I ditched the pill and switched to the coil, now I’ll never look back
I’ll admit it, I’m an IUD promo girl
by Fay Parker
My journey of contraceptive discovery began on an uncharacteristically sunny afternoon in Manchester city centre, where, for the fifth consecutive day I was sobbing – uncontrollably. I’d just survived a holiday with my then ex-boyfriend and, rather than holiday blues, I was feeling the positive effects of sun exposure and good food. So why was I emotional over nothing? I’d barely began explaining my nutty behaviour to a doctor before she interrupted to advise, “Stop taking your pill”.
I’d been on the combined pill for over a year, so why would it now be causing me grief? The doctor explained that as with everything else you eat, digestion of the pill could be affected by changes in your diet. My 10 day holiday to Croatia could have fuelled this crazy episode. So I stopped taking the pill and I stopped crying. All was well.
I spent the rest of the summer contraception free, but I soon realised that I was super uncomfortable knowing that my avoidance of pregnancy was reliant upon that flaky old friend – condoms. Nope. I went back to the doctors, and was given a different pill, or so I thought.
Fast-forward to 2016, an all-too-familiar scene – me sat opposite a doctor blubbering and listing problems including mood swings, irritability, low mood and bad skin. “Oh, I’m not sure why you’ve been given this pill. It’s almost exactly the same make-up as the last you were on”. Fantastic. If I wasn’t concerned about getting blacklisted from the doctor’s surgery close to work, I would have had a full-on tantrum. I was annoyed that I had been given the same pill, but I was also relieved. It had taken a toxic threesome of exam revision, a long distance relationship and a house move to make me see the light.
Taking the pill wasn’t worth the effect on my wellbeing.
Why had I never been warned that the pill could affect my mood? It seemed very little was known about the psychological effects of hormonal birth control, but a recent study found that women taking the combined pill are 25 per cent more likely than those on the coil or implant to suffer from depression.
Personally, I was done putting hormones in my body. But I was at a loss when it came to non-hormonal contraceptive options. I hated condoms and didn’t want to rely on them alone. My only other option was the coil. At first I was reluctant. A copper coil sounded gross and everything I found online sounded negative. But I went back to my GP who assured me that the copper coil – or IUD – is over 99 per cent effective and can last up to 10 years. But wait, hadn’t I heard that it’s only available to women who have had babies? And I’m pretty sure it hurts. A lot.
I began trawling the internet for reassurance. I spent hours reading forum threads. One woman couldn’t have it inserted because it hurt so much. Some women said their periods had become super heavy and painful. If this was my only option, would it work for me? I didn’t want to go through trauma to have it taken out again. After a telephone consultation with my doctor, I decided to go for it. How bad could it be?
I put on my big-girl pants, and went to the doctors. After a few gynaecology-related trips to the doctors, I am fully OK getting my v-jay out and doing that shimmy down the bed towards the doctor’s face. No biggie. The doctor checked which way my womb tilted (downwards, apparently) and, after the arrival of the chaperone, shit got real. “So I’m just going to put a clip on your cervix”.
I’m not going to sugar-coat, it wasn’t pleasant. There’s something especially unnerving about someone meddling that far up inside your body. Quite a lot of sharp pains later, it was done. I’d survived, and I didn’t have to worry about contraception for five whole years. I had what felt like period pains for the rest of the day but otherwise went about my business as usual.
I’m now four months in and I wish I’d done it years ago. According to Netdoctor.co.uk, only seven per cent of UK women aged 18-50 uses the coil. There are 15 different types of contraception, so why are women so readily handed the pill without exploring other options? John Guillebaud, a professor of reproductive health at UCL, says that it’s time to get over the pill, and it’s not hard to see why.
A study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health advises that there are many reasons why the copper coil is the ideal contraceptive method for many women. Unlike some hormonal birth control methods, the IUD does not interfere with sexual intercourse or medications, it’s immediately reversible and long-lasting, and it does not have any hormone-related side effects.
I cannot recommend the coil enough. In fact, I’ve been singing its praises to almost every woman I’ve come into contact with. I’m a coil promo girl. For me, I feel like I have regained control over my body and my periods. I’m in no way tech savvy, but I now have this nifty app where I can track my cycle and all the things that come with it. I feel empowered, and it feels natural.
For some women, the pill works great, but it should not be the default option. My take-home is that there are a bunch of different options out there so if something is not working for you, it’s by no means your only choice. Do your research, speak properly with your doctor or family planning service, ask your friends, use the FPA interactive contraception too.
Own your body, and own your periods.