The Vagenda

TMI: The Coil

Your fou-fou. Your lady garden. Your love nest. Your abyss. You may call it these things. I call mine my vagina, because that’s what it is. And they’re great – infinitely puzzling, pleasure-giving, mysterious, varied. But they can also be extremely problematic. The ladies in porn seem to be able to take hours worth of constant ramming without getting cystitis, the women in chick lit seem to be able to instantly magic themselves into a loving missionary position culminating in mutual orgasm without needing to pop to the loo to quickly check it’s all nice and fresh ‘down there’ and the Victoria’s Secret girls seem to maintain their constantly hair-free, smooth, g-stringed lovely lady bits. They don’t look as though they ever have to have that “I’m really sorry baby. I’ve got a bit of thrush. We’ll have to wait a week or so,” conversation. 
This seems to have passed me by. I get the sort of waxes that make me want to simultaneously cry and murder Ron Jeremy, which give me one day of looking like a vulnerable plucked chicken, 3 days of lovely, smooth skin, and 4 weeks of itchy re-growth and pesky ingrowns. One day, I’m going to push a baby (or knowing my luck, 3 at once) out of there. From what I gather, it’s going to really, really hurt. 
So, to put off that particular pain for at least 5 years, I decided to get the coil. Well, the doctor decided for me, because the pill I was on carries the risk of giving me a stroke, and after (honestly, I did) weighing up the pros of staying on it (anti-water retention therefore makes me thinner, gives me lovely skin) and the cons (could kill me in a horrible way) I was convinced by her to go on the Mirena coil, which may mean I never have a period, or get bad skin, for five years. So far, so good, I felt confident in my choice. 
Something that put me off was the fact that every female I told squealed and went’ “no waaaaaaaay!!!! Ewwww! Aaaaaaah! I could never do that! It goes UP insiiiide THERE!” Whilst hiding their face behind their hand and grimacing. Most people had a horror story: this lady had a stillbirth after getting pregnant, this woman’s slipped and endured unendurable pain, this lady’s coil grew legs, feet and eyes and tore out of her stomach like something from Alien. But I stayed firm with my decision. It was starting to feel like a bit of a challenge. 
So, D-Day. I was a bit nervy – really, who likes a speculum? My wonderful boyfriend (the sort you can say “I’m really sorry baby. I’ve got a bit of thrush. We’ll have to wait a week or so. I know it’s 7am but will you go and buy me some Caneston? And some tampons while you’re there.” to, and he’ll shrug whilst looking into the distance, pat your leg and get on his bike,) came with me and waited outside, reading the delightful array of magazines that can be found in a posh North London doctor’s (National Geographic, Saga, Private Schools Revealed). 
Walking in, there were two female nurses, which can only mean one thing: this is going to be unpleasant. They gave me an informative chat for about ten minutes, telling me it would be like a smear (which are fine, for any ladies that haven’t been – do book your cervical smear appointment) but a bit more uncomfortable. I felt nervous but this would be do-able. I did the obligatory ‘strip of the lower half, got on the chair with my legs open and covered myself with the paper towel, So far, so bikini wax. The speculum went in, which I am OK with (if you’re reading this and you’ve never had a smear, I promise they’re ok. After my coil experience, I will positively look forward to them). 
Then, then, she measured my cervix. OW! Turns out it’s pretty small, and doesn’t like being stretched. OW! It was like searing period pain. So, the speculum’s in, I’ve just experienced that unsettling pain, and the doctor decides she needs to raise my chair a bit. So, while the other holds my speculum in place, I’m raised up and down for a few minutes in a little chair dance until the doctor can get a really nice view of my vagina. This felt a bit interminable, and extremely undignified. I started getting a bit upset and the lovely nurse held my hand. 
Intermission: The application of local anaesthetic gel – nothing much to report. 
The coil insertion. OK, I don’t want to put anyone off, it wasn’t that bad. Breaking your leg is probably worse. Stubbing your toe is way more searingly painful. But it wasn’t pleasant. It was a sort of spasming, hot, confusing pain, and lasts just that little bit too long. But once again, it was bearable. What was unbearable was the next part. My body went into shock, which is quite common – many women feel faint. I hate fainting! It lasted about 8 minutes, which is a long time to be on the verge of a big faint, and my blood pressure nearly halved – the pins and needles in my hand got to the point that I could no longer feel them, and when I looked down, my fingers had frozen into grotesque poses, a bit like Bill Nighy’s. It was scary, unsettling, painful, especially with the intense period-pain feelings. They put on an oxygen mask, whilst exchanging looks with each other. “I’m a bit hot,” I said, “Is there a went flannel I could have on my forehead?” 
“Ermmm – might have to improvise a bit love!” the lovely nurse said, as she ran a sanitary pad under cold water and pressed it to my forehead. “There you go.” Mmmmm. Lovely.
“OK love, we’re going to wait two minutes, and if you’re still in this state then we might have to take the coil out.”
“NOOOOOOO! NOOOOOOO! NO NO NO!” I thought. “There is NO WAY that ANY MORE plastic is going up my vagina today. I did NOT just go through that only to have to take it out!” The thought of this, seemed to get me back a bit. I was still in extreme shock, and feeling faint, but my blood pressure began to return. I asked for my boyfriend – I just so desperately wanted him to come and stroke my forehead. 
“We’ll get your boyfriend in here in a moment dear, let’s just get you back on track.” I looked down. I reckon seeing me in an oxygen mask, bare legs wide open, damp sanitary towel on my forehead, would probably put him off sex with me for life, making the whole procedure void.
Anyway, my blood pressure and heart beat recovered enough to get out of that room pronto, to be met by my wonderful boyfriend (ALL HIS FAULT ANYWAY, THE SPERMY BASTARD!) who then had to wait outside the toilet, holding the door shut as I wasn’t allowed to lock it in case I fainted again. Because when God’s laying on the indignity, he always likes to top it with a nice, juicy cherry of extra shame. 
He walked me slowly home, bought me Green and Black’s 70% chocolate which made me feel a trillion times better, and I actually recovered extremely quickly. An hour later I had barely noticeable mild period pain-like symptoms, and the next day I couldn’t feel a thing, though I felt emotionally tender – I had found it all quite shocking. 
A year later and I can honestly say it’s brilliant now – no periods, no worrying, no expensive morning after pill, for five whole years. I wrote this because I went in that surgery room pretty clueless – all the literature told me I would have ‘mild discomfort’ and not much else – and I wanted to give a detailed account for anyone considering it. Well, for anyone interested in getting this, though my shock was more severe than most, and I had a wet sanitary pad on my forehead, the overall discomfort seems to be in keeping with most other women (mainly those who haven’t yet had children, as the cervix is tighter). It was shocking and upsetting and took me a few weeks to fully get over the experience – it felt as though my body got quite disorientated, like I should be in pain but wasn’t actually able to pinpoint where. However, it really was overall worth it for the length of time the coil lasts, and how effective it is as a contraception.
- RP
Editor’s note: so, guys, after the success of our post on home thrush treatments (and believe me, when I set out to be a writer I didn’t think I’d ever be writing those words) we noticed that a few readers in the comments as well as elsewhere said they’d like to see more women’s health myth-busting, so we decided to launch a new series called TMI all about our ladyproblems. I discovered for myself how lonely it can feel when I had an abnormal smear last year, and was thrown into full scale vagina panic. I was trying SO HARD to search out information written by other women about their experiences to make me feel better, but there were barely any, anywhere. Thankfully, I found this. But we need more! We’re hopefully here to bridge that gap (snigger), so if you have any embarrassing lady problems you fancy discussing in front of the whole internet, holla at us here: OH YEAH, AND STOP PUTTING OFF YOUR ANNUAL SMEAR.

