Getting an IUD coil fitted is a pain-free process for many women – but not every woman. As activists call for better pain relief as part of the procedure, BBC Radio 5 Live host Naga Munchetty has shared her own agonising experience.
Coils are a safe and effective form of contraception; and many women have no problem at all getting them fitted. However, like many medical procedures, they come with a range of experiences – and some people do find the insertion and removal process agonising; unbearable, even.
TV presenter Naga Munchetty is one of them. The BBC host shared her personal story of getting an IUD fitted on her BBC Radio 5 Live show this week, describing “excruciating” pain that left her feeling “violated, weak and angry”.
“I had a coil fitted a few years ago and it was one of the most traumatic physical experiences I’ve had,” Munchetty told listeners, in a special segment on IUDs, women and pain.
“I thought I was prepared for a routine procedure. I’ve never been pregnant, therefore my cervix until then had never been opened. I was told that the smallest sized speculum, which was used for cervical smear tests, wasn’t big enough for this procedure so I had to have the next size up. That’s when the pain began…”
“My screams were so loud that my husband tried to find out what room I was in to make it stop,” Munchetty went on. “He said that those in the waiting room hearing my screams looked horrified. The nurse accompanying the doctor had tears in her eyes. I was asked by my doctor half way through if I wanted to stop, but I was so determined that the pain I’d suffered so far wouldn’t be repeated, so I said, ‘we’ve got this far, let’s finish it.’ I fainted twice.”
While the doctor fitting the coil did ask whether they should stop, Manchetty recalled that they did not offer any aesthetic or sedation options.
The presenter later got the IUD removed because it didn’t suit her. “The pain was again excruciating,” she says. “I fainted again. Then I burst into tears of relief when I left the GPs office. I felt violated, weak and angry.”
The 5 Live host was joined on her show by Lucy Cohen, the woman behind an online petition calling for better pain relief for IUD insertions and removals.
“Almost 1500 people have so far shared their experiences with me,” Cohen writes on the petition. “On a pain rating scale of 0-10, 43% of respondents rated their pain as a 7 or higher […] Several people have reported the pain as worse than childbirth or broken bones.”
Around 39% of women in England choose to use long-acting reversible contraceptives, a form of birth control that includes IUDs ( intrauterine devices). The non-hormonal contraception works by releasing copper into the womb to alter the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to reach eggs, and preventing fertilised eggs from implantation.
According to the NHS, it takes around five minutes to insert an IUD through the cervix and into the womb. The health service says the procedure “can be uncomfortable, and some people might find it painful, but you can have a local anaesthetic to help”.
Cohen’s petition calls for “more pain relief options as standard including gas and air, sedation and muscle relaxants”. It has more than 6,000 signatories to date.
“I have friends who have had similar experience and friends who’ve had no problems at all,” Munchetty said yesterday. “[This] is not the coil itself. We know it’s safe and effective. What this is about is how we look at all women’s health and pain.”