The copper coil and its effects on me

UPDATED This January (2017) I had the copper coil removed after 4 years of the worst physical and mental health I have ever experienced and 8 months later I am finally becoming the person I once was. I count myself lucky to be living in the UK where contraception is completely free and my choice of having this removed was not questioned unlike a lot of my fellow sufferers who are subject to health insurance constraints and can often resort to self-removal when they feel desperate.

I am not by nature a share all blogger, but one of the ways I discovered that I really wasn’t losing my mind and the impact of the copper coil upon my health was through people sharing their thoughts and experiences across forums (most of which were mums / family related as no real support groups seemed to be about), which I often found late at night whilst googling and I really do want to return the favour and add my bit to those who are still searching out there. This isn’t an essay nor a medical blog – I couldn’t possibly go into the details of those 4 years as there is just too much to say – but this is, I hope, a post that will help those late night googlers out there, who are like me.

So the copper coil is a non-hormonal contraceptive device which is inserted into your cervix to prevent unplanned pregnancy. During my younger, childless years, I would never have even contemplated this and preferred the daily dose of hormonal pills which seemed to do the trick but like a lot of those who go on to use the coil I chose it after a couple of close together pregnancies in the determination that I wanted to be ME again and couldn’t cope with any more hormones racing through my body.

Here’s my first mistake – accepting the word of the GP that it was a completely non-hormonal device. Now whilst strictly true that it doesn’t contain hormones it does actually cause hormonal changes (a result of the copper in your system and basically a foreign object inside you) so when suffering the most extreme mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, depression, anger, raging PMT it didn’t actually occur to me that it could be the coil because of course there were no hormones in it! and what happened was I began to think that the real me – the non-hormonal, not pregnant, not on the pill me was actually a nutcase who seriously needed to be locked away somewhere. My family considered my behaviour a reaction to late motherhood, young babies, financial stress and job pressures and my partner, I think, must have really thought about walking away because surely this was not normal?

Second mistake – not feeling confident in ME. I was always a very slim person, naturally so and even when pregnant hit a size UK 14 max so when I was not losing any weight post pregnancy I believed everyone around me who kept telling me that it was because I was getting older, my diet wasn’t good and I wasn’t exercising enough. In hindsight although my health problems were obviously more concerning it was actually the weight issue that initiated my frantic researching of what was going on with my body. Once I began Slimming World and even took part in the frenetic Insanity weight loss programme (which saw my partner drop about 2 stone and I didn’t lose 1 pound) and I actually started to gain weight I knew there was a problem.

Third mistake –  not researching the copper coil before getting it inserted 6 weeks postpartum. Had I done so I would have discovered that it actually contains nickel which I am allergic to (and my GP knew) – this would have been a red flag.

Fourth mistake – dismissing, isolating and not recording my various health issues over that period. I have never visited a GP so much in my life as I did in those 4 years. I have been taken to hospital by ambulance with severe abdominal pains, been hospitalised for a brain virus, lived with constant debilitating headaches for months on end, suffered horrendous 10 day long periods, my hair started falling out, insomnia was constant with racing thoughts that left me constantly exhausted, cysts appearing all over my body, muscular aches and pains like I was an old woman, flu like symptoms on a regular basis, skin rashes, the list could actually go on. At one point I though my physical symptoms had to be psychosomatic because surely no-one my age could have all these problems?

Fifth mistake – leaving this device inside me for an extra 12 months whilst I questioned my logic, rationality, the medical profession and all those people I had found on forums, some who were sufferers like me and some who thought me and those like me were making excuses for just getting fat.

I want to use this post here to say thank you to all the members of the FB group IUD Side Effects: Paragard, Mirena, Liletta, Skyla, ect. (a closed group that you can request to join) who I have followed without ever really posting my thoughts back to them, for giving me the confidence to believe in ME again. They share many links to medical posts about copper and the effect on your hormones so you can search here for lots more information as well as hearing from women going through the problems with the coil and the post removal issues too (more below about that one!)

Again this isn’t a medical post but only one of the GPs I visited  (a man incidentally) told me that he would never recommend the copper coil to any of his patients which is so worrying. There are more questions and follow ups that need to be offered to those who use this method of contraception. For me it seems like its become a popular contraception for new mums and the symptoms it can cause can be easily masked by symptoms of motherhood such as weight changes, dietary and exercise changes, lack of sleep, a new sense of worry and stress, employment and family pressures etc and these can make a woman feel like they shouldn’t look at anything outside of these things to explore how they are physically and mentally feeling and GP’s should not be so dismissive of the non-hormonal coil affecting changes in us.

This week saw the start of an Awareness Campaign on IUDs across social media and I really hope that as more women start to share their experiences that more can be found out about why this device can work for some but not others and how you should be able to monitor changes to yourself if you choose this route. There is even a petition being circulated to request full disclosure of all side effects by the copper coil and the mirena coil (hormonal coil) as you will find that the manufacturers are aware of lots of side effects but they don’t tell us about them! I have, of course, signed this petition and you can too – just visit here and please sign even if you don’t use the coil because one day you might like the look of it and you should be given all of the facts.

Finally I am now 8 months into my post removal and it has taken those full 8 months for me to get a normal menstrual cycle back (for a non-hormonal device I certainly had some very hormonal issues for quite some time after I took it out) and after the initial 22 pound weight gain in 4 weeks immediately after it was taken out I finally feel like my body is ready to return to normal – so mrs GP no I am not going through the menopause my hormones were simply fucked up by that thing you recommended on the basis that it was hormone free – not!