26 thoughts on “TMI: The Coil

  1. And that’s why all of these reports should be published in high profile places because men have ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE IN COMPLAINING ABOUT USING CONDOMS EVER AGAIN after reading this. I feel strongly on this topic

  2. Thank you for posting this, and for the whole TMI thing you’ve got going on. Almost all women have different experiences with various contraception/health devices, and it’s awesome to see some of these experiences talked about honestly and openly. I myself had the Mirena, and had an altogether horrendous experience, i also had endo though… nuff said really. Its been 6 years and my lady doctor recommends i have it re-done, i’m still deciding. Thanks again peeps :)

  3. Getting the Mirena coil was honestly the best thing I have ever done contraception-wise. I had issues with condoms (why can’t someone design one that can’t split?!) and none of the other options appealed to me (I’d be sure to forget to take the Pill, and the injection and implant weren’t my cup of tea either). I didn’t find the fitting that painful, personally (though I might have just been lucky, and I think the fact I took painkillers beforehand might have helped too – it was only a little bit more uncomfortable than my smear test). I ached for a couple of days after, but apart from that I’ve had no problems with it at all. In 3 and a bit years when I have to have it removed, I’m definitely going to get another one fitted right away.
    P.S. The TMI idea is brilliant, by the way. All my friends are male, and while my boyfriend is fantastic when it comes to all this stuff, it’s sometimes nice to get some real life views from other women.

  4. I admit that measuring the cervix was pretty crap, but not as crap as when THEY INJECTED MY CERVIX with anaesthetic. WITH A NEEDLE. UP MY VAGINA.
    And then i had a period for 3 months.
    Regardless of whether it may be considered as TMI, the trauma has led me to tell pretty much everyone i meet about it. Even told a lady at the Foreign Office once.

