Why I’m calling quits on the copper coil

copper coil IUD contraception

Photo credit: IUD via photopin (license)

You should all know by now – I’m so sorry, Mum* – that I have no filter. When people say, “you should never write anything down that you wouldn’t have read out in court,” I honestly have to rack my brains to think of something I would be ashamed to hear, read back to me from the mouth of Judge Judy. When I make a decision in my life, or come to a particular revelation, I have no qualms about sharing it – with friends, family and, y’know, people I don’t know, via the medium of the Internet.

So, when I decided to head to the Well Woman Centre in Dublin to have the copper coil inserted as my chosen form of contraception, I didn’t hesitate to document the experience on Snapchat. And now that I’ve decided to take it out? Well, y’all deserve to know that, too. So, let’s start at the beginning.

Life before the copper coil

I like to call this BCC (before copper coil or, what I wish everyone in the world would do when they send group emails) – and I think it’s important to outline both my contraceptive history, and to establish the general rhythm of my menstrual cycle, ie, what my period was like when left to its own devices.

Not for the first time, I should preface this with a short and to-the-point: Parents (mine), please stop reading immediately. I’ve been using some form of contraception since I became sexually active, around the age of 18. For a good few years, I tried the Pill, in various forms: combined, mini, progesterone-only. In each instance, I suspected that this hormonal contraception, taken in tablet form once a day, did something dodgy to my mood. (I didn’t know, to begin with, that I suffered from depression; I do now, and I try to avoid ingesting any extra hormones.)

Other things I’ve tried: the injection (I gained half a stone immediately and, when it was done, my period didn’t return for about six months, meaning I spent the entire six months convinced I was pregnant – despite using condoms every single time I had sex, which was about twice); the Mirena IUD (similar to the copper coil, but it contains hormones), which was fine, but I had it removed when I was changing medication for depression and wanted to make sure that I knew exactly where my moods were coming from. That was the last time I ever used hormonal contraception.

Lastly? Duh – condoms. I like condoms. They’re fun – like putting a little poloneck on a big banana – and they keep things neat and tidy. To paraphrase ABBA, my favourite band: I’m a fan.

While on the Pill, my period was, as it tends to be, regular – and appeared within my handy little Pill break. On the injection, I got no period (which was neat!) and, while I had the Mirena inserted, I got a whisper of a period, once a month (if even), which was also quite pleasant.

Without any outside interference, my period is pretty regular – my cycle lasts around 26 or 27 days – and light. It lasts about four days, three of which are heavy enough to necessitate the use of regular tampons (Lil-Lets are my faves), and one of which is barely visible – just enough to use pantyliners and think of all of the pantyliner talk there used to be in J-17 magazine.

Why the copper coil?

I’d been in a relationship for a little over two years when the subject of contraception – or, rather, of changing contraception – came up. To be honest, while I do enjoy condoms, there’s no denying that, at a certain point, you get a bit tired of every single intimate adventure being interrupted by that moment. Reaching over for the condom box (because I’m dead classy, I keep mine in a teeny cardboard Chanel box I got as a press gift), unwrapping, er, re-wrapping…

I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that says that condoms are unsexy, because if you’re careful about the look in your eyes, they can be dead sexy, but at a certain point in my long-term relationship, we started to look for alternatives.

And, let me tell you, non-hormonal contraception is hard to come by (no pun intended). Condoms, fine. The femidom? Seems fiddly and, y’know, coitus interruptus. The diaphragm? I hadn’t heard of anyone using the diaphragm since Carrie in SATC, and that was back in the early days where she used to talk to the camera, House of Cards-style.

When my doctor suggested the copper coil, I was initially a bit reluctant – I’d tried the Mirena, and had been a bit suspicious of its hormonal effects. But then she explained that the copper coil is hormone-free, and that it had been enjoying a resurgence of late: it’s really reliable, is cheaper than the Mirena and lasts 10 years. Sign me up!

The insertion process

I’ll resist the urge to go into incredibly explicit detail – although those of you who’ve read this far are obviously fairly hardy as it is – but to explain how it works: the copper coil is a tiny, T-bar made out of copper, which is inserted into your womb via your cervix.

