There are many effective contraceptive methods available these days, but the contraceptive coil – also known as an intrauterine device (IUD) – stands out as one of the most reliable and long-lasting. Offering effective prevention of unwanted pregnancies with minimal maintenance, it’s the preferred choice for many individuals seeking a contraceptive solution.

If you’re considering getting a contraceptive coil fitted, it’s essential to be fully informed of the process, benefits, risks and other considerations involved. Ensuring you’re in the know is the best way to feel confident that you’re making the right choice for you and your body. This guide from the team of experts here at Duality Health will take you through everything you need to know before getting a contraceptive coil fitted.

Understanding the Basics

Contraceptive coils are small T-shaped devices that are inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. They come in two types: copper coils and hormonal coils. Copper coils work by releasing copper ions that are toxic to sperm, preventing fertilisation. Hormonal coils, on the other hand, release progestogen, which thickens cervical mucus and inhibits sperm movement.

Effectiveness: Contraceptive coils are highly effective, with a success rate of over 99%. Once inserted correctly, they provide long-term protection without daily maintenance.

Duration: Copper coils can last up to 10 years, while hormonal coils typically last between 3 to 5 years, depending on the brand.

Reversibility: Unlike permanent sterilisation methods, contraceptive coils are reversible. Once removed, fertility typically returns to normal, allowing individuals to conceive if they wish.

Preparing for Coil Insertion

Before getting a contraceptive coil fitted, it’s crucial to prepare yourself both physically and mentally. Here’s what you can expect:

Consultation: Schedule a consultation with one of our healthcare professionals to discuss your contraceptive needs and assess whether a coil is suitable for you. Take this opportunity to ask any questions or express any concerns you may have.

Health Assessment: We may conduct a pelvic exam and possibly some tests to ensure you’re a suitable candidate for coil insertion. We’ll also discuss your medical history and any previous experiences with contraception.

Timing: Scheduling the insertion appointment during your period can make the procedure more comfortable, as your cervix will naturally be more open. However, coil insertion can be performed at any point in your menstrual cycle.

Medications: Make sure you inform us about any medications you’re currently taking, including over-the-counter supplements and herbal remedies. Some medications may interact with the coil or affect its effectiveness.

The Coil Insertion Process

Contraceptive coil insertion is a relatively straightforward procedure performed by a trained healthcare professional. Here’s a detailed overview of what typically happens during the insertion appointment:

Positioning: You’ll be asked to lie on an examination table, adequately positioned for the procedure and covered with a drape for privacy. This can be daunting – especially if you’ve never had a similar experience, such as a smear test – but rest assured our team is here to help make you feel as comfortable as possible.

Cervical Preparation: Your healthcare provider will clean your cervix with an antiseptic solution to reduce the risk of infection. They may also administer a local anaesthetic to numb the area and minimise discomfort during the procedure, though for most people this isn’t necessary.

Measuring the Uterus: Using a specialised instrument called a uterine sound, we’ll measure the position and size of your uterus to determine the appropriate size of the contraceptive coil. This helps ensure the coil is inserted correctly and sits securely within the uterus.

Insertion of the Coil: Once the uterus is measured, the coil will be inserted into the uterus through the cervix using a thin, flexible inserter device. You may experience cramping or discomfort during this step, but it’s usually brief and manageable. If required, we can guide you through breathing techniques to help relax your muscles and minimise discomfort.

Position Confirmation: After the coil is inserted, your healthcare professional will use ultrasound or other imaging techniques to confirm its position within the uterus. This ensures the coil is correctly placed and will be effective in preventing pregnancy. If the coil is not positioned correctly, we may need to adjust it or remove and reinsert it.

Trimming the Strings: Once we’re happy with the positioning of the coil, we’ll trim the strings attached to the coil to the appropriate length. These strings allow for easy removal of the coil in the future and should be checked regularly to ensure that the coil remains in place.

Post-Insertion Care: After the procedure, we’ll provide you with instructions on how to care for yourself at home. We may recommend taking an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen to alleviate any cramping or discomfort. You should also avoid using tampons or engaging in sexual activity for a few days following coil insertion to reduce the risk of infection.

Aftercare and Potential Side Effects

After you have a contraceptive coil fitted, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects and how to manage them effectively. While the procedure itself is relatively straightforward, your body may experience some temporary changes as it adjusts to the presence of the coil. Understanding these potential side effects and knowing how to address them can help ensure a smoother transition and a more comfortable experience post-insertion. From mild cramping to changes in menstrual bleeding patterns, being prepared and knowing what to expect can alleviate any concerns and empower you to navigate this phase of your contraceptive journey with confidence.

