This is a rather personal post about my experience of having a copper coil (IUD) fitted. I decided to write this purely for the reason that it was helpful for me to read others’ experiences, but that I wished there were more so I was fully prepared for what to expect.
As anyone reading my blog posts will know, I have bipolar disorder. With that, there are a few annoying things that I have to be extra careful about. Because bipolar disorder affects my moods, sometimes very severely, one of the things I have to be extra careful about is what substances I put into my body. Alcohol in uncontrolled quantities isn’t all that smart, neither are many prescription medicines, which includes hormonal birth control.
Until December last year, I’d been on the pill since I was fifteen. I suffered from bad acne and unbearable IBS that seemed to coincide with my period, so my doctor suggested that I went on the pill to see if it helped. Bingo, it did. So I spent the next 5 years swallowing hormones in different packets with different names – Cilest, Yasmin and Cerazette. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about a year ago and came off the antidepressants I was on, but remained on Cerazette (mini pill). Shortly after moving to St. Albans, I ran out of Cerazette and that resulted in me taking a month’s break from the pill. Immediately, I noticed that my mood massively improved overall. I think it’s always difficult to identify a single cause of any symptom improvements, but this seemed like such a significant one (paired with the fact that I was having some annoying side effects on Cerazette) that I decided to re-evaluate my choice of birth control – not something that I’d thought much about before. As it happens, the pill isn’t the only option out there! 2 in 3 women between the ages of 20 and 24 are taking the pill, probably because it’s the easiest reliable and almost immediately reversible female birth control.
So I googled furiously to try and find the best option for birth control for me. After several weeks of searching, I decided to take a leap and call the doctors surgery to book an appointment to have the injection. The receptionist asked whether I’d had it before. No. She advised that I should have an appointment with the family planning nurse (not a service that had even crossed my mind to use) to discuss it first and to make sure that it was the right option for me. During my appointment, I told the nurse the primary reason why I wanted to come off the pill – because I thought it had a negative effect on the symptoms of my bipolar. The nurse told me that it wasn’t a good idea for me to be on any sort of hormonal contraceptive whatsoever and suggested that I had the copper coil (IUD) fitted. I’d thought that the coil could only be fitted in women who had given birth. So, after the nurse had gone through the procedure and taken some swabs, I booked an appointment to have the coil fitted at my surgery two weeks later.
My appointment was at 11am, so I had a good breakfast (as advised to) before I went to the surgery. When I arrived, I realised that I’d forgotten to take painkillers beforehand, but made a mental note to go to the pharmacy next door immediately afterward. The procedure itself took about 10 minutes and was quite uncomfortable and a fairly weird experience (apparently quite like a smear test), but nothing worse than my period cramps. I left the doctors, took some painkillers and started walking home. The cramps started getting rapidly worse after a few minutes and by the time I got home I was almost doubled over in agony. When I thought it couldn’t get worse, it did – and it continued to get worse and worse for about an hour. I was at home on my own, writhing and dizzy from the pain, so I called the surgery and the doctor who had fitted it called me back. They asked to see me as soon as possible but, unable to walk, I had no way of getting to them on my own. I called a taxi and crawled down the two flights of stairs and into the car.
I was seen straight away and then had a number of internal examinations (more pain) to make sure the coil was in the right place. At this point, I was bleeding but was in too much pain to even think about being embarrassed. They established that the coil was in place and hadn’t fallen out or gone AWOL, but they couldn’t work out whether it had perforated my uterus during the fitting. From the surgery, I was taken by ambulance with a generous supply of gas and air and more painkillers to A&E, where Chris met me. In A&E, I had yet more internal examinations and was given pain relief intravenously, which finally began to take the edge off. The hospital admitted me overnight, but (being in a complete state in pain and just desperate to be at home with Chris) I discharged myself, armed with cocodamol and antibiotics (because apparently latex gloves don’t do a good enough job of keeping away hospital germs). The pain lessened over the next week or so and I returned to the hospital a couple of days later for an ultrasound so make sure that my womb wasn’t perforated.
Good news – no perforated womb, it was just bad luck. The human body does its best to expel foreign objects from it, which results in pain, and some people end up with worse experiences than others. Bad news – the ultrasound showed that I have polycystic ovaries, which lead to a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a really common condition in women, with 1 in 5 thought to have it. It means that the ovaries have lots of underdeveloped sacs, which means that these sacs can’t release eggs. This, in turn, leads to irregular ovulation (infrequent periods) and an overproduction of androgen (male hormone).
Since I came off the pill in December, I’d seen a generally positive effect on my mood, but definite weight gain (despite a big increase in regular exercise), a major case of bacne, a couple of dark hairs I’d had to start plucking from my chin, and not a single period since I’d stopped taking it. One of the primary prescriptions for PCOS symptoms is the pill, because it helps to balance hormone levels and keep symptoms at bay. Now that I can’t be on the pill, I suddenly have all these PCOS symptoms that aren’t much fun, but the way doctors suggest managing symptoms is by taking the pill. If I hadn’t come off the pill, I probably wouldn’t have experienced any of those symptoms in the first place.
And so we’ve come full circle…
I’m still learning about all of these things – PCOS, the coil, bipolar – but if you have any questions or have experienced/are going through anything similar, please get in touch!
Take care, lovely people.