
- It can be put in at any time during your menstrual cycle, as long as you're not pregnant
- It can be taken out at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It's then possible to get pregnant straight away
- Your periods can be heavier, longer or more painful in the first 3 to 6 months after an IUD is put in. You might get spotting or bleeding between periods
- There's a small risk of getting an infection or that your body may push it out – but your doctor or nurse will teach you how to check it's in place
- It doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections, so you may need to use condoms as well.
Facts are all well and good - but what's it like getting one fitted? Six TSR members share their experiences below.
Anonymous #1's experience
The nurse took me in to discuss my options and I was told that if I'd wanted a coil I couldn't have one because they don't have the time/staff, but when I told her my ENTIRE history she reconsidered this. She steered me off Depo (which I'm grateful for; I never REALLY wanted it) for the simple reason that if something goes tits up with it, I can't "take it out" like I can anything else. And since I'm already the owner of an unruly womb, there's no point in risking that.
So, the coil. A consultant took over and explained the risks, the benefits, the pros the cons and the ins and outs, all of which I was pretty up on, but I listened and went through the health questionnaire for contraindications etc. They also want to know what day of a period you are on because things "flow" a little easier when you're on, but a heavy period can mean you dislodge the bloody thing, so a balance has to be struck.
One important point to note here is that they wanted to know when my last STI test was, and not just that, but my partner's. Because, during the first week or so of having got it, you are more vulnerable to infection which could be complicated - so no matter how "clean" I am, if I were to go letting someone of questionable sexual health go messing around up there, I would be a) a very silly bunny and b) very possibly infected soon after.
So, if you are, in the immortal words of Nelly Furtado, a promiscuous girl - this is not for you. They recommend this measure for the more stable relationships, and for that I don't really blame them. You can't be too careful.
After getting me to take off the lower half (in private) and lie down, an army of people trotted in. I don't think this is the norm, but there was a student/apprentice, the consultant and a female chaperon/nurse there in the room with me. Good job I'm not shy, because the apprentice type took up a pew right in the front seat and switched a lamp on. Nice.
First of all the consultant washed up, gloved up, KYed and did a quick internal to figure out which way the womb lies. Not uncomfortable, I must say. Quick palpation of belly in addition to... well, y'know. Then, a metal tool was put in to widen and make access easier. It was cold, but not in the slightest bit uncomfortable. I was nervous. There's no shame in being nervous, and it's better if you tell them that. Then the not so nice bit. Local anaesthetic gel was pushed in. It felt so weird. I can only really liken it to having someone hit you a little too hard in the throes of passion. It felt harder than just gel, and it was weird. That, however, was not the worst.
To measure how long the strings need to be, the doctor needed to measure the size of the uterus itself. Now, this comes easier to those of you who have had kiddliwinks, but I obviously haven't. So the next bit hurt like... Well, like having a white stick shoved where it shouldn't be. It felt like hot period pain, but it got sharp and intense and I knew EXACTLY what was happening. I cried. I kept getting told to breathe, and yes, breathing does make it better but when someone has a STICK up your wrong end it's hard to relax those knees, resist punching them in the face, least of all breathe through tears.
What a knob I felt. But I'm sure they've had worse performances. I was on my own. The nurse came and held my hand and I grabbed it, scrunched it and sweated all over her. This was without a doubt the worst part.
After that the coil itself was whacked up there. Once again, hot searing stick of crampy agony followed by me sobbing away like a tit. Whatever, if you were reverse giving birth to a stick you'd probably cry too... BUT it was over now.
The doctors/nurses all left me to it after that. They told me I was very brave (haha), but sadly I did not get a lollipop. Something about them not being funded for the NHS. They told me to take as long as I wanted and gave me a box of tissues. I sat in the room and cried for a good five minutes. They saw what a state I was in and rushed to get me some water when I came out of the room. They gave me a sanitary towel to use instead of a tampon/mooncup until I got home. I hate sanitary towels but I can't face putting anything internally right now. I get the feeling that my lady parts would bite anything else that went up there tonight. I have to use condoms for 7 days after (infection risk etc) but AS IF I'm even thinking about sex right now.
I have to go for a check (for movement etc) in 6 weeks, but I was told how to check it myself. My friends with Mirena seem quite impressed with it. But for the meantime, we'll see. All that remains to say is that I'm in horrible pain right now, doped up on paracetamol and ibuprofen... but to their credit, they're working!
Anonymous #2's experience
The coil, prescribed only rarely to people who have never given birth, and for very good reason! I booked myself an appointment with my doctor, and went on the last day of my period- apparently the perfect time to have a coil...but I don't think there actually is one! I had the copper coil (IUD) which works by killing all the sperm (they really don't like copper apparently).
