Coil side effects: Should it hurt to get the coil fitted?

Journalist Caitlin Moran has called for all women to be offered pain relief during the removal and insertion of intrauterine devices and she’s not the only woman complaining about the “traumatic process”. BBC presenter Naga Munchetty has also spoken out about the time she had her contraceptive coil fitted and called it “one of the most traumatic physical experiences” she has had. Munchetty said her husband James Haggar was terrified after hearing her “screams” from the waiting room. Should the insertion and removal of the coil really be this painful? chatted to Dr Shree Datta, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Lister Hospital (part of HCA UK) to find out what you can expect from the coil.

The coil, also known as the IUD (intrauterine device), has come under fire recently as women speak out about how painful the insertion and removal process is.

The small, T-shaped plastic or copper device is put into your uterus by a doctor or nurse to stop you from getting pregnant.

An IUD is similar to the intrauterine system (IUS), but instead of releasing the hormone progestogen like the IUS, the IUD release copper into the womb to alter the cervical mucus.

This makes it more difficult for sperm to reach an egg and survive, and can also stop a fertilised egg from being able to implant itself.

It works as soon as it is put in and lasts for between five and 10 years depending on the type.

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While the coil is 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy when inserted correctly and provides relief for women with heavy periods or menstrual pain, it’s not without its downsides.

For starters, the insertion process is known for being very painful – as pointed out by both Caitlin Moran in her column in The Times and BBC presenter Naga Munchetty on BBC Radio 5 Live.

The pain doesn’t stop there, after you’ve had the IUD put in you might experience heavier, longer or more painful periods for three to six months.

There’s also a risk of infection or that your body may push out the IUD or it can move. chatted to Dr Shree Datta, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at The Lister Hospital (part of HCA UK) to find out what is normal and what isn’t when it comes to the coil.

Everyone is different and, as mentioned, for some people the pain may be excruciating.

Equally, others – often people who have had children – feel no pain at all.

Dr Datta said: “If the pain you are experiencing is making you feel lightheaded, faint, nauseous or tearful during the procedure, let the doctor fitting the IUD know immediately.

“It’s normal for some cramping to continue after your fitting for some time and you might experience some spotting or light bleeding and you can take some painkillers to ease the discomfort.

“Following your fitting, if you experience continued pain or heavy bleeding, contact the doctor who inserted the IUD.

“If you experience a fever in the days after the procedure or a change in the nature or smell of your vaginal discharge, this could be a sign of an infection and you may need antibiotics.”

The copper (IUD) and hormone (intrauterine system IUS) coils are both small T-shaped devices which protect women from pregnancy, but they are slightly different and have different side effects.

The IUD release copper into the womb and the IUS releases the hormone progestogen.

A key difference between the two is the effect they have on your periods.

Dr Datta said: “The hormonal coil can make your periods lighter, or stop them altogether, so this could be a good option for those who have painful and/or heavy periods.

“By comparison, the copper coil can make your periods heavier and last longer than they usually would – although this may be transient.”

During the first few months after having your IUD fitted, there is a small chance your device could move or your body could reject the device and expel it, so it’s a good idea to learn how to self-examine for the threads that hang down from the coil.

Dr Datta said: “These are usually felt in the vagina and your doctor will show you how to check for these at the time of coil insertion.

“You should check these strings regularly to ensure your coil is in the correct place.

“If you are unable to feel the IUD strings, this could mean that the IUD isn’t in the correct place or has been expelled, so you could fall pregnant.”

If your partner can feel the IUD during sex, you have continued severe pain which doesn’t go away after having the IUD fitted or you have persistently heavy or abnormal bleeding, it’s worth consulting your doctor.

Dr Datta added: “Keep a record of the bleeding in a diary or app, so you get an idea of how the coil is affecting your periods.

“If you experience any unusual discharge after your fitting, or you have a fever, this could be signs of an infection and you should contact your doctor straight away.”

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