Some side effects or complications you may experience following your procedure include:

Cramping: Mild to moderate cramping is common for a few days after insertion. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and paracetamol can help alleviate discomfort. Applying a heat pad to your abdomen may also provide some relief.

Spotting: Some people may experience spotting or irregular bleeding, especially during the first few months after insertion. This is normally and usually resolves on its own as your body adjusts to the presence of the coil.

Expulsion: While rare, there’s a small risk of the coil being expelled from the uterus. Get in touch with us if you experience persistent pain and/or heavy bleeding, or notice the coil coming out of your cervix.

Infection: This is a rare complication of coil insertion but it can occur if bacteria enter the uterus during the procedure. Contact a healthcare provider if you experience symptoms such as fever, chills, or unusual vaginal discharge.

Perforation: A rare occurrence (2 in 1000) is when a small hole is made in the lining of the womb during the coil insertion. This can cause heavier pain after the coil insertion and may necessitate surgical removal.

Ectopic Pregnancy: In the very unlikely event of someone falling pregnant with a coil in place, there is a greater risk of this being an ectopic pregnancy. This is when a fertilised egg implants outside of your uterus, usually in your fallopian tubes. While it’s something to be aware of, the chances of this happening are very slim – the coil is such a reliable form of contraception that falling pregnant in the first place is unlikely.

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s normal to have questions before deciding to undergo a procedure like this, and getting the answers you’re looking for is the best way to feel confident that it’s the right choice for you. Here we address some of the most common questions and concerns people raise with us regarding the insertion, side effects and maintenance of contraceptive coils.

How long does the coil insertion procedure take?

The coil insertion itself usually takes no more than 5 minutes, but your appointment will likely be closer to 20-30 minutes in total. However, this may vary depending on individual circumstances and any additional steps required during the procedure.

Will I be able to feel the coil once it’s inserted?

Once the coil is inserted, it should not be felt by you or by any sexual partners. The strings attached to the coil may be slightly noticeable at first, but they soften over time and usually cannot be felt during intercourse.

Can I have the coil fitted if I’ve never given birth?

Yes, people who have never given birth are eligible for a contraceptive coil. The procedure may be slightly more uncomfortable for those who haven’t experienced childbirth, but it is still a safe and effective option for contraception.

What if I change my mind and want the coil removed?

If you decide you no longer want the contraceptive coil, we can remove it at any time. Removal is typically a quicker and less invasive procedure than insertion and can be done during a routine appointment.

Will the coil affect my menstrual cycle?

The effect of the contraceptive coil on your menstrual cycle may vary depending on the type of coil you have (copper or hormonal) and your body’s unique response. Some people may experience changes in their menstrual flow or pattern, while others may notice minimal differences.

Can I still use tampons with a contraceptive coil?

Yes, you can still use tampons with a contraceptive coil. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the strings attached to the coil, as they should not be pulled or tugged on. If you have any concerns, get in touch with us for expert advice.

Will the coil protect against sexually transmitted infections?

No, the contraceptive coil does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is essential to use barrier methods such as condoms to reduce the risk of STIs if you are sexually active with multiple partners or with a partner whose STI status is unknown.

How often should I have the contraceptive coil checked?

It’s recommended to have a follow-up appointment approximately 4 to 6 weeks after coil insertion to ensure the coil is properly positioned and there are no complications. After that, regular check-ups are typically recommended every 6 to 12 months, or as advised by your designated healthcare provider.

Can I get pregnant while using a contraceptive coil?

While the contraceptive coil is highly effective at preventing pregnancy, there is still a small risk of pregnancy, particularly if the coil becomes displaced or expelled from the uterus. If you suspect you may be pregnant while using a contraceptive coil, contact us for further evaluation and guidance.

Is it safe to have a contraceptive coil inserted if I have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

In most cases, individuals with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can still have a contraceptive coil inserted. However, it’s essential to discuss your medical history with us before the procedure to assess any potential risks and determine the best course of action.

Schedule a Private Coil Fitting with Duality Health

Getting a contraceptive coil fitted is a big decision that requires careful consideration. By understanding the process, benefits and considerations involved, you can make an informed choice that best suits your contraceptive needs. If you’re considering a private coil fitting service in Northern Ireland, Duality Health is here to provide expert care and support every step of the way. Schedule a consultation with our experienced healthcare professionals today and take control of your reproductive health.