I have a confession to make… I didn’t really enjoy being pregnant. I think part of that stems from anxiety and some from impatience. I didn’t feel as though there was any way that my pregnancy would be successful until my baby was actually born so I just wanted it to be over. And then, when I gave birth, it was horrific – I’m fortunate that I don’t really remember it, I just have memories of being in a lot of pain, but my other half will tell you that it was one of the worst experiences of his life.
So, when my periods started after just two months post-partum, I knew I didn’t want to get pregnant again in a hurry. I researched a lot because I’d had bad experiences with pills so I chose to go for an IUD as the lowest hormone dose. My research seemed to suggest that it would be fairly simple and I was very lucky that my local GP had an incredibly good doctor who specialised in gynaecology.
On the day of the fitting, my doctor seemed surprised by how easy it all was – she mentioned that some women faint during the procedure, but I felt mostly fine. A few days later, however, I started to feel a strange stabbing pain and noticed some bleeding. It was late in the evening so I decided to call 111. Eventually, I was put through to an out-of-hours doctor who reassured me that as long as I wasn’t in lots of pain or heavily bleeding, everything was fine and that I should call my GP in the morning. I spoke to a different GP at my doctor’s surgery, as my usual GP was unavailable and he repeated the same as the doctor had the night before – as long as I wasn’t bleeding heavily or in severe pain, it was probably fine.
After six weeks, I went for a check up and mentioned the stabbing pain which had been almost continuous since that first week. She mentioned that she couldn’t find ‘the strings’ of the coil and that she’d like to send me for an ultrasound and possibly x-ray – she expected it would take two or three weeks to be seen. The pain continued to worsen and so we decided to go to a private medical facility later that day to get a scan. The sonographer looked for the IUD through my stomach and felt she thought she could see it, but when she checked transvaginally she couldn’t see it so she recommend I get an x-ray. After the x-ray, the doctor assured me that actually everything was fine and she sent me home.
Not long after that, I spoke to my GP about the results and she suggested that I should still go to my NHS appointment when it came through as she felt that something probably wasn’t right.
Two weeks later, I went to the NHS appointment and, as at the private clinic, nothing was identifiable via ultrasound so I was sent for an x-ray. This was early December and at this point the pain had reduced – it was still there, but not quite as persistent.
I received a gynaecology appointment for 9th March, four months after the initial scans and x-rays so I figured there was probably nothing to worry about.
When I went to the appointment, things were started to amp up with Covid, but it was before everything locked down. The gynaecologist explained that the x ray showed the coil was in my body, but it also was not in the right place… in fact, it was upside down. She felt that it might possibly be in my womb since I’d not had a period since it was fitted, but there was a possibility it was somewhere in my pelvic cavity and not in my womb at all. She recommended I have a hysteroscopy to find and remove the IUD, however, it would need to be a laparoscopy if it wasn’t to be found. The impression I got was that it was more likely to be in my womb and just upside down and that the hysteroscopy was the more likely outcome. She put me down for high priority surgery, which should happen within six weeks, telling me that I should call my GP if anything changed or the pain became unbearable.
Then lockdown happened…
Reassured by the lack of urgency and conscious that the NHS was overloaded, I was fine with waiting it out… that was until I suddenly got a period nearly three weeks ago and decided that was significant enough of a change to call my GP. Devastatingly, my GP that dealt with gynaecology had left the practice during lockdown so I had to speak to someone else. Once again, I got the brush off and he told me that as long as I wasn’t bleeding heavily or in a lot of pain, that was probably fine, however, then he checked the letter from the gynaecologist at the hospital and decided that maybe I did need to be seen. He suggested that he could write to the hospital to try and speed things up and within two days I received a phone call from our local hospital explaining that they weren’t doing any routine surgery and that I would need to be seen at the Lister Hospital private fertility clinic in Chelsea. They could see me as an NHS patient in two weeks time and I would need to self isolate for the next 14 days.
Three days before the surgery I had to go in and have a covid test as well as all my pre-op assessments.
On the day of the surgery, I had to arrive at the hospital at 7am – they had explained that they brought everyone in at 7am regardless of the time of their surgery at it was the safest way to ensure cleanliness – the earliest I’d be seen was 8am, but I was down on the list for around 10am, with a likelihood that times will change on the day. Because I would be undergoing general anaesthetic, I had to make sure I’d not eaten after 2am and not had any water after 6am.
So that’s how I found myself in a private room in a fancy hospital on Thursday 25th June by 7.30am
Let’s be honest, I’ve stayed in hotel rooms that have been worse.
I saw a lot of people over the next few hours who measured me, talked me through, gave me a lunch menu, told me strip and put on a beautiful purple gown/sheet with holes in.
When I met my surgical consultant, I got the impression that laporoscopy was the more likely outcome even though I’d previously been led to believe that hysteroscopy only was most likely to be needed. She said that the fact that the IUD wasn’t visible via ultrasound meant it was unlikely to be in my womb… Laporoscopy was the worst-case outcome for me as it had a significantly longer recovery time.
At 10am I went down for general anaesthetic. I’m not sure that I realised that general anaesthetic meant being intubated and put on a ventilator. My throat is still in a lot of pain thanks to the tubes – yesterday I spent the whole day drinking water to try and relieve some of the pain.
When I woke up two hours later, I was very confused and disoriented, felt nauseous and my throat hurt more than I could possibly imagine. I caught a few things the nurses were saying, I heard them say laporoscopy, three wounds and morphine, but mostly I was quite delirious.
I was wheeled up to my room and asked to shift from the surgical bed into the bed within the room, which it turned out was quite difficult and uncomfortable. I was also struggling with shoulder pain, which the nurse explained was to do with the gas inserted into my pelvic cavity in order to find the IUD.
The consultant came up after I’d been in the room for a while and explained that the IUD had perforated my womb and had made it’s way to my stomach and had become wedged in the fat, where it had been for quite some time. I had a laporoscopy and had three new holes in my stomach.
It had also not been possible to fit a new coil as there was a still a hole in my womb – the consultant recommended I look into the implant as it won’t be possible to fit a coil anytime soon, but I’ve heard that the implant isn’t great for people who struggle with their mental health so for now I’m just leaving it be.
The nurse looking after me offered me a hot drink or some lunch, but at that point I was unable to eat or drink anything more than water.
When I did eventually feel up to eating, I was pleasantly surprised, by what I received – this was certainly an improvement on NHS fare!
By 4pm, I was allowed to go home, but I was still in a lot of pain. My stomach was expanding from the gas and becoming increasingly painful, as was my shoulders – apparently, also an after affect of the gas. I’m told I should start to feel more normal after three days, but no heavy lifting for two weeks…
So here I am, the day after keyhole surgery, not allowed to pick up my son for two weeks and all because I wanted easy contraception.
A part of me wonders if maybe I’d spoken to a female doctor early on, they might have recognised that there was a problem, instead of just telling me that unless i was bleeding loads and in pain, then I was probably fine.
Anyway, after all that, my one take away is that I cannot wait until the day that male contraception becomes a ‘thing’.