Women have to endure excruciating contraceptive coil fittings without pain relief – and are expected to “grit their teeth and cope”, experts warn.
The alarm came despite new guidance issued by the health minister last year advising women to always provide women with “appropriate pain relief” prior to surgery, including inserting a small T-shaped device about half the length of a cotton swab into the uterus.
The change was recommended by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ College of Sexual and Reproductive Health after BBC broadcaster Naga Munchetty spoke of her “traumatic” experience installing the coil.
While many women find coil insertion painless, some experience cramping, discomfort, and anxiety, so anesthesia should be offered to all, the guidance added.
But exclusive figures obtained by the Mail on Sunday show that as many as a third of women experience no pain relief at all during the procedure. Half of the women who had the contraceptive coil fitted described the discomfort as a “five out of five” — possibly the most extreme.
Women have to endure excruciating contraceptive coil fittings without pain relief – and are expected to “grit their teeth and cope”, experts warn. Lucy Cohen (above), 39, from Swansea, underwent surgery last summer. “It was horrible, the worst pain I’ve ever experienced,” the accountant said
Part of the problem, says GP Dr Philippa Kaye, who focuses on women’s health, is that women’s pain is often overlooked by the medical community.
She said: “It’s always been thought that women are more tolerant of pain than men – there’s an assumption that it’s just being part of being a woman. It’s really disappointing and it’s still happening.
Dr Rebecca Mawson, a GP and women’s health expert at the University of Sheffield, added: “The attitude of some doctors is that women are stoic and just grit their teeth.”
Contraceptive coils are used by more than 1 million women in the UK and at least 45,000 undergo procedures to have them fitted each year.
The alarm comes despite new guidelines issued last year by the health minister recommending that women always be given “appropriate pain relievers” before surgery, including inserting a small T-shaped device about half the length of a cotton swab into the uterus.
There are two types of coils – one made of copper and the other made of plastic. Copper coils, also known as contraceptive IUDs or IUDs, release copper ions into the uterus. These affect the fluid in the fallopian tubes and uterus, which can be toxic to sperm cells and destroy them on contact.
It can stay in place for ten years before it needs to be replaced. A plastic coil or intrauterine system (IUS) releases the hormone-like drug progesterone, which stops pregnancy for up to five years.
Both coils are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, but plastic coils can also be used to treat a variety of conditions, including heavy menstrual bleeding, painful periods, and some menopausal symptoms.
During an insertion, which usually takes about five minutes, the GP or nurse will first insert a speculum (a duckbill-shaped device) into the vagina to open the passage to the uterus.
The thin lining of the cervix is then pierced with a cord, a tool that looks like a pair of scissors, with a small hook at the end of each pointed tip. This holds the cervix in place. The coil is then passed through the speculum and into place in the uterus.
In June last year, Ms Munchetty revealed she screamed so loudly during the procedure that her husband waited in a nearby hallway, trying to find her room to stop the operation. “I fainted twice and felt violated, weak and angry,” she said.
Ms Munchetty claims she received no pain relief during the procedure but was told to take paracetamol and ibuprofen before her appointment.
While experts say her experience is unusual, research has shown that a large number of women do experience intense discomfort when fitted with contraceptive coils.
A year later, the paper asked The Lowdown, a website that reviews contraceptive products, to survey readers about their experiences with IVF. More than 600 women responded, and 32% said they were not receiving pain relief.
More than 60 percent said they self-medicated beforehand with over-the-counter pain relievers, although some said the process was “extremely painful” and even “the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.” “I passed out from the pain,” one wrote. Another said: “I had to take three days off because I was in so much pain.”
Experts say the findings are particularly frustrating because pain relief — usually a local anesthetic spray used to numb the area on the cervix — is readily available and carries little risk.
“The spray is simple to use and most GPs use it or other forms of topical pain relievers,” Dr Kaye said. “However, some doctors still don’t know they can use these for coil fittings.
“We want to make it as easy as possible for women to get contraceptives, if they are concerned about pain then they are less likely to get one. Not everyone needs pain relief, but it should definitely be provided.
Lucy Cohen, 39, from Swansea, underwent surgery last summer. “It was horrific, the worst pain I’ve ever experienced,” the accountant said. “It took 20 minutes and I was shaking and sweating.”
Lucy, who is married to engineer Adam, 37, said her GP asked her if she wanted to stop but offered no pain relief. She added: “The coil is great. I just don’t think you should go through so much pain to get it.
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