Your cervix is dilated – when I had my Mirena done, this was by way of little metal rods, which didn’t hurt but caused fairly uncomfortable cramping – but it’s a testament to the work at the Well Woman Centre that, this time, I have no idea how it was done. Around 10 seconds’ of wiggling and it was in. Uncomfortable? Yes. Painful? Not really.

The aftermath

Directly afterwards, I was warned, there would be some cramping – and there was. For about two weeks after I’d had it inserted, I had some light bleeding (also normal) and it felt like I had bad period pain. Loads of Nurofen Plus – and why am I so bashful that I always lie to the pharmacist and say it’s for back pain?! – and moaning to my fella made it pretty bearable.

Then, I waited. Unlike the Mirena IUD, the copper coil can make periods heavier and more painful for a lot of women – that’s the most common side effect that I was told to expect, so I was a little nervous for my first period to arrive. But, like I said, I was used to light periods with very little pain, so I thought, how bad can it be?

Why I’m getting rid of it…

As it happens, it can be pretty bad – and the cramping isn’t even the worst of it.

From the moment I had my copper coil inserted, I experienced a serious slide downwards in terms of mood. It’s hard to say whether I can attribute all of this to the coil; at the time, I’d started doing a few seriously early morning cardio sessions (think, 4.30am or 5am, three times a week), so they could definitely have had something to do with it. And, y’know, I suffer from depression! So the specific reasons for a dip in mood aren’t always easy to figure out.

But I can tell you, with 100% certainty, that my mood has taken a nosedive since I had my copper coil inserted.

What else?

I spent six months there eating incredibly well, demonstrating willpower I never knew existed, and generally kicking ass when it came to my training and diet. Then – around the same time I had my copper coil inserted – it all came crashing to a halt. I was ravenous, all of the time; I had no control whatsoever – whereas, beforehand, I had become the person who turned down the free donut, I suddenly went back to being the person who was first in line; whenever I felt sad or angry or frustrated, I ate something that most definitely did not fit my macros. I was out of control.

And then, of course, there’s the pain. Now, when I get my period, it’s weirdly unpredictable. It pops up for a day, before disappearing again for three. Then it’ll be back with a vengeance: think painful, twisting cramps in my womb; extreme flatulence for the duration (okay so I guess I am being graphic); really heavy bleeding that has ruined two sets of PJs and one sheet, and requires super plus tampons, for six whole days. In short, it’s fairly fucking unpleasant.

It was this last period – a week of cramping, bloating, bleeding and whining – that put the nail in the proverbial coffin. It’s just not worth it, for the sake of avoiding that slight blip in a moment of intimacy. It’s just not.

The worst thing is, I don’t know if it really is to blame for all of these things. Maybe I’m just experiencing a slight dip in mood. Perhaps I only ever had a finite store of willpower, and I used it all up. But heavy cramping and heavier bleeding really can’t be helping my mood, or my desire to comfort eat – and so, for me, we’ve come to the end of the road.

Being a woman – ain’t it grand?

I would hope this isn’t necessary, but I should add a disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor am I a medical professional. This account is based solely on my personal experience, of being an emotional eater and someone who suffers from depression and having the copper coil inserted. This will not, in any way, be everyone’s experience with this form of contraception.

* I love you, but I’m not that sorry, really.

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Comments

    • Trisha
    • June 8, 2016

    Ive been on the pill, but ended forgetting to take them all the time because they f**ked up my mood.(Also have depression) Now have two kids. I had patches but it reacted to my skin badly. Then I had the injections but was told I couldn’t have them any more because the high risk to my bones, periods were also messed up and heavy. So now I have the implant in my arm I’m on my second one, but I get my periods for 2-3 weeks heavy at first. Also get mood swings. I’m so sick of it now but I don’t want more kids. Why can’t they invent a pill that won’t react to our moods and not cause heavy irregular periods.

    • Dee
    • June 8, 2016

    Fantastic and honest interpretation of your experience. I used combined pill for years and struggled to find one that didn’t make me feel like I was on an emotional roller-coaster 24/7. Started using Nuvaring about six years ago and cannot praise it enough.

