I first started learning about the possible negative side affects from the contraceptive pill, not from my doctor, but from various Facebook groups online. Girls were posting their concerns about the pill’s impact on their mental health, many of them citing an increasing feeling of being depressed, not having enough energy, and loosing their libido. The more I delved into it, the more things I read about some of the devastating experiences on the contraceptive pill.
At the time, I was on the mini pill – and was experiencing problems with my mental health, including debilitating anxiety and bouts of depression, but rarely connected the two. It was in an eventual breakdown at home on my summer holidays from university that I decided that I wanted to get the copper coil. I wanted to know if my emotions and lack of drive was coming from myself – or the extra hormones I had supplied my body with for nearly four years.
And it seems I was not alone on jumping on this trend. In the UK, there has been a significant drop in usage of the contraceptive pill since 2018, as the number of women using IUD devices doubled between 2007-2017. Even in the US, where getting the IUD is more of a financial privilege, its use has risen from 2-14% in recent years.
The debate about how the pill impacts women’s mood is ongoing and until we see a proper investment into understanding women’s contraceptive health – I fear we will never truly know its potential consequences. Despite labelling, ‘depression’ as a common side affect on pill’s such as Yasmin, alongside headaches, migraines, and weight gain, the pill is still a convenient option for many women – and it does work for some. But it didn’t work for me.
The copper coil is a non hormonal form of contraception, which repels sperm from the small amount of copper contained in the device. I am now three years into having the coil and have never looked back. These are the things I have learnt – they may not be similar to other people’s as everyone is bound to experience things differently, but these are drawn from my own personal experience.
I know my emotions are authentic
I went through hell with my emotions whilst being on the mini pill and having the implant for two years previously. Granted, at this stage I had failed to recognise the extent of my pre-existing poor mental health, but being on the pill definitely increased my anxiety and feelings of worthlessness.
Part of the problem was that I would spend so much time questioning whether the emotions I was experiencing were because of the added progesterone, or coming from myself. Now, with greater hindsight, I know these emotions were real. However at the time, being on the pill made me convince myself I didn’t have any mental health issues – and that it was all coming from the tiny pill that I popped every day.
Being on the coil and returning to my natural cycle, has in many ways increased my premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but at least now I know these feelings are authentic. Also, the pill’s effect on my emotions was constant, not just in the lead up to my period, so undoubtedly having the coil fitted did wonders for stabilising my mental health. I am now so regular and in tune with my natural cycle, that I can predict what days I am going to feel worse, and I can sleep better at night knowing this version of myself is me.
It doesn’t interfere with sex
One of the things I used to worry about before I had it fitted, was if my partner would be able to feel it, or if it would make sex uncomfortable. It varies from person to person, but I couldn’t even notice it was there and neither could my partner! Some people have to go back to their doctor and get their strings trimmed to make it more comfortable – but for me, this was never the case!
In fact, sex became even more worry free, with the knowledge that the copper coil has an effective rate of 99.2% – compared to the varying rate of effectiveness for the combined pill and the mini pill which can range between 93-99%, as it is dependent on the individual remembering to take it correctly. This is obviously something women don’t have to even think about if they have the coil. There is a very small chance of expulsion in the first few months but this is very rare.
I no longer have to worry about contraception (at least for another 7 years!)
I chose to have the copper coil as it can last for ten years, on the other hand, the mirena coil, which contains a small amount of progesterone, lasts for five years, which is still a lot! Remembering to take my pill at the right time was a constant battle for me, even reminders on my phone didn’t always work. Whenever I went away, I’d always have to remember to take enough with me.
Having the constant reminder at the back of my mind was so annoying and now I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about it day to day. It’s safe to say it has freed up my mind a lot!
The pain is worth it
I mean this in two senses – period pain and the pain you get when it’s first inserted. This appears to be the number one thing that puts people off getting one. Having the coil fitted requires a quick procedure performed by a sexual health nurse or doctor. I was worried about it before having it, but was surprised when it was all over in a few seconds. The pain afterwards was like bad period cramping for 1-2 days and then I didn’t notice much else. Everyone’s experience of it is of course different, but I was pleasantly surprised (and lucky!)
However, in the months after I have had some of the worst period pain I have ever experienced. I didn’t really have period pains on the pill and can only remember them like this before I was on contraception. They now last 1-2 days before my period but are perfectly treatable with paracetamol and a hot water bottle.
All in all, I would say the pain is worth it for me and it’s kind of a sign that my body is working as it should. One thing to note – the mirena coil can reduce period pain and bleeding but the copper coil can increase it – which I definitely noticed in the first few months, but now my periods are pretty much back to normal.
I value having a ‘normal’ period
Having been on the mini pill and the implant, my periods were never settled or regular. Both contraceptives meant they were all over the place and I was constantly bleeding in some form which was very annoying. Now, with the help of the fabulous cycle tracking app, Clue, I have seen my periods become incredibly regular. Being able to predict it is of course very useful, but also knowing that my body is doing what it should be – there’s something I find strangely comforting about that.
For all the inconvenience, having the coil fitted has given me a better relationship with my periods, my body and my mental health. It certainly won’t work for everyone – but I am very glad it did for me!
More information about the coil can be found via the NHS website.
Words by Violet Daniels
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