Disclaimer: This blog has not been medically reviewed. The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of The Lowdown or our medical team. For information about your contraception or the different methods available please check out our contraception pages.
After almost four years of being friends (and sometimes enemies) with my copper coil (IUD), earlier this year I decided it was time to part ways. The Lowdown has some brilliant articles on the pros and cons of the copper coil if that’s what you’re interested in; this piece is not intended to focus on that aspect of the IUD. However while researching its removal I found very little. I did find out how it was removed technically speaking, but women hadn’t seemed to talk about their actual experience of it so I wanted to share mine.
Booking an appointment for coil removal
I started looking for an appointment around March 2021 with the added worry that Coronavirus and my country’s lockdown would make it near impossible, given that it wasn’t a medical emergency. The first hurdle was just finding a place as the clinic where I got my coil fitted had since closed down. I had discussed by intention to remove my coil with my GP who apologetically told me I had to book this independently. I did ask for numbers to call, but again this was something I had to find myself.
It seems like a small frustration, but having some solid numbers would have saved me about an hour of my time as I realised googling this wasn’t so simple. A ‘Sexual Health Clinic’ search on the NHS website has a long and promising list of options, but some are only for certain age groups, HIV/AIDS specialists, for pregnancy advice only, closed/restricted due to the pandemic or just didn’t have anyone IUD trained in the first place.
When I managed to find a clinic that was able to help, I understandably had to answer a series of questions over the phone. Most of them were straightforward such as my age and when my coil was inserted. However, I was asked “what contraception are you going to use afterwards?” which struck me as unnecessary and a bit intrusive. It implied that I definitely needed something else – but what if I wanted to become pregnant, had started a same-sex relationship, didn’t plan to be sexually active, etc.? Plus it came with an element of guilt as though I was making the wrong decision for myself and hadn’t fully thought it through. I was also reminded not to have unprotected sex in the 7 days prior to removal, as I could then become pregnant. Important information to have, but again phrased with the assumption pregnancy was to be avoided.
I was offered a booking just twelve days later! Hairdressing appointments (once possible again) took longer than this so I was very happy. I would be on my period at that time, but I was told that didn’t matter.
The IUD removal experience
The clinic was adhering to Covid regulations which meant I had to arrive alone at a very specific time, get temperature checked, wear a mask and social distance. I was led to a sparse waiting room and then called by the nurse, and didn’t have to wait long at all. The nurse took the time to ask me about my experience on the coil, the reason I wanted it removed and explained the removal procedure – a much better experience than during my phone call – and it really made a difference. The nurse’s empathy and willingness to explain everything made me feel much more relaxed.
I was directed to remove the bottom half of my clothes and lie on the bed in exactly the same way as getting a smear test – flat on my back near the end of the bed, knees up and feet wide. There was a paper towel to place over my stomach and up my thighs meaning I couldn’t see what was happening. The nurse had left to change some clothes and now returned to sit at the end of the bed. It was a strange sight being attended to while half-naked by a person in full PPE.
The minimal technical information I had read about IUD removal played out word for word with a little extra as I was on my period. Using a speculum to hold open the vagina (again, exactly the same way as a smear test) the nurse first removed some of the clumps of blood that was “blocking the view”, then held the two strings that hung from the coil. I was asked to cough and it came out, just like that. I didn’t feel a thing other than the uncomfortable speculum that whole time. I even had to ask if that was it. Once pulled, the T-shaped coil folds up on itself so it can easily come out. Once the speculum was taken out, there was no lingering pain, just the excess lube that had helped the speculum go in. I was given tissue to wipe it up, space to get changed back and I was free to go.
WARNING: graphic image of an IUD / menstrual blood
Before I went, I asked to get a photo of the coil. I had been using it for almost four years but had never seen it, so now was my chance. I’ve proudly attached the photo below (as if it were a cake I baked haha). I was on my period so it was covered in blood, but it’s purely period blood and nothing to do with the coil removal itself. I was also offered some free condoms in case I planned to be sexually active and advice on different contraceptive methods going forwards – but thankfully, this time they weren’t forced on me.
Given that inserting the IUD was more tedious and (for me) was quite painful, I was bracing for some more pain and had never looked forward to the day when it had to be removed. So I was really surprised at just how easy it was. Maybe the reason there weren’t many detailed accounts of IUD removal was because the technical explanation truly covered it all. Perhaps if you’re dreading the day yours will need to be removed, or you’re putting it off, consider that the worse part (getting it in the first place) is behind you.