DISCLAIMER: I am definitely not a doctor, or anyway trained to be giving scientific information or advice regarding contraception. This is an informative blog post aimed at young women who are thinking of changing their contraception and specifically if they are thinking of going on the coil. I wanted to write this blog post because I felt that I have experienced some side effects that I wasn’t necessarily expecting or that I didn’t feel was documented in other accounts that I had read online. Before changing contraception you must go to your local doctor to discuss your options and any queries.
Mirena, Kyleena, Jaydess – not three names of characters in a teen American high school drama but in fact the names of different kinds of IUD.
The IUD or IUS, also known colloquially as ‘the coil,’ is essentially a contraceptive device that gets shoved up you and releases hormones into your cervix that prevents you from getting pregnant. Invasive, yes, but trouble-free minor-anxiety producing contraception, also sort of yes?
So, how can I explain my experience? Obviously through the Queen of Pop herself.
Before the Coil
Like most young women, I have been on and off contraception since I was 16, and I always counted myself as one of the lucky ones. Well, to put it simply, the first pill I was prescribed by my doctor “Cerazette” or scientifically Desogestral 75mg did, at first, agree with me. Yes, I experienced mood swings, put on some weight, and my acne fluctuated, but it was never bad enough for me to go off it. In fact, my period disappeared altogether, which as you can imagine was fantastic.
However, I was also rubbish at taking the pill, often forgetting then taking two (I know you aren’t meant to that), having breaks in between then going to the pharmacist for the morning after pill.
As you can imagine, this started to inevitably take a toll on my body. Yet, I was also incredibly lazy. I should have made an appointment with the doctor to discuss other options, but it wasn’t high enough on my priority list to actually do it.
But even if I was going to change my contraception to a long-lasting form, I never considered the coil. Purely because I heard that it hurt, and that it was only a form of contraception for women who had already had children (a myth).
Only through discussing contraception (and usually how shit it is) with my friends did they start to tell me their experience of getting the coil.
The main reason that convinced me was that the hormonal coil emitted a lower dose of hormones than the pill itself. Plus, as it was placed in your cervix, the hormones don’t go into your bloodstream. So, effectively, you would still be at risk of the same side effects of the pill, but this would far less than the pill.
So, I got the Kyleena coil.
The Kyleena coil is the ‘middle coil’ between the Mirena and Jaydess. The Mirena is slightly larger, has a higher dose of hormones and lasts for 5 years, and the Jaydess is smaller, has the lowest dose of hormones and lasts for 3 years. Essentially the Kyleena is slightly larger than the Jaydess, but smaller than the Mirena, has a dose of hormones that is higher than Jaydess but lower than Mirena and lasts for 5 years.
There is also the copper coil which is hormone-free and lasts for 10 years. However, when I initially went to speak to the doctor about this, they advised me against this form of contraception as it is more painful to insert, and can cause side effects like longer and more painful periods.
Now, this is the bit you probably are the most interested in: the insertion and what it was like getting the coil.
Before I got the coil, I incessantly googled about what it was like to have it inserted, to which I was met with a mixture of both horror stories and very mediocre tales. Basically, every person’s pain threshold is different.
Before having the coil, I wasn’t truly aware of what my pain tolerance was like, but I do recommend doing the following beforehand (which is a mixture of what I found out online and was told this by friends)
- Take ibuprofen and paracetemol around an hour before with food and water.
- Also, make sure you have eaten that day. So if you have an early morning appointment make sure to have breakfast.
- Take a bottle of water with you and some sweets, or make a bottle of squash.
- Stock up on nice food, teas, chocolate or whatever creature comforts you like so you can have them when you get back.
- If possible, organise for a lift back from the doctors or have enough money to get an uber/ bus.
- If possible, book the afternoon off of work or organise to work from home that day.
- Have a hot water bottle handy
So, without divulging into too much information – the uncomfortable feeling was longer than the actual painful feeling. And, I had a very nice doctor who told me at each stage what was happening. The uncomfortable-ness was essentially from a speculum. A speculum looks like a bird-beak that essentially widens your downstairs so they can safely insert it. This wasn’t too bad, it felt uncomfortable and kind of weird, but they do lube this bad boy up beforehand. This device was in the longest, yet when I say longest, about 5-10 minutes.
The painful bit was from the actual insertion of the coil, but this again I would say is max two minutes long. You feel a sharp pain and then your stomach muscles cramp up for like 20-30 seconds, then it was over. There was no dramatic writhing in pain and I did not think I was going to die. To be honest, it was just like ‘ooh that’s not nice’ but you grit your teeth and once it’s over, it’s over.
