“You should never make a decision the day before your period.” ~ Miranda J. Barrett
I had a Mirena coil fitted in May last year.
That’s the intrauterine device that releases a low, localised dose of progesterone as opposed to the one that doesn’t use any hormones.
I’ve been meaning to tell you about it for a while but other things kept getting in the way I guess. I’d like to say now that I’m glad I got it and would highly recommend it to other people because it may not seem that way until you get a fair way through this recap.
It was originally recommended to me to try the Mirena by my mental health social worker and then my psychiatrist.
At the time I was struggling quite a bit with pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – which is where you get very severe mood changes in the seven to ten days running up to your period. I was becoming very weepy and irritable at the beginning of that week, the mood swings I experienced anyway as a result of my regular mental health stuff would get noticeably worse, and by the third day out from my period I was usually having strongly intrusive suicidal thoughts.
In addition to this I was having really quite terrible periods.
They were so heavy they’d make me anaemic, and my period pains, oh dear god, the period pains, were almost unbearable. I was basically just taking to my bed and hibernating for at least two days a month.
The social worker, who had a Mirena herself, really recommended I get one as she thought that having something to regulate my cycle would help with my moods, and that I should be able to cope with the small, localised dose of progesterone. (I’m not able to use the contraceptive pill, injection, or implant because they make it impossible to get my mental health medication right as well as causing too many physically problematic side effects.) She said that she’s found that hers really levelled her out where previously she’d turned into somewhat of a dragon prior to her periods.
My psychiatrist agreed that sorting out my PMDD should be a priority due to the level of disruption is was causing to my life and thought the Mirena was worth trying before we looked at any medication changes.
My GP, after my periods didn’t become noticeably less awful after I started treatment for an under active thyroid, agreed that the Mirena would be the best option for me.
The appointment took about eight weeks to come through because I wanted it done by my GP. I could have had it done sooner if I’d been willing to go to my local sexual health clinic, but it was important to me that it was fitted by someone I was familiar with.
Raj came with me to the appointment.
Having someone with me was important to me because I was worried that I might have a PTSD freak out during the appointment, but I’d recommend taking someone with you anyway as a distraction and a hand to hold during the procedure.
I didn’t freak out, but having someone familiar there helped with my anxiety about it all.
The whole appointment I think was half an hour long. I think the actual measuring and inserting the device took around fifteen to twenty minutes.
The measuring felt basically the same as a smear test. I’m sure there were differences in what the GP and nurse were doing down there, but I couldn’t see it, and the experience felt just like the smear.
They told me that actually putting the thing in would be ‘quite uncomfortable’.
This is apparently doctor speak for ‘this will hurt’.
Because them putting the Mirena thing in really, really fucking hurt.
To the point where I was just a few seconds away from telling them to stop because I’d changed my mind and didn’t want it anymore.
Which I guess makes sense if you look at the shape of the Mirena compared to the shape of the vagina it has to pass through and then the uterus which it has to be wedged into.
The name coil is misleading – although there is supposedly some coiling under the plastic in the main stem bit of the device. It seems more appropriate to me to call it a T shape. For several weeks after I had it put in I thought of myself as now being with added T shape.
Anyway, the fitting was finished with just before I got as far as changing my mind about it. Without someone’s hand to squeeze I maybe wouldn’t have got that far; I don’t know, I just recommend having someone with you, but maybe other people would feel differently.
After that they made me sit for five or ten minutes to make sure I wasn’t very dizzy and I’d be fine to go home, which I was, and then we went home.
After the Fitting
By the time we got home I’d started to have menstrual like cramps and lost a very small amount of blood.
Within an hour I’d taken to my bed.
Raj went out and bought me some cocodamol for the really quite horrendous pain, and a giant Thornton’s chocolate cake to cheer me up.
Natalie Portman gathered that I was miserable and came and gave me kitty snuggles all afternoon.
I basically couldn’t get out of bed for two days.
The cocodamol worked well enough that I was able to move around the house on the third day, and well enough to keep me from being in a significant amount of pain on the fourth day.
The side effects subsided after day four.
The other side effects I experienced over those four days were:
backache, bloating, body aches, cravings for salty foods, dizziness, fatigue, light spotting, joint pains, tender breasts.
Those can’t have been as bad as the pain though as I’m mostly just quoting them from my P Tracker app, whereas I can very much still remember that I was in pain due to the cramping.
This was followed by a week of my usual, although a bit less extreme, pre-menstrual dysphoria, before I started my period a week earlier than it was due.
Post Mirena Periods
My first period after having the Mirena fitted was much, much lighter. Most of the time a panty liner would have been enough to contain it. No danger of anaemia there at all.
It did last for two whole weeks though.
The second was, patchy, I guess. Although it came when it was due.
It started one day, stopped the next, came back on the fourth day, finished on the sixth day, then resumed and then ended on the seventh day.
The third lasted seven days and was a bitch in terms of menstrual cramps. I was back to the cocodamol again for the first few days.
Since then every single one has been exactly four days long, and I’ve only lost at most two teaspoons full of blood over the course of each.
I don’t usually feel them, and my PMDD is, I’d say, about 97% resolved. I still get the odd pre-period weepy day where I feel like giving up on the world for no apparent reason, but all in all life is much more bearable now the Mirena has settled down and my body has gotten used to it being in there.
And it’s for this reason that I would recommend it to the not insignificant number of people who told me in previous ‘period polls’ that either menstrual pain or hormonal mood changes have a substantial effect on their daily lives.
Post Fitting Check Up
I had to go for a post fitting check up after six weeks to make sure everything was settling down okay and the Mirena hadn’t moved in some way it shouldn’t; I feel as though they had another look at it, but I can’t specifically remember that appointment. So it can’t have been that big of a deal.
Everything was apparently fine, and now I can basically forget about the thing for five years, or, by this month, four years and three months. After which time it has to be either taken out or replaced.
It has some strings that hang down into your vagina that will allow it to be taken out, and the GP recommended checking these once a month to make sure it’s still there.
I will confess that I haven’t actually bothered with this, as I keep forgetting. Besides which given the shape of it, and the amount of pain involved in getting it in, I’m pretty confident that it couldn’t fall out without me noticing in a very negative way.
At the original fitting the GP also showed the strings and what they felt like to my partner so he’d be able to recognise them, which is helpful I suppose. I could get him to check for it.
Anyway, that was my Mirena experience.
It wasn’t a pleasant beginning, but it was more than worth it for the drastic improvement it’s made by controlling and limiting my mood changes and my bleeding.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the Mirena system itself, how it works and what the pros and cons of it might be I think it’s best that I direct you to the NHS page about it, as they’re more qualified to explain those things than I am.
But if you have any questions about how I’ve got on with having it I’d be happy to answer them either in the comments, or you can find me on Twitter @LadyMirtazapine.
Or if you’d like to share anything about your own experience with the Mirena please feel free. I’m all for getting more people involved in talking about periods and related gynecological issues.