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Coil Fitting and Removal: A Comprehensive Guide to Long-Term Contraception
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November 16, 2023
Dr Hina

Contraception allows women to take control of their reproductive health and be proactive in their family planning. Choosing the right contraception option is a very personal decision and most women have a method they prefer or have come to rely on.

In this article, we will be discussing the IUD (intrauterine device), otherwise known as ‘the coil’, a form of contraception that is inserted into a woman’s uterus and releases copper to help protect against pregnancy. 

Let’s get started.

What is the Coil?

The coil is a T-shaped copper and plastic device that is inserted into a woman’s uterus. It works by releasing copper into the body (in small amounts) to prevent sperm from surviving and reaching the egg. As soon as the coil is fitted it works right away and will be effective as a method of contraception for 5 to 10 years.

According to the NHS, “there are different types of IUD, some with more copper than others. IUDs with more copper are more than 99% effective. This means that fewer than 1 in 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant in one year. IUDs with less copper will be less effective.”

How Does the Coil Work?

The coil releases copper into the womb. This helps to alter the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to survive and reach the egg. This release of copper can also prevent a fertilised egg from implanting itself into the womb lining.

One of the great things about the copper coil is that it does not release hormones into the body – like other forms of contraception do. As such, the coil does not cause hormonal side effects such as acne and mood swings. 

What’s more, when a woman is ready to get pregnant, she can start trying to conceive as soon as the coil has been removed without having to wait for any hormones to clear from her body.

Facts About the Coil

Just like other methods of contraception, there are myths that rear their heads and create misunderstandings. So, here’s a few facts you should know about the coil:

How the Coil is Fitted

The coil is a great long-term contraceptive option and, once fitted, is effective immediately and for 5 to 10 years. As long as you’re not pregnant, you can request a coil fitting at any time during your menstrual cycle. Here’s how it is fitted and what you should expect.

On the Day of Your Appointment

Just as you would with a smear test, it is fine to have something to eat and drink before you come to your appointment. Some women also prefer to take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen 1 hour before their appointment to help manage any discomfort. 

If there is anything you are worried about, it’s important to communicate this where possible. Most women find coil fittings an easy process. However, others can find it nervewracking or triggering, particularly those who have experienced sexual assault or trauma. If this is relevant for you, it is best to communicate this with your provider so they are aware and can support you to feel more comfortable.

It is helpful to bring a sanitary pad with you as some women experience a small amount of bleeding after a coil fitting.

During the Appointment

Before fitting the coil, your doctor or nurse will examine the inside of your vagina to check the positioning and size of your womb. They will also test for any existing STIs, STDs or other infections. If any of these are present, you will be provided with the required treatment and asked to come back once you are better. This is to ensure infections are not passed into the uterus when the coil is fitted.

If your tests come back negative, you are ready to have your coil fitted. This is a quick and easy process and should take no more than 5 minutes. To fit the coil, your doctor or nurse will:

After Your Coil Fitting

Most doctor surgeries and sexual health clinics will provide you with an information leaflet outlining helpful information about the coil for your perusal. This is also a great chance to ask any questions you may have and make a note of when your coil should be replaced (as this can be easy to forget when it’s 5 to 10 years away!)

After your coil fitting you should be aware of the following:

Light Cramping: after your appointment you may experience some light cramping. Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen should help relieve this. Hot water bottles can also be helpful and resting is always good, if needed.

Tampons and Menstrual Cups: it is recommended that you avoid using tampons or menstrual cups for the first 7 days after a coil fitting. You should also avoid sexual intercourse and the use of condoms for 7 days. This is to reduce the risk of accidentally removing the coil or giving yourself an infection.

Checking Coil Placement: after 4-6 weeks, it is important to check the threads hanging from the IUD. Your doctor or nurse should have explained how to do this during your appointment. However, you can achieve it by gently placing two fingers inside your vagina and feeling for the threads. If you cannot find or feel them, you should contact your GP.

Signs There is a Problem

If this is your first time having a coil fitted, it’s important you know when something’s not right. That’s why (even though it’s highly unlikely), you should be aware of the following signs of infection:

If you experience any of the symptoms above, it is possible you have an infection. You should call your GP right away to organise a check-up appointment to make sure everything is okay.

Removing the Coil

If you would like your coil removed, it is important you have this done by a trained doctor or nurse. Attempting to remove the coil yourself can cause damage to the uterus, vaginal bleeding, and carries a high risk of infection.

If you are having your coil removed and you are not having another one fitted, it is important to use other methods of contraception (such as condoms). This is because as soon as the coil has been removed, it is possible to get pregnant.

The Coil is Not Suitable for…

If you have a womb, it’s likely you can use the coil. However, it is worth getting this confirmed by your doctor as the coil may not be the most suitable option for you. For example, the coil may not be a suitable option if you:

After Birth and While Breastfeeding 

The coil is an excellent form of birth control for postpartum women and can be fitted 4 weeks after you have given birth (whether you gave birth vaginally or via caesarean). It is worth noting that if you have sex sooner than 4 weeks after you’ve given birth, you should use an alternate form of contraception to protect yourself against pregnancy.

The coil is a safe and effective form of contraception while you’re breastfeeding and will not have any effect on your milk supply or pass anything on to your baby.

In Summary

As you can see, the coil is an effective and extremely popular form of contraception. It is suitable for most women and is a great long-term contraceptive. If you are interested in having the coil fitted, book an appointment with your GP or healthcare provider.

We hope this article has been informative and helped you gain a better understanding of the IUD/coil. For more informative articles like this, check out our blog.

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