So I start with an appointment discussing my choice of contraception- this is the one finally decided on. I am booked in with the nurse for a swab to check for infection and STI's etc. I'm told to make a double appointment when get on my period.
My period starts the next day and I call up. Get my appointment and off I toddle five days later.
I arrive at the surgery. My doctor appears a tad more nervous than me - but as I'm really chilled that's OK. I advise anyone going to be calm - even if that involves Rescue Remedy or Kalms or something. The doctor potters around getting everything she needs and getting gloves and stuff.
So, up goes the metal thing...but I have a high cervix, so she needs a longer one. It's cold, but OK, and not really uncomfortable as I was really relaxed about it. So then some pinchy thing goes up there- imagine a pretty bad period and you're about right. I just dug my nails into my hands but was OK. She showed me the coil- it's really tiny! Then she tried putting the coil up...but the first one wouldn't stay. So I had to go through it all again!
Finally the second coil is put up there, and the threads are cut. Well, I say cut. She couldn't do it. At this point, I don't really give a damn what she is doing, I just want her to finish. I stand up and the cramps are just like a normal period- definitely liveable. Eventually it's cut, and she asks me if I can stand. I carefully do so, and get my underwear and trousers back on, pad included because there is NO WAY anything else is going up there for a good few days.
She gives me all the details on checking it, and when to get another appointment with her, but I wasn't really listening.
I go out with my boyfriend (who I am coldly treating as if it is all his fault I am in pain as if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be getting long term contraception at all, and he'd BETTER love me for this) and sit down at BK. I'm not particularly hungry and sit and watch him eat. Halfway through the pain (which has been getting slowly worse) overtakes me and I demand he drives me home with no concern for anyone who we should be picking up.
Painkillers and bed. So don't organise anything else later that day (I stupidly had an appointment with my course tutor and a poker night to be dealing with). The cramps last for a couple of days or so, but here is a hint- don't wait for the pain to start before you take more medication, take it every three or four hours for at least two days.
All in all, it's a good form of contraception, and worth it in the end as you don't need another one for ten years. But it's painful.
Anonymous #3's experience
I had my coil fitted this evening. Before I had it done, I had to have a STI test, and then got told to take painkillers half an hour beforehand (paracetamol, ibruprofen, and codine if you have it!) I had to wait for half an hour, and then spent another 20 minutes talking to the doctor about what it was etc. I have the coil because I can't take hormonal contraception, and because my weird injections I have to have got mucked up, they also made me take a pregnancy test. I was told that there is an increased risk of STDs if you have the coil, and also that if you do fall pregnant, there is a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Now, I know you're all just dying to know what it felt like, so basically, I was told to take my pants off, lie on a bed with a cloth convering me, and then they came in. First came the measuring, which involved something like a large speculum (and, thankfully, anesthetic jelly), at the beginning, it felt sort of uncomfortable, so we discussed iPhones for a while, whilst she was staring at my insides with a lamp pointed towards that area. Thankfully, I had my iPhone on me, so I managed to Facebook people at the same time and hold a text conversation. The real pain felt like an incredibly bad period pain stroke having something very uncomfortable prodding your uterus, I screamed a little bit, but it wasn't something that bad. Though I did text something along the lines 'I am never having kids!'
Thankfully, the guyfriend was very understanding and promised me banana pancakes when I next saw him. The pain was over in about two minutes, which was longer than normal, because apparently I have an unusually shaped vagina (take that how you will.) Then it was all done, and I lay there for maybe thirty seconds before getting dressed again. Then I got given a patient information leaflet and wandered on to get a bus. The walk was slightly painful (think mild period cramps) and the bus ride was hellish (damn bumpy roads!) but it was nothing I was crying over. Then I visited an awesome friend who made me tea, lay me on her bed and fed me chocolate, though I felt quite sick so I didn't have so much. I bled a little bit, and now the pain's all gone. All in all, it's going to last me 12 years, and so the pain was so worth it!
Anonymous #4's experience
I had a Mirena coil fitted six weeks ago. I'd done a lot of research online beforehand and I have to say - if you're considering going down the coil route, don't be put off too much by other people's experiences. I've read stories of near-painless fittings and stories of women who have an absolutely horrible time of it. This is completely down to your own body and how it reacts to the procedure - no-one can predict how your body will cope with the insertion and the recovery period, but there are things you can do to make it easier.
My experience was very positive. The process started a week previously, with a STI screening. This is because if you have an infection already, the coil can make it worse and lead to potentially serious complications, so it was established that I was disease-free and sensible about keeping things that way. I was also given two strong painkiller tablets - one to take two hours before the appointment, one for if I needed it afterwards. Some doctors will recommend over-the-counter pain medication instead, but it's worth asking if you're not recommended anything.