    • I can totally and utterly concur with this, I had the anaesthetic and it was quite easily the most painful thing I have ever experienced MUCH worse than the first coil I had. I went grey and every pore in my skin got its sweat on. I went into the clinic looking nervous but ok, and came out looking like golum.

  5. Two years ago I had a copper coil fitted. I’d taken paracetamol and an anti-inflammatory before hand and the pain was like a split second of bad pain then twenty minutes of moderate cramp, and that was all. I liked it as a contraceptive but a year later my periods were still 10-12 days long, so I went back to the clinic again for a review. After a chat with the doctor, we agreed to change the copper coil to a Mirena. Of course, I hadn’t expected that and hadn’t taken any painkillers. She wheeched the old one out very quickly and that was absolutely painless. Putting the new one in was maybe 2 seconds of very bad pain, 20 minutes of severe cramp and maybe a day of moderate cramp. Periods now are 2-3 days of minimal spotting every couple of months.
    I refused the local anaesthetic because when I had an excision loop diathermy of the cervix (abnormal cell changes, all fine now) they gave me local anaesthetic first by INJECTING MY CERVIX WITH A FUCKOFF HUGE NEEDLE and it was even less pleasant than it sounds. So I decided to do without that bit.

  6. Ouch! Injection sounds unpleasant – they applied topical gel anaesthetic to my cervix – no injections.

    I don’t want to scare people off the coil, just relay my own experience. Some people may find it easier, a breeze even. Insertion wasn’t a pleasant experience for me, but I’m definitely getting it replaced when the 5 years is over. ONCE it was in, it’s been fuss free, pain free and effective. -RP

  7. I’m really pleased to see so many positive reviews and responses to the Mirena coil, especially considering my experience was so bad – that’s not the coil’s fault though, I just have an extremely sensitive body, apparently.

    First, the doctor couldn’t even FIND the opening to my cervix in the first place… No horrible insertions or injections for me, just a lot of cold prodding and poking until they finally gave up and informed me I’d have to be put to sleep for them to put it in.

    Nice, feeling a thousand times more confident already.

    THEN, after I’d recovered from the op and had gone home, I felt like I was having the worst period I@d had in three years. The next day, while out pottering around town, I nearly blacked out in blinding pain and had to crouch down rather awkwardly by the front of some shop while my legs regained the ability to support my body weight.

    Turned out my body had tried rejecting the coil and had MOVED it. The pain was excruciating and I ended up, not three days after having the operation to put the blighter in, having to go back to the clinic and have it removed.

    Since then, I’ve started using something called the Nuvaring which goes up you-know-where for three weeks and comes out for a week. It’s amazing. Really, and I can deal with periods after that traumatic experience.

    I mmention this because it’s iportant to remember that sometimes things don’t work out and people should get a balanced view of what can happen. My reaction to the coil is rare, (something like 1 in 500 women ever have a reactions like I did) but it’s important to bear in mind things like this can and do, happen.

    As always, best thing to do is sit down with your GP/Nurse and have a really good talk about it.

    • Can I just ask, how long did it take to get it fitted under general anaesthetic? Are you in and out on the same day or do they keep you overnight? I’m waiting for an appointment, so it’d be nice to know :) x

  8. Back in August, I went to have a Mirena coil fitted at the family planning clinic, and I had the same experience as some of you where they injected the anaesthetic into my cervix… All for nothing though, because it was too narrow.
    So I had my implant replaced instead and ended up turning into a totally sexless monster. Weirdly though, I’d had two implants before and no side-effects whatsoever, so no idea what happened there, the only thing I can think of is the fact that it’s a new make (Nexplanon has replaced Implanon).
    So anyway, I had the thing removed in January (and I’m only JUST getting back to normal now), and got referred for a hospital appointment to get the Mirena fitted under possibly general anaesthetic. I’m kinda hoping that it won’t turn into the same horrible experience as Rachael tough…
    Got a letter yesterday asking if I still needed the appointment, so it looks like I’m set to wait a little longer for it!

    • Oh no, I’ve gotta get my implant changed again soon (I really must remember to ring the Doctors about that, luckily I haven’t had a penis come near me [yes, that was intentional] in months but I still want it doing, just in case) and I don’t want to turn into a “totally sexless monster”! I’ve never had a problem with it before, and can only hope I don’t now, but that’s a pretty sucky side effect =(
      Mind you…can you be anything but a totally sexless monster if you’re single and not having sex? HMM. I need an implant change and a willing bloke and I’ll let you know…

  9. This TMI thing is a GREAT idea.

    I’m a little bit scared of the whole coil thing now, but knowledge is power, and also you can get a nice balance of information in the comments, so overall – this is good.

