Definition: IUS = Intrauterine System.
A small, T shaped plastic device that is inserted into the uterus which releases progesterone into the uterus. This thickens the mucus from the cervix, making it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. It also things the womb lining so that it is less likely to accept a fertilised egg. In some women it may stop ovulation completely. The Mirena is one brand which when fitted can sit in the uterus for up to 5 years and is more than 99% effective. (NHS page.)
It is worth noting that the IUD (Intrauterine Device) is slightly different and commonly known as the copper coil. It is another option available and you can find information on the relevant NHS page.
Why am I writing this post?
I’d firstly like to disclaim that I am in no way a healthcare professional or anything like that – all I know is what I have been told by the nurses and doctors I have dealt with during this process! This post is one that I wish I had come across whilst doing my own research into getting the IUS (commonly known as the coil), and so I hope that if any readers are considering getting it fitted that it helps them. As a result I will be discussing the whole process – reasons, fitting and post-fitting experiences, as well as periods etc. – so if you don’t want to read about all that you have been warned!
Background – Why did I ultimately chose to get the coil fitted?
My first period was a pretty traumatic experience, and ever since then I suffered horrendously. From day one the pains and cramps were just horrible. My cramps have always fallen in my upper legs rather than my abdomen, which meant I often struggled to walk through the pain. Within 18 months my mum went with me to the doctors to find a solution. I was put onto the mini pill with instructions to only take a break every 3 months for a period. Luckily for me this worked and in the end I was very happy with my light and virtually painless periods.
A few years later, a mystery medical condition and a few headaches later I found myself sat in the doctors being told I could no longer take the combined pill – despite how well it had worked for me for 6 years. I was moved onto the Progesterone only pill, which did not agree with me whatsoever. Suddenly my periods were irregular, heavy and super painful again – to the point where I was being sick and calling into work sick. I tried several different types of pill as prescribed by my doctor but nothing was agreeing with me. The final straw was the last type of pill I tried – it had a mere 2 hour window to take it. It began to rule my life trying to take it on time, I was worried about it being too busy at work for me to take it in time as my body seemed so sensitive to it all that if I did take it more than a couple of hours late my period would arrive the next day. I couldn’t take it anymore so I went back to the doctors to discuss my options – the best of which we deemed to be the Mirena (otherwise known as the hormonal coil). We decided that this would be a much better option for me over the copper coil, as it’s a much more natural and localised method.
At the back end of January I nervously went into the doctors room to be greeted by three wonderfully friendly, and somewhat older ladies. I breathed a sigh of relief as I had been warned that I might have had a medical student present – which working at a university union bar with lots of medics I had panicked about. I was talked through the process and exactly what to expect amongst general chit chat before being invited to undress from the waist down. I was given a piece of that flimsy paper to ‘cover my modesty’ but let’s face it ladies, it’s just to shield your eyes – there’s no real modesty when they’re sticking things upside your foof! A quick examination and more general chit chat after getting into position as we let my body relax. This is the part where you will discuss anything about your anatomy you might need to know – I now know more about my cervix than I think I care to. At the same time I’m grateful for this as I was warned that it might be a slightly tricky fitting due to my anatomy. Had I not been told this I may have panicked about how long it took after the initial talk through on arrival.
I think that everyone’s experience will be slightly different due to comfort levels and pain thresholds. I didn’t experience any pain during the actual fitting. I was warned I may, but I experienced more of a slightly uncomfortable pinching but nothing unbearable – though the nerves of the day got the better of me and I was actually sick at this point (sorry lovely nurse Tina, thanks for getting the bowl so quickly!) I was also told that I’d know it was over because cramps would begin – but for me I didn’t experience any cramps until I’d done a food shop and got home! After the device was in place there was an explanation of how to check the device was still in place whilst they let me settle down, and when I was invited to get dressed again when I felt ready. Ten minutes later I was headed home via the shops to stock up on chocolate.
My cramps set in within about an hour of getting home. The first thing I noted that was odd was the cramps were in my abdomen – seriously ladies how do you deal with that every month?? I had cramps for a couple of days, but no period. Over a week later it arrived and boy was it painful. I will admit I did have some initial teething problems with the coil, but after a trip back to the doctors this was down to my personal anatomy rather than the coil itself. I have struggled with irregularity and I do still have cramps – but with each period (roughly every month or so) it’s getting better. I was warned it would take 6-8 months to find my natural pattern, but hopefully I won’t actually have any periods at all – solves all the problems! I have found that my weight is fluctuating quite a lot recently, but I am also moving through some other things in my life so I wouldn’t put it totally down to the coil. I’m now 6 months down the line and my periods are not yet fully regular, but they’re now pretty light and virtually painless, so I’m on to a winner I think!
Would I recommend it?
Short answer? Yes – even despite the teething problems I had. I finally feel like my body has found some of the balance it used to have. It’s on it’s way to doing the job it needs to do. A big help to me was the team who attended my fitting. They were thorough in explaining everything beforehand, as well as during the fitting. They were open and honest about what to expect and any problems that arose, and they really put me at ease and even had me laughing – a hard thing to do with your legs akimbo when a strangers got something stuck up your vag!
My hope is that one person considering this course of action finds some help in this post. When I did my research all I could find was the typical horror stories putting me off. It was talking to friends who also had the same thing was what gave me the courage to go through with it.
If you’re also looking around the internet for information on various contraceptions then head over to Very Berry Cosmo where Kayleigh has discussed her experience and choices in getting the contraceptive implant in a brilliant and honest post, which I personally wish I’d found when I was doing my research!
If you made it to the end of this post, whether interested in getting the IUS or not, well done – I know I’ve rambled like hell! If you’ve anymore questions please don’t hesitate to ask – feel free to drop me an email if you’d rather it was more private :) I’d love to hear other people’s experiences as well so make sure you leave me a comment!