The reason why I suggest taking a bottle of water with you and some sweets or a sugary treat is because of cervical shock. Now, this is where you feel quite dizzy and shakey afterwards cause your body is literally like ‘wtf’ so your blood sugar just drops. But this passes after about 5-10 minutes. As I did not think about this beforehand, the doctor actually gave me some concentrated sugar tablets which really helped make me feel more normal.
A friend recommended that I take an uber home, which again I was so glad I did. This is because for the rest of day you will get on and off quite sharp cramping pains. I found that this was easily medicated through over the counter painkillers, a hot water bottle, and watching sex and the city.
After your insertion, the doctor will warn you about any side effects that you need to look out for, especially for the first three weeks. So, this could be really painful cramping, so bad that you can’t go about your daily life, the coil falling out, incessant bleeding, and a fever as this could be a sign of infection. If you have any of these signs, you need to go back to the doctor ASAP.
The next two weeks after that I was told to expect some cramping and spotting, like before you get your period. So I did feel like a walking feminine hygiene aisle for the first few weeks. At this point, the cramping was no worse than just previous period pains and would just come and go.
After the Coil
The coil can take 3 to 6 months to get used to your body, so hence why I am writing this blog post now.
In my experience, there are three side effects that I think from the coil I have noticed and are directly related. As said before, every woman is different.
For the first two months after I had the coil inserted, I had really painful periods, like really painful. Like, they were the worst period pains I have ever had. They were the kind of pains where I found it hard to walk, concentrate or even stand. I just felt really faint and just a shell of myself when they were happening. They were searing knife-like pains that would just shoot through my uterus, then subside, then shoot through again. Boy, was I popping the ibuprofen and Feminax during this time, and sometimes they didn’t even touch the sides.
(I feel like this was what the coil was doing in my body)
The reason why I think it’s important to share this is that I was warned about general cramping, but not painful periods. I remember googling this side effect and felt like I was hitting a brick wall. I texted my friends who also had the same coil as me to ask if they had similar things and they all came back with different experiences.
As I couldn’t find anything that reassured me or related to my experience, I naturally made another doctor’s appointment to check if everything was a-okay down there. Truthfully, I was really worried. When they first started happening I didn’t know if it was related to my period or if it was something more sinister.
When I saw the doctor, they were surprised with this side effect as it wasn’t common. So, naturally they had a lil look to see if it all looked fine and – it did. Essentially, sharp pain can be caused by the coil moving, which in itself means you need to have it taken out as it’s not as effective. But they said to double check I needed to have an official hospital appointment at the BRI where they would scan and take pictures of my uterus so they could have a proper more in-detailed look.
So, that’s what I did. At this point, I had had the coil for a month and a half, and these pains had largely subsided. So, I really hoped that it was just a teething pain of sorts, not that something bad had happened.
So, (I’m using the word ‘so’ a lot I know), I had another thing shoved up me which had a camera on so they could see my uterus and they told me everything was fine. It was just teething pains, hallelujah.
Also, my periods themselves were all over the place – I don’t really get periods now because of the coil but at first I had a period that lasted a week and a half, then I didn’t have a period for 2 months, then I had a period that lasted 3 days.
The second thing that I noticed was my skin got worse. My skin is usually a sucker for sebum anyway, has always been oily and shiny and I am prone to breakouts and blackheads but before that was usually tied to my time of the month. However, now its just all the time.
To be honest, it’s more annoying than bad, I can live with it and it’s not really too much of a big deal. Yet, I just envy people with good skin more! I permanently have the skin of a 15 year old, as its blotchier, I have more red patches, I get more whiteheads and pimples and ugh. Yeah.
Other than the main side effect which was periods and period pain, I have also noticed that my PMS symptoms are just magnified. My PMS can be all over the place generally, and it has never succumbed to a general rhythmn. So, normally each month I would get a different concoction of symptoms, a Russian roulette of mood swings, breakouts, water retention, insomnia, tears etc.
Yet, I have noticed that since being on the coil they have become more apparent. I notice the mood swings go slightly higher and lower, that I can just ‘see red’ when I get annoyed, I would feel really tired all of a sudden and then have a night of no sleeping. Yet, this side effect is very doable, it is something I have noticed rather than felt the need to change or has really changed my life.
Yet, despite these side effects, I would count myself as a coil ‘success story’ with some minor bumps in the road. Six months in, I hardly get periods and if so they are only a few days long and really light, I don’t get those pains anymore (I only got them in the first 2 months), the acne is annoying but bearable and the PMS symptoms only last a day really. Plus, the main benefit, of course, is no babies for me!!
Anyway, I hope this has helped anyone who is thinking of getting the coil, eased any concerns or dispelled any myths!