  10. TMI is such a wonderful idea! Please keep ‘em coming!

    Reading this was super helpful. I’ve tried going on the pill (several pills at this stage) and found each experience just awful. If my birth control wasn’t making me horribly depressed, or nauseas every time I was in a moving vehicle, it was turning me into a bright green rage monster. But I kept trying different pills because going on the pill is just what every woman seemed to do, and the mention of any other method of contraception (Coil, implant, injection etc) always got a horrified reaction. I feel a lot better checking out alternatives now though! Thank you so much!

  11. Can totally empathise with this experience of the Mirena – I held the nurse’s hand pretty damn hard and felt like a rather small child, more because it was sustained discomfort than because it was hellishly painful. I went into shock about half an hour afterwards while making a hot water bottle and downing more painkillers to deal with the period pain. I was alone in my house, in the basement kitchen, my bedroom of course was on the top floor and really thought I would collapse if I moved even an inch off the sofa. Somehow made it up to bed and fell asleep for an hour, woke up feeling absolutely normal again and ready to tell unexpected infertilisation where to shove it.

    I literally did not know that the coil even existed until it was suggested by a friend and can’t believe they don’t teach about it more widely at school, or even generally! It’s seriously a contender for most convenient and easy to manage form of contraception.

  12. The other thing I should have said about the mirena is it’s pretty much got rid of hormonal mood changes. I’ve never used hormonal contraception before, never taken the pill, so my hormones were entirely as nature intended. As well as the pmt, I was always very aware when I was ovulating – vaginal secretions changed noticeably and I would be much more in the mood for getting jiggy. Since the mirena went in nearly a year ago, my pmt is reduced but not gone altogether, my vaginal secretions are pretty much stable all month round, and sadly I have lost my ovulatory horniness. I still want sex with the man in my life, but I don’t spontaneously just want sex because my body just wants it. I’m a bit sad about that, but on the other hand, mirena has so many other benefits it’s worth it.

  13. I’m not sure what sort of coil I had (I’m sadly under informed and did nearly no research, my excuse: it would have all been in a technical language in German and I wouldn’t have understood it anyway and it was back in pre-internet days)

    Anyway – maybe this is a German thing but my GYN told me to make the appointment for when I was having my period (and – EWW – yes, i felt very yukky getting into the position with one of my regular Niagara’s of a period going on) because it makes the cervix softer and it’s less uncomfortable to get it in position.

    It hadn’t actually dawned on me exactly where it was going until he explained it in very little words and that some men can feel the string bit that hangs down if they are particularly large etc etc.

    And to be honest i can’t remember much about it except that I went on it because I didn’t like the pill at all, and my periods were just how they’d been before I went on the pill to control said periods

    but it was great when I wanted to start a family because out it came – during a period – with little discomfort (I’m pretty sure I’d remember if it had been more than that) and was pregnant a month later.

  14. Thanks for writing this, as I’m in the same position as you – can’t use hormonal contraception as it puts me at risk of a stroke – and I’ve been debating on whether to have the coil for a while.

    I think we might stick to using condoms…

    • I do advise friends to get it though. Once it’s in, it’s great. For 5 whole years! Pain wise, insertion was never worse than bad period pain – like dizz said, it’s more the sustained discomfort that’s troubling.

      Some people’s bodies react better than mine did. You may be like me, you might not though. I was just so unprepared for the experience. Do consider it.

  15. I have a copper coil at the moment as my epilepsy meds mean I have to rule out the pill and my boyfriend and I had a terrible condom attrition rate. I went along to my local Alec Turnbull clinic which was great as the doctors and nurses are really experienced putting coils into women who haven’t had kids.

    I found it a little disconcerting, I remember talking about Bournemouth a lot in a high-pitched voice, ‘Yes, I’m from there, lovely in the summertime, you really must go’. Not much pain, just like a smear but takes longer. A little cramp afterwards, made better by chocolate.

    Overall I’ve found it amazing. *No* more worrying about pregnancy! Over the years my periods have got a bit heavy though so am thinking of switching to the Mirena. Would definitely recommend it for others, just make sure the people inserting it know what they’re doing e.g. a women’s health clinic, not your GP.

  16. I had my first Mirena inserted when I was 23 (in 2002). The worst bit for me was the uterus measuring and then having some numbing gel put on my cervix – but both were uncomfortable rather than painful. I then had a few months of occasional cramps and spotting – but I thought that was a fair exchange for five baby-and-period-free years.

    Since then I’ve had it replaced twice, most recently last autumn. Last time, I literally did not notice it being removed and the most uncomfortable bit of that one was having a not quite properly lubed speculum inserted.

    I know everyone’s experience will be different but getting mine was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life, and I wish more people knew about them/gave them a go.

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