At the age of seventeen, I first went on birth control as an answer to my PCOS symptoms. Looking back, I now know that this is a cop out. Using birth control masks the symptoms of PCOS or, at least, lessens them, but it doesn’t deal with the problem itself.
My biggest concern at the time was my periods. They’d never been regular and by this point, they should have settled down. I never knew whether I was coming or going. One month, I’d bleed for two or three weeks straight, heavily. Then two weeks later it’d start again. At other times, I could go six months without so much as spotting.
I was keen to achieve a regular cycle – which going on the pill allowed me (albeit artificially) to do. Finally, I had piece of mind and as an added bonus, my acne-riddled teenage skin cleared up a fair bit. Result! For the next seven years or so I took my pill religiously for 21 days, stopped for seven and began the cycle again.
And then, I started getting migraines. I’d never suffered from them before and was pretty sure they were caused by stress. (I mean, I was a secondary school teacher. Stress central!) Nevertheless, the GP insisted that the pill was no longer a suitable option for me and instead prescribed the mini pill. What. A. Mistake!
Overnight, I put on weight. I became moody. Big, hot, painful spots erupted all over my chin and cheeks. I was miserable. When the side effects didn’t improve after a few months, I decided enough was enough and went back to the GP.
IUD: The Coil
Because of the migraines and my refusal to carry on with the mini pill, the doctor suggested that I have the copper coil IUD fitted. It didn’t contain hormones so shouldn’t exacerbate the migraines or cause side effects like the mini pill. Much to my surprise, I was ushered straight round to have it inserted, instead of making another appointment.
What I haven’t yet mentioned is that my mum worked at my GP surgery. As I was going in, she warned me that it’d hurt – they usually recommend that women take some paracetamol beforehand. So she quickly gave me some to take – it wouldn’t kick in in time for the actual procedure but would help with the cramping after.
Well there is no way that I wouldn’t have felt the procedure. The very intense pain felt like someone was actually ripping my insides out. But as soon as it came, it went. By the time I was getting myself dressed again, it did just feel like bad period pains. So, off I popped and went on with my day.
I had only expected to be in the doctor’s for a quick appointment so Simon had come with me so we could run some errands after. About 20 minutes later, stood in Argos, it hit me. If I had to stay still for a minute longer, I knew I would have ended up passing out. In spite of his protests that he’d come with me, I got the car keys off Simon and made my way back to sit in the car. At least if I did pass out there, I’d not be hitting the deck in front of a shop full of people! I can only imagine that the pain I felt for the rest of that day as I didn’t move from the sofa was akin to labour. I’ll report back when I experience it!
Unfortunately, the poor experience didn’t end there. What was sold to me as a bit of post-insertion bleeding for a day or two actually turned into six whole months of non-stop bleeding. And nobody wanted to know. Every time I protested, I was told that it can cause irregular bleeding for a while and that they wouldn’t remove it for 6 months. All the while, I was still putting on weight, spotty and moody.
After 6 long months the doctor agreed to swap it for the mirena coil. They were still against me going back to the pill. Now this time, I took my paracetamol in advance of the appointment and it was a much more pleasant experience. The incessant bleeding stopped and was replaced with intense cramping every now and again. Not ideal, but I could cope with that. The moods, weight gain and acne got slightly better but didn’t disappear but I persevered with the mirena until we took the decision to start trying to conceive.
Whilst I’m led to believe that the cause of my infertility is PCOS, I’m convinced that my experience with the copper coil in particular can’t have helped and may, in fact, have hindered my fertility even further. I haven’t been offered any exploratory investigations such as laparoscopy or hysteroscopy. But should our upcoming IVF prove unsuccessful, it’s something I will pursue.