Like many women, I feel like a bit of a guinea pig when it comes to contraception. While all of the contraceptives I’ve tried ‘work’ (they prevented pregnancy), they come with a whole host of unpredictable side effects. After being advised to come off the pill by my GP due to migraines, I tested the implant.
Despite being reassured by a (male) doctor that it was the same hormones as my pill, the implant had a hugely negative effect on my mood. Not great for a woman in business. Not only did it hugely affect my mood, but my periods were inconsistent and somewhat never ending.
So, on the advice of an excellent female GP, I opted for the mirena coil (also referred to as an IUS or IUD). This contraceptive option has been fantastic for me over the last four years, and I thought that sharing my experience would be valuable, since I spent HOURS researching before I got mine!
What Is The Mirena Coil?
The mirena coil is a soft plastic T-shaped device which sits inside the uterus and emits the hormone, progestin. It prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus around the cervix to stop the sperm reaching the egg, by thinning the uterine lining and partially reducing ovulation.
Why I Chose The Mirena Coil
As someone who had been on a hormonal contraception for more than 8 years (at the time I got the coil), and because I had reacted so poorly to the implant, I was keen to experience a contraceptive method which didn’t impact my hormones.
While the mirena coil does contain progestin, it isn’t sent through your whole body, only in the uterus. I felt more comfortable with this than the copper coil because it’s slightly more effective and I didn’t like the idea of the copper inside me!
Another reason I chose the mirena coil was because of how long it lasts. At the time, I was in a long-term relationship, and, as someone who doesn’t want children, it’s the best long-term option. Plus, I don’t have to take a tablet every day!
How Do GPs Insert The Mirena Coil?
When getting any form of coil, you’re set up in the same way that you get a smear.
You simply take off your trousers and underwear, lie on the bed and scooch your bum down. Then the doctor inserts a speculum into you so they can see your cervix, the doughnut-shaped fleshy-bit inside which leads to the uterus.
The mirena coil is then placed inside a tube which folds down the T-shaped arms. This is put through the cervix (this is when you have to relax and breathe!) and into the uterus.
This helpful animated video provides more information on exactly how the coil is inserted:
Was Getting The Mirena Coil Painful?
I’m going to be honest with you: yes! I know that in the USA, you can have an injection in your cervix, but I wasn’t offered that. It was painful, but it wasn’t completely unbearable. I’m also aware that the coil is far less painful for women who have had children.
Make sure you take some painkillers before you go in – just ibuprofen and paracetamol are enough, but it will really put a dent in the pain. It’s something that was suggested to me by my doctor after I didn’t take any!
The doctor who inserted the coil was excellent. She was reassuring, knew exactly what she was doing and was fast! I also had a lovely nurse holding my hand. (My ex went white as a sheet and had to leave the room, but that’s another story!)
When the coil was inserted, they did catch a nerve which made me shake, but it was just strange, not at all painful.
What Were My Symptoms After Getting The Coil?
Right after I got the coil, I experienced a host of fairly unpleasant symptoms, including cramps, nausea and bleeding. The cramps were really bad – I wasn’t able to stand up straight for a couple of days and was beginning to seriously regret my decision.
The nausea was also really annoying, and I was on anti-nausea medication so I could keep eating. If you’re getting this procedure, take three days off work after to recover – you don’t bounce back right away.
Make sure you have a self-care space set up for when you get home. I’m talking blankets, snacks and painkillers!
What About The Strings Of The Coil?
When the coil is first inserted, the strings are much longer and may even hang out of the vulva. Eventually, the strings will curl up around the cervix and will be well out of the way! However, if they’re feeling too long, you can book an appointment to get them trimmed.
I’d also like to clarify that men claiming they can ‘feel the threads’ is a total myth!
When can you have sex again after having the coil?
You don’t actually have to wait to have penetrative sex again after having the coil, but the short-term side effects might mean that you’ll want to avoid intercourse for a few days. For me, I waited a couple of weeks.
Remember, the coil only protects against pregnancy, not against STDs! You may need to use a condom if you’re aware of this.
What were my long-term side effects of the coil?
Over the last 4 years, I have experienced changing periods and other medical issues, which the coil may have contributed to.
At a minimum, every third period is very painful, and much more painful than it was previously. My new side effects include:
- stomach cramps
- lower back cramps
- some nausea
- breast tenderness
None of these side effects last for any longer than a day, and I feel like I can cope with them.
By far the worst issue I experienced was an ovarian cyst which burst. To clarify, I’m not already predisposed to cysts and don’t have something like polycystic ovarian syndrome. However, I know that the mirena coil can cause cysts.
The cyst bursting was absolutely the most painful thing I have ever experienced. It was frightening and I was in total disbelief that something so painful could be completely benign. Luckily, I got to a great emergency hospital who were able to help me.
Was The Mirena Coil Right For Me? – 2021 Update
The unfortunate reality for women is that, if you want to have sex without pregnancy, you need to consider contraception. And no contraceptive is perfect.
In the end, I had the mirena coil removed after four years. As the key hormones decrease over time, you can become prone to more side effects, which is something I was beginning to experience. The more side effects I experienced, the more out of control I felt over my own body. It was a bit like having the implant, in that I had to rely on a health care professional to take any action.
The issue now is the fear of having the coil inserted again. Excruciating pain, combined with the intrusiveness of the procedure means I’ve opted for the progestogen-only pill which has actually come with it’s own host of frustrating side effects. I’m sure I’ll cover that in another post…
What happens when Mirena coil is removed?
When Mirena is removed, you will likely have a withdrawal bleed that may last for up to two weeks. Your fertility will return right away and you can get pregnant immediately if you are not using another form of contraception. If you want to continue using an IUD, be sure to see your healthcare provider to get a new one inserted.
When the coil is removed, it is uncomfortable, but it only lasts a few seconds and there’s very little cramping, etc afterwards. It was a very, very different experience to having it put in, which lasted much longer and was very painful.
Mirena is meant to be left in place for up to five years, but it can be removed at any time by a healthcare provider. After removal, your fertility should return fairly quickly (within 3-6 months).
Mirena does not cause periods to stop altogether. Over time, bleeding may lighten, but many women continue to have irregular periods while using Mirena. Many find that the lighter periods are an improvement over the heavier bleeding they experienced before having Mirena inserted.
Mirena can be effective for up to five years, but it is possible to become pregnant immediately after having it removed. It is important to use another form of contraception until you have had a normal period (not spotting) and been sure that your fertility has returned.
Mirena is made of a soft, flexible plastic and contains 52.5 mg of levonorgestrel, a hormone that prevents pregnancy.
Mirena works right away to prevent pregnancy, but it takes about three to six months for your menstrual cycle to regulate.
Mirena is effective immediately, but it may take up to three to six months for your menstrual cycle to regulate.