The appointment itself started with a 10-minute chat with the doctor to discuss the sort of coil I wanted. The Mirena delivers a small amount of hormone directly into your uterus, thinning the lining and eventually making your periods very light if you have them at all. The copper coil works because the copper acts as a spermicide (and in both cases the fact that there's a foreign body in the uterus acts to prevent pregnancy - but it's all on the NHS website!) I went for the Mirena, and was told that because the copper coil is slightly smaller, I could be given that instead if there were any problems on insertion. After signing a declaration form, I was taken through to another room where I was told to undress from the waist down and make myself comfortable on the couch. When I was ready, the doctor came back in with the nurse who'd be helping her out. First came an internal examination, where the doctor pressed down on my abdomen with one hand while feeling inside with the other, to make sure my uterus was the right shape. Then a metal speculum was inserted and I was cleaned up, then what I believe was a local anaesethetic gel was inserted. Up to this point it had been painless, but the nurse grabbed my hand at this point so I knew it was about to start. I felt a sharp pinch as the doctor clamped my cervix open, and I winced a bit but it was completely bearable (a bit like a piercing) and over in a couple of seconds. Then the doctor measured my uterus, as it has to be a certain size to be suitable for the Mirena. This was a tiny bit crampy but hardly noticeable. Then the tube containing the coil was inserted - again, a tiny bit of cramping - then everything was taken out and I was left to get dressed. I put my easy insertion down to expecting absolute agony and being pleasantly surprised (yay pessimism!), and the fact that we were chatting all through the procedure which really put me at my ease.
I'd taken the rest of the day off, but really didn't need to - I was a little bit crampy on and off for about a week but it was miles better than the periods I had before going on birth control. Six weeks on and I've been spotting on an almost daily basis, which is annoying, but I was told to expect it as my uterus got used to its new roommate and it's certainly not unbearable. I don't feel it. I don't know it's there. I cramped on the first day of my (very, very light) period then that was it. I'm very happy with it, especially seeing as all the horrible emotional side-effects I had on the Pill are completely gone.
To anyone considering having a coil fitted: 1. Like I said, don't be too worried by all the scare stories you read online - people are far more likely to write comments on internet forums because they have a problem or a bad experience, you're not going to come across that many people who get online to write 'yep, no problems, everything's going fine!' It's completely down to your body how well the insertion and recovery period goes, and no-one can tell you how your body will react. 2. Your doctor should either give you some industrial-strength painkillers to take before and after, or recommend something you can use. If not, ask. 3. Stock up on hot water bottles, tea/chocolate/comfort food of your choice, and pain killers - just make sure you know what any medication your doctor prescribed is, so you don't accidently overdose. Take the rest of the day off and plan something nice with sympathetic friends. Hopefully you won't need it, but either way, pampering is a good plan. 4. Relax as much as you can during the procedure. Chat to the doctor/nurse, let them know if you're feeling anxious.
Anonymous #5's experience
I had the Mirena coil fitted yesterday.
Before having it done I had a bit of a farce trying to get it - my doctor wouldn't do it as I hadn't had children, but from what I've read and heard that shouldn't be a problem. But no, she wouldn't do it. So i went to my local FPC to get it. Firstly you have to have a 'pathway' done where they go over everything with you and make sure you can have it etc. They may also do an STI check. Then they will give you an appointment for it to be inserted.
Of course I did what everybody does, and googled it. This is a bad idea. All you'll get it horror stories of how horrible it was etc. But at the end of the day everyone is different, so everyone will react differently. Also at the pathway they didn't tell me I HAD to wait until my period. They said it was preferable, but not a necessity. At my first (pointless) appointment to have it fitted they asked me what contraception I'm using. They told me to wait until my period arrived and come back as they can't do it if there's any chance I was pregnant. I made another appointment for the following week as I knew my period would have arrived then.
Yesterday I went to have it fitted. I made sure I took some painkillers about 45 mins before. I was really nervous but I took a friend along to hold my hand and I'm glad I did, just to have someone to talk to to take my mind off it! They go through the process again with you telling you the risks etc. You then will have to sign a consent form. Then they ask you to remove your clothing from the waist down and lie down. They made every effort to make sure I was comfortable (even gave me a pillow!).
