Today I had a new pal popped into my cervix. My cervix isn't really a place I'm used to having visitors, and judging by the cramps I'm experiencing now, it ain't best pleased about it either. But it occurred to me one day, that I've been on the pill for nearly 3 years. I haven't had any terrible side effects during that time; my skin has been as unpredictable as it was since I was about 10 these last 3 years, and though I've gained weight, I'm pretty sure my close proximity to a co op and thus unlimited crisps during first year played a much bigger factor in my waist line increasing than the pills I popped on the daily.
But after my mum's diagnosis of breast cancer, and regularly scrolls past yet another article on facebook about the link between the pill and depression, I couldn't help but wonder why I continued to put these hormones in me. When I flew to Thailand in June my calves swelled and I tried to explain to the Thai doctor that I was in a risk group for DVT because of the pill, all while wondering if it was really worth it. Yes, my periods are light and practically painless, but they weren't horrific before. And yes, it's a simple form of contraception, but when there are plenty out there which don't have the same link with cancer/depression/blood clots I decided it was time for a change.
A lot of my friends have the implant, but after feeling a couple in their arms and openly gagging (so sensitive and kind right), and hearing a couple of terrible stories of it getting lost in people's arms (?!) I figured it wasn't for me. The same with the injection, as I just cba to go to the doctors every 12 weeks, especially as I'm registered with one at uni and not home, and I figured it would just get confusing.
I'd heard about the coil in year 9 sex education, but even just 7 years ago we were getting the outdated information that it was only advised after giving birth. Which just isn't true. When I mentioned wanting it, a friend at uni said she had it and it was fine, so I rang up the doctors to see what was required to get it. And 2 weeks later, it's inside me.
I had an appointment to discuss what the coil was, what the procedure would be and take some swabs. So essentially, I have a 5 year hormonal coil. This is a little (kinda like the size of your pinky finger) T shaped piece of plastic which sits in your cervix, blocks off the path to your ovaries, and has a coating of hormone which keeps the lining of your uterus really thin and keeps ya mucus (mmmmm) thick, which reduces your chances of pregnancy. Like the pill and condoms it's 99.9% effective which is good, and due to its location it's highly unlikely that the side effects will effect people in the same way that the pill does, as the hormones are just affecting your cervix. That being said, there's always a chance of them heading up through a blood vessel, so people who are really anti hormone can opt for the copper coil which is hormone free, but leads to painful, heavy periods, so wasn't sounding great to me.
I had swabs taken to check I didn't have any STIs or thrush going on, because having the coil can aggregate these, which just wouldn't be fun. Once it's checked you're all clear, it's a case of waiting until you're next bleeding to insert it. This confused me, but according to Google your cervix is a lot softer when you're on your period, so I guess that's why they do it then.
My appointment was booked for 1.30pm, and I had to do a urine sample that morning for a last minute check I wasn't preg, and then come along to get it fitted with a friend. I went with my housemate georgie, and had to step behind a curtain and undress and lie on the table with my legs apart and a little sheet over my tummy.
The first time I ever had to do this I was totes embarrassed, but now I've realised the nurse sees hundreds of vaginas and literally gives no shits. Georgie then got to come and sit with me (head end, no views of my cervix for her sadly) while the nurse clamped open my vagina (doesn't hurt, bit cold), then popped in some local anaesthetic jelly. Because of the sheet I couldn't actually see this and I'm so glad as I think it may have been a little weird. The anaesthetic didn't really feel like anything, and idk, once I've been clamped open it's almost like a giant hard tampon like that was all I could feel. Then we had a couple of minutes chatting while the anaesthetic took hold. I'd imagined this to be painfully awkward, but the nurse and health visitor were sooooo nice and we discussed our night out that night and debated if I'd be up for it.
A few minutes later, we were ready. I don't actually know what happened first thanks to the paper sheet, but some long pokey thing went in , which caused a strange feeling, essentially just like being poked where I shouldn't be poked, which I guess is what was happening. In response my cervix cramped a little, like a period pain. This passed almost immediately, and then the nurse popped the actual coil in, which was so painless it was almost anticlimatic. When the nurse said "there, it's in" I was almost disappointed not to have had to scream or dramatically grab georgie's hand.
At this point, though, I could tell my body wasn't having the best time, as I started to feel about sick and weird. The nurse cut the strings and they checked I was okay, to which I insisted I was, not wanting to make a fuss. Don't do this!! Everyone went outside the curtain and I was left to dress, all while knowing I was very much not okay. I sat down to hear about the kind of follow up stuff and the nurse was like "ah, I can tell you're really not well, are you?" And took my blood pressure and pulse, which had dropped. This is a fairly common side effect of the procedure, caused by activation of a nerve. The effects are essentially feeling faint/sick, a cold sweat, and, rather glamorously, a strong desire to poo. Cute. I spent half an hour betweem lying on a bed and popping to the bathroom and had my blood pressure regularly measured until I was back to normal.
We then got a bus back, and for the next couple of hours I had a bit of a stomach ache, but just like period pain, and then that stopped and since then I've had nothing! I still took full advantage and lay in bed watching netflix all day, but I was pretty much completely fine, and even handled a night out with friends that evening.
Update: it's now Wednesday night; over 48 hours since I got the coil. I've taken paracetamol once both days but only experienced mild cramping, and hardly bled at all! Loving it so far. Tomorrow I'll go back on the pill for a final cycle, advised by the nurse, because if you have problems with the coil they usually begin in this first few weeks. Exciting times!