  1. I love this post, we should be more frank about our contraption choices and experiences. I had the implant and got it out after 9mts due to horrendous hormonal moodiness and deep depression. I’ve had two babies, I have three stepchildren so my family is finished and wanted my tubes tied but the Dr refused and wanted to give me the mirena. I like you didn’t want any additional hormones due to mental illness and knowing what the Pill etc has done to me. So, we are going down the snipping route for him because similarly the shrink wrap moments are really just a mood killer.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, I’m glad I’m not the only one with similar experiences.

  2. I was on the Pill for like 10 years until I got the implant inserted in 2014, and the effect it had on me was ridiculous! Weight gain, crazy mood swings etc. I got it removed in January and am now using the Fertility Awareness Method – ie: taking my temperature every morning with a fertility computer device and it instantly tells me if I am fertile or infertile that day. I’ve been using it for 3 months now, am not pregnant, and happier than ever, so glad to be off artificial hormones and giving my body some well deserved respite!! I highly recommend it, and I even wrote 2 blog posts about my experience with the implant and decision to use FAM. I use the Daysy Fertility Monitor! – http://laurensarajude.blogspot.com. I am not dropping my blog link for self-promotion here, I am just really keen to share this with other ladies who are sick of their birth control! 🙂

  3. Great article, love the honesty…
    and I think it is totally past the time for an open discussion about effects to women’s health &periods vs. condom discomfort.
    http://www.smh.com.au/world/supercondom-backed-by-gates-foundation-stops-aids-enhances-pleasure-20160221-gmztfs.html
    this may well be an interesting development on the whole birth control angle.
    Making condoms a sex aid and pleasure enhancer would go a long way to enhancing that “slight blip in a moment of intimacy”.

    • Susan watkins
    • June 8, 2016

    I was the same with the mirena coil had it in 12 months had to get it out way too much pain all month long it didn’t compensate for the very light periods but for me after having my 2 children my next step was to tie my tubes it’s not for everyone but for me it was not everyone has a good experience but it is trial and error and thanks for talking so frank because we are still a nation of prudes sometimes

    • Sandra Dolan
    • June 8, 2016

    Great read. So frank and informative. Contemplating sending link to my 20 you daughter. Well done and thanks. PS…Louise the doc wouldn’t give you the snip !!!!! The absolute cheek. You should be able to do as you please with your own body !!

    • Nicola Conroy
    • June 8, 2016

    Great article, as always!!

    • Emily
    • June 8, 2016

    I had the Mirena inserted two yrs ago. I had 2 babies in quick succession & the family was complete. I have always suffered with heavy periods so gynaecologist suggested the mirena. I loved it. No periods no bloating & no moods. But then I developed severe acne. A dermatologist said it must be the coil & so I had it removed. I was back to heavy periods And I still had the acne. I went on dianette pill which had kept my teenage acne at bay but did not help this time it just turned me into a psycho! Then one night while slathering my face in antibiotic cream I noticed it was more on one side than the other which was the side I sleep on, so I thought back & around the same time as getting the coil in I’d started shopping in aldi & using their detergents. I switched back to persil. My acne is gone & I wish I’d kept the coil in. Oh to be a bloke. Love your blog

    • Jane murray
    • June 9, 2016

    I too got my copper coil removed after enduring months of the most intense painful cramping imaginable.
    It was the worst experience ever and 2 years later im still not right!
    Now have bad cramps from day of ovulation to start of period every month
    Hate hate hate the copper coil!!!

    • Sinead
    • June 10, 2016

    Love this post Rosemary. I concur with the other posters in that we need to be a lot more open and frank about contraception choices and experiences.

    Just to add some pro-coil (non-hormonal) manifesto; I’ve had mine in for 3 months now (after 10 years on the pill culminating in it messing me up hormonally after some weightloss) and I am happy with it overall.

