Swansea woman demands 'better care' for those fitted with contraceptive coil

  • Report by Ellie Pitt

A woman from Swansea who screamed in agony as her coil contraceptive was fitted has reached out to others about the experience.

Lucy Cohen posted a survey online after her painful procedure and says the responses made her cry. 

The coil or intrauterine device is a long-lasting and reliable form of contraception.

It is a small tool that sits inside the uterus and prevents pregnancy. Depending on the type of coil and person, it can stay in the body for 3-10 years. 

It can also be fitted for people experiencing extreme period cramps as a form of long-term pain relief.

After her painful experience, Lucy posted a questionnaire online. More than 1,000 women responded and the results revealed that: 

  • 93% - said they experienced pain during their IUD fitting. 

  • 43% -  said the procedure was either extremely painful, almost unbearable or excruciating

  • 71% say that they do not feel they were adequately informed of how the IUD fitting would feel 

  • 95% say that better pain relief should be offered for IUD procedures 

For Nicole Chartier, who also lives in Swansea, it was the removal of the device that was “unbearable.”

When it came to taking out the IUD, Nicole was told by her GP it had migrated inside her uterus and could not be seen so was referred to a specialist.

At her consultant appointment she was told she would need a scan but was offered the chance to try removing there and then, so Nicole accepted. 

But a year and a half on, the mother of two can still vividly recall the pain.

“In terms of immediate pain, I would say it was the most painful experience I’ve had and that would include my recovery from c-sections.

"Playing football I broke a rib and had my lung punctured, it was worse than that pain, it was the worst thing I’ve experienced.”

The coil or intrauterine device is a long-lasting small tool that sits inside the uterus and prevents pregnancy. Credit: Design Science/YourSHiP

Nicole said her consultant and nurse were empathetic to her pain and she was given a topical anaesthetic gel on her cervix, although she was also informed that it might not work. 

She has however learned to question whether the experience should be that excruciating and whether different pain management can be given.

Nicole says she wants other women to advocate for themselves and to not be afraid to ask for better care. 

That is also what Lucy Cohen is urging women to do.

She has created a petition calling on the Health Minister to ensure better expectation management of what the insertion and removal of an IUD entails as well as more pain relief options as standard including gas and air, sedation and muscle relaxants. 

Lucy Cohen wants all women to be able to fully understand the procedure and associated pain.

“More than a thousand people are reporting that this is not mild discomfort, we have a problem,” she explains. 

There is a minimum women should expect according to Dr Louise Massey, a Sexual and Reproductive Health Consultant who also runs a complex coil clinic in Newport. 

“Everybody who is fitting coils really should be able to offer a local anaesthetic gel and certainly an injectable local anaesthetic and that is part of the standard training programme for coil fitters.” 

"Women are often given the coil by their GPs but they do not have ready access to additional anaesthetics and sedation, women who wanted that should have a conversation and have their IUD fitted at a specialist clinic." Dr Massey continues. 

There is an additional issue she admits, “coil fitting is a declining skill,” says Dr Massey.

“And those people that do do it are now at that retiring age, those skills are not being handed on, the pandemic’s made that training experience more difficult to deliver so we do need to work hard to make sure these good technical skills are handed on.”

In the meantime, Lucy Cohen wants women to know the pain management that is available to them and to ask for it if they want it.