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Empowering Your Choices: Understanding the Process of Coil Fitting and Removal
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December 22, 2023
Dr Hina

Contents Table:

The coil (otherwise known as an IUD) is one of the most popular reversible forms of contraception available. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, it has over 168 million users worldwide and is empowering women all over the globe to take control of their sexual health and family planning.

However, despite its popularity, there remains a lot of uncertainty around coil fitting and removal. Many women feel nervous about the procedure and unsure about what to expect. Here we will be shedding light on the process so that women can feel confident going into the procedure.

What is the Coil?

The coil, or IUD, is a T-shaped copper device. It is gently inserted into the uterus (otherwise known as the womb) by a nurse or doctor and releases small amounts of copper as a preventative measure against pregnancy. 

Once the coil has been inserted, you shouldn’t be able to feel it inside you. What’s more, when inserted correctly the coil is more than 99% effective in protecting against pregnancy and lasts between 5-10 years.

It is worth mentioning that despite its effectiveness, the coil does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. As such, it is important to use condoms instead of, or in addition to the coil to protect against STIs.

How Does the Coil Work?

The coil is a non-hormonal method of birth control. Instead of releasing hormones into the body, it releases very small amounts of copper into the womb. The copper alters your cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg and fertilise it. In the unlikely event an egg does become fertilised, the coil can stop the fertilised egg from implanting in the womb. 

The coil is an effective contraception option for most women and safe to use until you reach menopause or no longer need contraception. 

The Benefits of the Coil

The Disadvantages of the Coil

Like all types of contraception, there are some disadvantages to the coil:

The Process of Coil Fitting and Removal

One of the concerns women have about the coil is that it will be painful to fit and remove. In the next section of this article we will be discussing in detail the process of coil fitting and removal. Understanding the procedure and what to expect gives many women confidence before their appointment and helps remove feelings of anxiety.

When Can the Coil be Fitted?

Many women wonder whether a coil fitting needs to be timed with their cycle (much like a smear test does). And it’s a great question!

However, one of the many benefits of the coil is that it can be fitted at any point during your menstrual cycle (as long as you aren’t pregnant). What’s more, as soon as the coil has been fitted you will be protected against pregnancy straight away.

So, if you’ve been waiting for the right time, there’s no need! You can book your coil fitting appointment straight away.

When to Delay Your Appointment

If you have had a baby recently, you can only have a coil fitted 8 weeks after your baby’s delivery. This is to avoid damage or perforation of the womb, as it is thinner after giving birth. 

If you have had a miscarriage or a pregnancy termination (before 12 weeks gestation), you can have a coil fitted at any time.

The coil can be fitted immediately after you have had an abortion.

Prior to Your Appointment

Now that your appointment is booked, here are a few things you can do to prepare on the day:

Allow 30 Minutes

You should allow 15-30 minutes for your coil fitting appointment. This will ensure your doctor or nurse has enough time to explain the procedure to you, carry out an inspection, and fit your coil. It is always best knowing how long your appointment may take so that you can make the necessary adjustments to your day.

Painkillers

While a coil fitting isn’t painful, some women do find it uncomfortable. Therefore, we recommend that you take painkillers at least one hour before your appointment. This will help reduce any cramping afterwards and keep you more comfortable during the procedure.

Meals 

Many women assume they should skip a meal before having a coil fitted. This isn’t true. It’s not like surgery where you have to avoid eating for 12-24 hours before. You can eat as usual on the day before and after your appointment. 

Support

It’s likely you will feel completely fine after your coil fitting. However, it is always best to be cautious. Some women experience feelings of faintness, dizziness, or sickness during and after their appointment. As such, we suggest you have someone available who can drive you home afterwards. This is especially important if you tend to feel faint during/after medical procedures as it will ensure you get home safely.

Time Off

We recommend that women take it easy after a coil fitting. So, try to book the day off work, arrange childcare, and have meals pre-made so that you can enjoy a quiet day sitting on the sofa, relaxing. It’s important to rest after your coil fitting and avoid strenuous tasks as this reduces the risk of problems such as coil displacement.

Sanitary Towels

Please bring a sanitary towel to your appointment. It is common to experience a small amount of spotting after your coil fitting. This should reduce throughout the day, however a sanitary towel will ensure you are protected. You should also avoid wearing tampons for the next few days after your appointment.

The Process of Coil Fitting

At your appointment, your nurse or doctor will take the time to assess your vagina, check the position of your womb, and test for any existing infections. If you are found to have an STI or other infection, your coil fitting will be postponed while you take a course of antibiotics.

If everything looks good, you are ready for your coil fitting. 

Get into Position

To begin, you will be asked to undress (privately) and lie down on the couch with your feet together and your knees bent. Once you are ready and feel comfortable, your nurse or doctor will insert a speculum into your vagina (just like during a smear test). This shouldn’t be painful but may feel a little uncomfortable.

Inserting the IUD

The IUD is then inserted through the cervix and into the womb using a pair or small forceps. The coil is packed inside a narrow tube, with the ‘T’ sections of its arms folded down to make for easy insertion. Once the tube has been inserted, the plastic tube is removed to let the arms of the coil unfold. 

Threads and Coil Placement

The threads hanging from the coil are cut to leave 1-2 cm of threads hanging from the top of your vagina. You should be able to feel these to tell the coil is in place. Your doctor or nurse will show you how to check this.

During your appointment, you can ask your doctor or nurse to pause or stop the procedure if you feel uncomfortable at any point. 

After Your Appointment

After your appointment you may feel a little sick or dizzy. This is why it’s important to have someone available to take you home. You may also experience some bleeding, pain, and discomfort afterwards however this should fade throughout the day. 

After 3-6 weeks your IUD needs to be checked by your doctor to ensure it’s in the right place, working properly, and not causing any problems. This is standard procedure and not anything to worry about. You should be reminded to book this follow-up appointment at your coil fitting.

Problems After Coil a Fitting

If you experience any of the following problems after your coil fitting, you should contact your doctor right away: 

These signs could indicate an infection, so it’s important you seek advice quickly so that you can receive the relevant treatment.

The Process of Removing the Coil

You can have the coil removed at any time during your menstrual cycle but it must be removed by a trained doctor or nurse. This avoids any damage to the womb and cervix and reduces the likelihood of infection.

Just like a cervical smear test, you will be asked to lie on your back with your feet together and your knees bent. Your doctor or nurse will then insert a speculum and hold the vagina open in order to see the threads of the coil. 

Using a small pair of forceps, your doctor or nurse will take hold of the threads and slowly pull on them to remove the coil. As the coil slides through the opening of the cervix, its arms will fold up to allow for a more streamlined removal.

If you are having an old coil removed, the new coil can be fitted during the same appointment.

Important Note: as a reminder, you can get pregnant as soon as the coil has been removed. So, if you are not trying to get pregnant and you do not want another coil fitted, it is important to use additional contraception, such as condoms to prevent this.

To Summarise

As you can see, the process of coil fitting and removal is fairly straightforward. Most women do not experience any problems with this procedure and can enjoy 5-10 years of contraception without any hormonal side effects.

We hope this article has encouraged you to consider the coil and provided you with confidence in the fitting and removal procedure. If you have any questions or concerns, always raise these with the doctor or nurse carrying out your procedure. They would be happy to help!

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