I was really lucky with the nurses I had as they were really nice and explained everything as they were doing it.Then the nurse performed an internal with a well lubricated finger while pressing on my stomach to feel my uterus and cervix. The second nurse also did this as my uterus is slightly tilted ( a fun fact i found out!). Then they insert the speculum, which isn't uncomfortable, but it is a relief when they take it out! It can also feel like it might pop out, if you think its going to tell the nurse and they will try to make it more comfortable or ask you to hold it. They then wash your cervix and vagina. This is just an antibacterial wash, and just feels quite cold and wet, nothing too nasty. Then they clamp your cervix open. This feels like a pinch, a little bit painful but mostly just uncomfortable, and the pain subsides after a second or two. Then they 'sound' your uterus, which is uncomfortable. When it touches the top of your uterus it makes your tummy feel a bit funny, the feeling you get when you're on a rollercoaster is the best way i can describe it. Then they get the device with the IUS in it. This is the worst bit in my opinion. When they were inserting it it was painful, nothing that you can't cope with and i just kept breathing through it. It's one of those pains where you feel like you have to get away from it, sounds a bit stupid but i guess its your body trying to tell you to stop whats going on, but just try to be still and it's over really quickly. Then they trim the threads and remove everything.
From that point, I got a slight dull tummy ache but it was barely noticeable. They then leave you stay lying down until you feel ready to sit up. Personally, I felt a bit shaky afterwards because of the feeling of when they were inserting the actual device. I stayed lying down for 2-3 mins then sat up slowly. They give you a pad and tissues in case you want to clean up and you can bleed afterwards if you aren't on your period anyway. Then after you get dressed they talk to you for a bit if you have any questions and check your pulse and ask if you have any pain or anything. They then ask you to hang around in the waiting room for 10 mins or so afterwards to check you do feel okay.
I would recommend having something sugary afterwards as you probably will feel a bit odd afterwards. For about 6 hours afterwards I had the same dull tummy ache but it went away with painkillers. I had some heavy bleeding but as I was on my period I wasn't sure if it was just my period or from having the coil fitted. For the rest of the evening I got slight cramps and the bleeding subsided. This morning when I woke up I just have some slight brown discharge/spotting but no cramps or anything. So that was my experience! I hope this helps someone. In my personal opinion, I would just say make sure you take some painkillers before you go. Take someone with you also, because its handy to have someone to talk to!
Anonymous #6's experience
I just had the Mirena coil fitted today! So I can’t really tell you of the after-effects, but the process is very fresh in my mind. To reassure anyone who is considering having it done – I am currently sat in bed after a good dinner and chocolate and have very mild, faint period-pain style cramps.
The actual experience of fitting the coil wasn’t great. It started off fine – an informative chat with the two female nurses, and a barely noticeable internal exam with a lubed-up finger. As I was calm, the following speculum insertion was okay. It’s important with these things to breathe deeply and think calm thoughts – it’s not that bad at all. It’s not really bigger than a willy! However, to reach the neck of your cervix, measure it and insert the coil, they do have to stretch it a bit, which is uncomfortable – very uncomfortable for me, like a spasming, hot period pain – but also bearable.
They then put in the local anaesthetic, to dumb down feeling in the area for the coil insertion. By this time, I was rather wanting the whole thing to be over, but the nurse took quite a while getting the coil out of the fiddly packaging. In my head, I was cursing her! When she actually did it, I was feeling quite uncomfortable, and the pain was definitely present – again, not unbearable.
I would stress to anyone feeling worried about this process that at no point was it squealey, ouchy, crying out sort of pain – just a real discomfort and thoroughly unenjoyable. I said I was feeling like this, and the other nurse held my hand and chatted, which really helped calm me. They then took everything out of my vagina at last, which I was very relieved about!
However, my body then reacted quite badly – it is common for women to feel faint, and I got extremely faint, for around 8 minutes. I hate feeling faint, and the extreme pins and needles in my hands, legs and dizzy feeling, combined with the period-pain feeling, was distressing. If the faintness goes on much longer than this they would have taken it out. I think the thought of them sticking everything back up there and taking it out made me force my body back from the faintness! I felt faint for a while afterwards, but some Green & Blacks and a bit of bed-rest and tea made me feel a million dollars better and in a way, quite proud of managing to get through it.
I don’t want anyone to be put off by this, but it is good to go in knowing how your body might react. Go in there calm, collected and ready for discomfort, and if you can, take your boyfriend, a friend or a family member who can walk home with you. My boyfriend was amazing, stroking my forehead afterwards and waiting patiently while it was done. To be fair, he was probably just sat there glad he doesn’t have to do any of this! Honestly – it’s maybe three or four hours later now, and I feel totally OK. Very mild period pains and hopefully, 5 years of protection and no periods. Worth it? When it was having it done I would have said no but now, I think it will be worth it.
Have you had a coil fitted? Any tips to share for those considering one? Join in the conversation below.
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