Menstruation, Contraception, and Gynaecology

Getting My Mirena Changed During A Pandemic Wasn’t As Scary As I Expected

Some called it Eve’s curse but she thought that was stupid, and the real curse of Eve was having to put up with the nonsense of Adam, who as soon as there was any trouble, blamed it all on her.

Margaret Atwood

It’s five years since I had my first Mirena put in. It feels like forever ago. Which is strange because I still think of things that happened in 2013 as being ‘recently’.

Oh, the joys that medication related memory loss, hypothyroid brain fog, and a year in lockdown bring to your perception of the passage of time.

I’ve mostly got on alright with the Mirena over the last five years. It got a grip on the Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder that was primary motivating factor in getting it put in. It made my periods so light that I’d barely call them that – which was great for my iron and energy levels. And for four years I had barely any menstrual cramping.

Oh, and I avoided getting pregnant.

I have a friend who pushed her mother’s coil out right before she was born, so that’s not as necessarily obvious as it sounds. They aren’t a foolproof method of contraception.

I do think the hormones basically stopped working over the last four or five months though. To the extent that if it hadn’t been for the pandemic I’d have pushed to have it switched out sooner.

I started having PMDD systems again – although not to the same debilitating extent as pre-Mirena. My periods became heavy again – so much so that on one occasion I bled heavily through my usual tampon in a couple of hours; making me incredibly grateful that we were in lockdown and I didn’t have to discover the bloodstains in public. The accompanying increasing in cramping was painfully unpleasant. And I started getting hormonal breakouts on my chin and chest for the first time in at least a decade.

Getting it changed, however, wasn’t as straightforward as having it put in. Then I just arranged the appointment at my GP surgery. But I have since moved house and moved practices. My current GP doesn’t do Mirenas – they rang to remind me that it was ready to expire and left me to sort myself out from there. So I had to go through the Sexual Health Clinic.

I rang the central number and spoke to a receptionist. The receptionist made me an appointment to have a phone call with a nurse, who would make me an appointment to see a doctor, who would change my Mirena.

The nurse called me about ten days later. Asked if I had any problems over the last five years, asked unhelpfully open ended questions about whether I had any problems with my health (a subject about which I could talk unscripted for hours), and then made me an appointment with a GP at a surgery I’d never been to before.

This wasn’t what I was expecting. I assumed I’d be having it done at the Sexual Health Clinic. But apparently due to high demand for appointments, and the need for COVID19 measures leading to a decrease in the number of face-to-face appointments available, they’re spreading people out between the Clinic and a number of Hub GPs who also offer sexual health services.

That made sense but also increased my anxiety. It’s not a pleasant procedure, and now I was booked to have it at an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar people.

So, two weeks later I show up to the surgery as directed – with my mask, without my partner.

I was very scared. Last time it was really painful. So much so I almost told them to stop and that I’d changed my mind right before it was in. And the rest of that day had been a right off because I had so much period-type pain.

I’d taken two paracetamol before setting off as the nurse had advised. Plus two ibuprofen. And eaten half a packet of Lentil Chips. I don’t normally do breakfast but the nurse said it was important I eat something before hand, and they were what I could manage.

But I didn’t expect them to really do anything.

It wasn’t as dramatic this time though.

I mean it didn’t come close to something I could describe as a pleasant experience.

And it still hurt.

But it wasn’t as bad as I’d built it up to be in my mind.

The GP and the nurse were very nice. They put me at ease despite the masks.

The GP warned me that sometimes after they take a Mirena out ‘the uterus shuts itself down and we can’t get another one in’ – which sounded quite alarming and was the first I was hearing about it.

If that had happened I’d have had to go back again another day.

But taking it out was the ‘one, two, three and done’ that she said it would be – and while painful it wasn’t excruciating. I’d say maybe a 5 out of 10.

When it was out the GP sprayed my cervix with an anaesthetic. I don’t remember them doing that last time.

Then they measured my uterus. For what they didn’t say, and I didn’t think to ask. It took a few seconds. That was more like an 8 out of 10.

Then they put the new one in. Which felt like it took a minute. It was more painful than the old one coming out but less painful than the measuring.

Then they cut the strings so that they weren’t hanging out the end of my vagina. Something else I’d rate at about a 5 out of 10 in terms of the pain.

Then it was done and they told me to lay more comfortably and relax for a minute, then get dressed.

They gave me a sanitary pad – which was good because I’d forgotten to buy any and I definitely needed it. And a patient information leaflet, plus a card with the details serial number and expiry date of my new Mirena. Then I left.

My appointment was at 9am and I was back in the car by 9.21.

I lost a whole period’s worth of blood over the rest of the day. And I had some cramping. But it wasn’t unmanageable – and certainly not the day ruining experience I’d been expecting.

I didn’t even feel any kind of hormonal urge to eat the massive brownie I’d bought for myself in anticipation – although I did anyway – can’t let a good brownie go to waste.

Today is the day after having it changed. I have mild cramping, a little bit of bleeding, and I don’t have much appetite but I’m otherwise fine.

And I thought it was worth writing about in the hopes it will save anyone else being as worried about a Mirena change as I was before yesterday.

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