‘I ended up fainting on the table’: Girls recount their experiences of getting the coil
‘The pain we experience is rarely taken seriously and it’s really frustrating’
Last month, journalist Caitlin Moran wrote a Times article entitled: Why we all need pain relief when having an IUD fitted. This led BBC Breakfast newsreader Naga Muchetty to share her own excruciating experience of getting the contraceptive coil or intrauterine device (IUD). In a BBC Five Live Interview, she described it as “one of the most traumatic physical experiences” she had ever had. The interview has been watched 106.2K times.
She has since tweeted: “You don’t get to tell me that it is ‘no worse’ than having a cervical smear. I’ve had several smear tests. It was much, much worse. It was my experience. Respect it. Women should receive all medical treatment as pain-free as possible. Not have their pain ignored or dismissed.”
In response, thousands of women have been coming forward to share their own stories. On the NHS website the coil insertion is described as “uncomfortable” and that “some people might find it painful”.
The Tab spoke to nine women who have had a range of experiences when getting the contraceptive coil fitted, illustrating the varying ways the procedure is undertaken by different practitioners and the need for better pain relief to be offered more consistently.
I had to tell them to stop because it was so bad I felt like I was going to throw up
“The first time they couldn’t do it because my cervix was spasming so much. It was fucking painful. They tried for 20 minutes. I had to tell them to stop because it was so bad, I felt like I was going to throw up. They suggested I go to the sexual health clinic to get it again as they could give me a numbing injection instead of just numbing cream.
The second time they tried, I had the same problem as the first time. They kept pushing and I was literally screaming. Eventually, they got it in but it was horrible. I got it earlier this week and for the past few days I’ve felt like shit.”
I ended up fainting on the table due to severe pain
“A lot of my friends were getting the coil and encouraged me to do the same. I went to the fitting and took paracetamol as suggested. I wasn’t given any pain relief at all. Halfway through, once they had inserted the speculum, it reached my cervix and I passed out. I ended up fainting, in severe pain on the table. It was very scary waking up and not knowing what was happening.
The nurse said I had cervical shock. They removed the device as I passed out and then made sure I was okay. However, they’ve said I shouldn’t get the coil fitted again because of the cervical shock which is worrying for me. No other method of contraception is compatible with me so the copper coil was my last non-hormonal option.”
It was very traumatic and I would not recommend getting it
“I got the coil as emergency contraception because the morning after pill wouldn’t work due to the time of the month. It was very traumatic getting it. I got the copper one. I didn’t want an IUD with hormones as the pill I’d previously taken had given me bad side effects.
I had to have it inserted three times as it kept falling out and each time it was very painful. It felt like severe period cramps and was quite uncomfortable. After the third time it came out, the nurse said it would be too risky to continue. I had to go back in the next day and have it inserted again by a doctor as apparently my womb was too small. This time I had a local aesthetic injection into my cervix to numb the pain which was also quite painful.
Having the coil hasn’t been great. I’ve had no hormonal side effects but I did bleed consistently for three months and the periods are extremely heavy. Sometimes I pass out due to low iron and the period pains are also quite extreme. To be honest, I would not recommend getting it but then again I had worse side effects from the pill in terms of feeling very depressed so currently I’m waiting to see if it settles down.”
I don’t think the pain of people with uteruses is taken seriously and it’s really frustrating
“I got the coil because I wanted a non-hormonal form of contraception. I also didn’t want the added stress of taking an extra pill everyday and possibly forgetting.
Getting the coil was the most painful experience of my life. I took Tylenol before the procedure but was told afterwards that Tylenol doesn’t help with this type of pain. I would describe the pain as really intense cramping. I almost passed out afterwards because I was so lightheaded. I wish I would have been given some sort of numbing treatment or anaesthetic. I don’t think the pain of people with uteruses is taken seriously and it’s really frustrating.
Despite the painful insertion, having the coil has been a great experience. I no longer have to worry so much about unwanted pregnancy and the cramps went away after two days. Since I got the copper coil, it will last for 12 years. I would recommend the coil to other people, however I think they should push to get a numbing treatment for the procedure.”
I passed out and threw up whilst I was still at the doctors
“I got the coil because the pill didn’t work well with me and my mood swings were awful on it. When I had it put in, the pain was horrendous. They gave me paracetamol for pain relief but that wasn’t enough. I passed out and threw up whilst I was still at the doctors. They kept me in for an hour or so after that to ensure I was okay and that they didn’t need to take it out. After the first few hours the pain pretty much went but I had a tender tummy for about two days after.
Other than that, though, I had no other issues and it was the best for me. I recommend it for people who don’t like the pill as its natural and I didn’t have to think about it at all. However, I do think they need to offer better pain relief and general support to anyone getting it.”
I think the doctor’s skill is what’s most important
“I got the coil as I wanted to get an ‘easy’ form of contraception – it lasts five years, there’s nothing I have to remember to do (except occasionally checking my strings) and it offers more reliable protection than condoms.
I have had three coils and all were very different experiences. The first was painful, the second utterly painless and the third somewhere in the middle. Personally, I think the doctor’s skill is what’s important. I went to my second fitting extremely nervous and while chatting with the doctor she said so many people don’t know how to do it properly. She was calm, cool and collected and I honestly didn’t feel anything. I had to ask if she’d really done it because I was waiting for extreme pain and it never came.
Once implanted, it’s been totally fine. I’ve been perfectly happy with my coils. All in all, I believe the coil is the right contraceptive choice for me and I’m sure that’s true for others too. If I could change one thing, it would be all doctors being as skilled as the lady in my university health centre.”
Having the it inserted felt like I was having my insides scraped out
“After a long five year wait, this year I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis. The coil is one of the suggested treatments to help with the pain and reduce the blood flow that I was experiencing with my condition.
I was told to take one ibuprofen and one paracetamol tablet beforehand but was given no pain relief. They said if it hurt too much and wasn’t going in then they’d stop and do it under a local anaesthetic another time. The whole procedure took about five minutes and was quite uncomfortable, especially when the speculum was inserted. Having the coil inserted felt like I was having my insides scraped out and it was horrible, but only lasted less than a minute. They sent me home bleeding a bit and didn’t offer me any pads. I had really intense cramping throughout and that carried on for a week or so. It was painful, but manageable.
I was spotting every day for nearly two months and experienced heavy cramping for a week or so, but since then it’s been great. I was on the pill a few years ago and that made me gain weight, made me miserable and was a wholly negative experience – the coil has been a completely different experience.”
The cramps it gave me felt like I was being stabbed over and over
“I got the coil because I always forgot to take my pill and it would mess up my period so I went to doctors and they suggested it. Getting the coil was painful but quick – the worst part was definitely afterwards with the constant cramps and bleeding. The cramps it gave literally felt like I was being stabbed over and over.
The coil was ok for just over a year or so. Then when I started uni, I began having periods every other week so I went to the doctors and they put me on the pill alongside it. Then a month ago, I got it removed altogether because it was being annoying. I’d recommend it to others because I know people who have had it and it works perfectly fine, it just didn’t work for me.”
It’s short term pain for long term gain
“I have had the coil for two and a half years. I found it fine. I had some irregular bleeding for the first four months of having it. After that I’ve had nothing, no bad symptoms from it or anything. It was really easy and low maintenance and I haven’t had any problems with it. I wasn’t given any pain relief, I was just told to take paracetamol or ibuprofen for the first couple of days if I had cramps but that was it. It really hurt when I got it but I’d say it’s short term pain for long term gain. I started to have some pains recently but when I went to the doctors and got an ultrasound and some blood tests, they said everything was fine.”