WOMEN should always be offered pain relief when they get the coil fitted, doctors have said.

It comes after women have spoken out of their agonising experiences having the birth control device inserted.

The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) said that women should be offered “appropriate analgesia” (painkillers) by their GP.

And if it is not available, they should be referred somewhere else.

The coil – also known as an intrauterine device (IUD) – is used as a form of contraception and are sometimes recommended for other issues including heavy periods.

It is a T-shaped device, smaller than the palm of the hand, that is put into the womb. It releases copper to stop a woman from becoming pregnant.

It’s nowhere near as commonly used as the contraceptive pill.

But the coil is favourable for those who don’t like the pill, forget to take it, or who don’t want hormonal side effects – such as acne, headaches or weight gain.

The FSRH, part of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said that for many women, the pain of a coil insertion is similar to period cramps.

But for some the experience, lasting around five minutes, is painful and “anxiety-provoking”. 

A petition calling for better pain relief started by Lucy Cohen, signed by almost 30,000 people, reveals the extent of some womens’ pain.

Some 1,500 have shared their experiences with the campaigner via a survey.

Almost half (43 per cent) of respondents rated their pain as 7/10 or higher, with descriptions including “almost unbearable” and “worse than childbirth or broken bones”.

TV presenter Naga Munchetty recently shared her traumatic experience of having a coil fitted.

She said she fainted twice after experiencing “excruciating” pain while having the contraceptive device inserted into her body, and was not offered any anaesthetic.

Munchetty told BBC Radio 5 Live she has a high pain threshold, but the procedure was “one of the most traumatic physical experiences I have had”.

She had been motivated to speak out after reading an article by Caitlin Moran in The Times newspaper about her own experience of having an IUD fitted.

In June, health minister Nadine Dorries said that she was “appalled” to hear of reports of women suffering pain when having a coil fitted.

She told the Health and Social Care Committee: “No woman should suffer as a result of having an IUD or other scope procedures”.

The NHS says women can discuss using anaesthetic with the doctor before getting the coil fitted, and they can take painkillers after having it fitted. 

Voices heard

The FSRH said in June that it would “share updated clinical guidance on this matter and work with our members to share best practice to ensure women experience the highest standards of IUD care”.

It has now issued a statement which says that “women should always be offered pain relief in IUD procedures” after hearing women speaking out.

The FSRH said that there is no clear best pain relief option to alleviate pain from fitting the coil.

But it recommends that healthcare workers “create a supportive environment and offer appropriate analgesia when women attend their intrauterine device fitting procedures”.

Campaigner Ms Cohen, from Swansea, said she felt “our voices have been heard”.

"I am absolutely delighted”, she told Munchetty. "I had no idea when I started this that it was going to gather such momentum.

"This [is] such a huge issue and it has really lifted the lid on it and empowered women to speak up and tell their stories – and demand change.”

Appropriate pain relief ordered 

Dr Janet Barter, vice president of the FSRH, said: “It is always concerning to hear about the pain some women have experienced during their IUD fitting, and this has sparked an important discussion amongst healthcare professionals and IUD users.

“FSRH training in intrauterine contraception includes teaching on analgesics.

“We review evidence regularly in order to incorporate any proven new technique into our clinical guidance to support best practice, so that women can experience high-quality contraceptive care.

“Although this is not new, we recommend healthcare professionals to create a supportive environment and offer appropriate analgesia.

“In my experience many women decline the offer, but the option should be there. Not all clinics or GP practices are able to offer local anaesthesia, and where this is the case, referral to another service should be in place.

“We also need to ensure that the patient is aware that they can request that the procedure stops at any time. It is important to be mindful that some individuals do report severe pain associated with the procedure.

“For many women, however, the pain associated with an IUD fitting is similar to experiencing period cramps and they don’t experience major issues.”

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