    Insertion was uncomfortable but bearable, I had 24 hours of what my mother described as mild labour pains and a further 48 hours of being conscious that there was “something” in there and after that, nothing. The only notable difference symptom-wise is that I get quite bloated pre-period and get lower back pain during it as well as one or two spots on my chin every month – none of which I had before when on the pill.

    Thankfully I haven’t experienced much in the way of excessive emotions, mood swings or increased appetite but, it just goes to show how there is no one contraceptive solution that will suit everyone and I think a lot more needs to be done in developing alternative non-hormonal methods.

    • Emma
    • June 11, 2016

    Great read as always! I also suffer from depression/anxiety. I took different variations of the pill since I was sixteen and even though I suffer from the above; the pill sent me on overdrive with regards to my moods. I was literally like the antichrist.

    This may be and overshare BUT…There’s also a little known side affect to taking the pill- thrush.

    My god I was plagued with it while I was in the pill to the point I convinced myself I had some sort of STI. Luckily I didn’t, my swabs came back positive only for thrush but I think it’s a lesser known side affect, one that affects a small number of unfortunates like myself.

    I now use the nuvaring which I think is amazing. It’s the only sort of contraceptive that has agreed with me alongside my diagnosis of depression/anxiety. You leave it in for 21 days and have a 7 day break just like the pill. A lot of women don’t even know about it which I think is a shame- many of my friends/colleagues use it and find it great.

    Anyway, thanks again for the honest post!!!

    • E
    • June 13, 2016

    Thanks for writing this Rosemary, I don’t think many young women are informed enough on how contraception may affect them physically and mentally. I knew I was prone to depression when I first tried the combined pill but didn’t say so to my doctor. Cue terrifying depressive episodes where I literally couldn’t stop myself from crying at the slightest argument or difficult day. I only tried a few types of the pill and then abandoned it as I couldn’t cope with the side effects. I hope you find a solution! Love your blog, it’s refreshing and your blogging and journalism tips are solid common sense unlike other stuff I’ve read such as “buy a €1000 camera” and “be yourself”!!

  4. Great job Rosemary! Are you going to get the copper coil made into a piece of jewellery? It’s kinda purdy.

    The coil sounds like a mare and is exactly what put me off that option whenever it was mentioned. If my periods got any heavier (after the three Nippers) I would actually die of blood loss.
    Fingers crossed things will become more normal now.
    You’ll enjoy this one: https://www.facebook.com/BunmiKLaditan/posts/1729276640652658

    • Geraldine
    • July 15, 2016

    Hi All,
    I had Copper Coil inserted in May 2016. 3 weeks later I am experiencing weird symptoms. Pins & needles in both hands & feet & burning & numbness at times. Generally not feeling well. Could this be a reaction to the Copper?
    Anyone else get these symptoms?
    Regards,
    Geraldine.

  5. Hi Geraldine,

    I can’t say that those are symptoms I’ve experienced, but I would definitely go back to your doctor to discuss! Hope all works out okay x

    • Chloe
    • August 19, 2016

    Rosemary, I just got the copper coil fitted on Wednesday and googled this post to remind me what you had said. I have had 10 months of hell with the implant (basically a constant period apart from 3 months of the pill on top of the implant) so got the coil in and the implant out on the same day. I’ll have a low threshold for getting the coil removed but here’s hoping its successful. I also think it’s so important for everyone to feel like they can openly talk about contraception!
    How was it getting it removed? I found it pretty horrific getting it in!!

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    • Mike Jones
    • December 24, 2016

    Reading this as a man concerned about my partner. Wow! We need to roll out the male pill asap. Can’t get over the suffering women endure silently and we men have none of the responsibility or concern.

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    • Morieta
    • January 13, 2017

    Well Done Rosemary !!! What a fabulous article .this a very open and honest account of your contraceptive history and how it has affected you .This article will be great help to your younger followers as women don’t seem to share this information with one another therefore a lot of women are unaware of the different contraceptive devices available to them .some women find this topic difficult topic o discuss even with their G.P .personally I have the mirena in situ for four years and I can say it’s changed my life for the better ,removed periods and pmt for me .we are all so different ! What is good for one person mightn’t be so great for another .

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