Between the ages of 19 and 21 I was contraceptive free and sexually active. Which in hindsight even though I am an advocate of not being on any contraception unless you need to be, was just plain stupid. I watched some of my close friends who were in relationships have an abortion and although it seems easy, it takes an incredible toll on you mentally and physically.
So I decided something needed to be done. In April last year I went to see my doctor and explained my situation; I wanted to be on contraception but I also needed to ensure that my periods would eventually become lighter. (I have menorrhagia, which means my periods are very, very heavy). She suggested the mirena IUD also known as the coil. The coil is a plastic T-shaped device that sits in your uterus and will protect you against pregnancy for five years.
I took home some pamphlets and after doing some research on the NHS website and patient.co.uk, I decided that it could work for me until I heard a horror story from a friend that put me off for a couple of months.
Eventually, after a strong talking to from one friend that I was being an idiot and some words of support from another, I got up at 7am one Tuesday in July and headed to my local sexual health drop in clinic. I arrived at 8am and I was the fifth person in the queue. A nurse quickly saw me, she asked if I had spoken to my doctor, whom I had, and I was given an appointment for later that morning.
About an hour later, I was lying on my back on a hospital bed wearing nothing else but a grey jumper and a pair of black ankle socks with a paper towel covering my vagina. Even though I had had my smear test, this time it felt a little bit different because instead of just having a little look around they were putting something inside me. The next few minutes went pretty quickly, speculum, injection, cramping, coil inserted, more cramping.
“You can take your legs down now, that’s you.”
I froze. I think I went into shock, I was shaky, I felt sick and warm and all I wanted to do was curl into a ball.
This was probably due to the fact I hadn’t eaten breakfast or taken the ibuprofen they recommended, in my defence, I hadn’t realised it would all be happening so quickly. I managed to take my legs down and I was told by the doctor that I wasn’t allowed to use tampons for three months in order to reduce the chance of infection and to come back in six weeks to check everything was in the right place. I grabbed my jacket and left the same way I had came in the only difference this time was I now had a foreign object sitting in my uterus.
So was it worth it?
Emotionally, I felt really unprepared for the procedure. Although quick, the whole thing felt very invasive, very clinical and to an extent, I left feeling slightly violated.
I also felt like I couldn’t laugh, cough or sneeze for three days because I was convinced it would fall out. It didn’t.
There were no awful mood swings but I was pretty bitchy and incredibly irrational, you know that inside voice that some women have when your period is coming? That was me every single day for two months. I was a bundle of joy to be around.
I went back to the clinic after six weeks because I couldn’t find the strings of my coil to save myself. Even using a speculum and a surgical light it still took the doctor a good five minutes to find them, so how was I ever supposed to find them squatting on my bathroom floor with a light that didn’t work?
Then there was the Wednesday evening the day after Trump was elected that I was sent to the hospital after calling NHS 24 in floods of tears because I could feel one string basically coming out of my body and my period was scarily heavy. I sat in the hospital waiting room clutching my mum’s hand and trying to hold back tears thinking, “what if it’s punctured my womb and I can never have children?” An hour later the nurse assured me that my coil had not punctured the side of my womb but she was going to refer me to gynaecology for a scan because there was a small chance my coil wasn’t working, I’m still waiting to find that out.
Oh, and to top it all off, I also think it’s lowered my sex drive.
But yes, it was worth it because the hormones are no longer affecting my moods, my weight hasn’t fluctuated at all and slowly but surely my period is getting lighter every month.
Most importantly, I am actually really proud of myself. For some women contraception can be as easy as remembering to take a pill everyday but for some others it doesn’t work out like that. For a lot of us it takes time, patience and energy to find a method that works for us and not against us and to remain in control of our bodies. It’s not easy, some women don’t want to be on any form of contraception and that is fine. It has taken me four and a half years to find something that works for me and no, it’s not perfect but I have taken control of my body and as a woman that makes me feel empowered.