Oestrogel and the Mirena coil – sounds like some sci-fi superhero film, right, starring Chris Hemsworth? No? Just me, then. But almost three months after finally having my coil fitted, I’m starting to hope against hope that this is the superhero of HRT for me.
It’s not all been plain sailing, but the glimmer is there…
What is Oestrogel and the Mirena coil?
Oestrogel is a prescription medication that contains a form of oestrogen known as estradiol (you can read more about oestrogen here). Oestrogel itself (or Estrogel, as it is in the US) is a gel that comes in a pump form. You use around two pumps a day, rubbing the gel on either your arm and shoulder or your inner thigh. I do the thigh. It’s easier.
The Mirena coil is known as a contraceptive, but when it comes to HRT, it delivers the valuable progesterone that those with a womb need. (And yes, you can read about progesterone here!) Without progesterone, there is a chance you can develop womb cancer by taking oestrogen. If you’ve had your womb removed, then you don’t need it. So together, oestrogel and the Mirena coil are your HRT.
The coil itself is a small T-shaped device that is placed inside your womb via your vagina. Usually that’s done at a GP’s office, but because I have a retroverted womb, I had to have it done under general anaesthetic.
At least it wouldn’t be painful…
Wanna bet? I slipped under the anaesthetic with no problem, but when I woke up, I was in agony within seconds. Luckily the nurses and theatre assistants were on hand to give me painkillers, but it was the worst cramp I have ever had – and I’ve been doubled up in bed with it.
Turns out that my cervix is so tricky and difficult they had to dilate me a couple of centimetres. Now I’d heard this mentioned when women were talking about giving birth, but I hadn’t a scooby what it meant.
Basically, it means they had to open up my cervix.
So, yeah, big “ow”. Big. Huge.
And… I cried.
I cried because I was just fed up of it. All the pain and emotions and feeling crap and a nuisance.
Don’t get me wrong: the medical staff I’ve dealt with have been wonderful (bar one). But it’s been such a struggle and throughout it all – yes, even through my campaigning and everything I’ve learnt – there’s been a part of me thinking: “It’s just menopause. It shouldn’t be this hard.”
And it shouldn’t. And lying there in the recovery room, it all got to me and I hated the fact I’d been born a woman to go through this. If I could have changed that…
What happened next?
I went home – without anyone actually showing me the most important part of having a coil fitted: how to check it’s in!
Without the Mirena coil, my body won’t get the progesterone protection it needs so it’s vital I know it’s in. They can move and get lost or even get washed away if you have a heavy bleed.
I should be able to insert a finger in my vagina and feel a string hanging down from my cervix. However, I can’t, even though I tried as soon as I got home. Whether that’s because of my wonky cervix or not I don’t know, but I have to go and see the nurse at my local GP office to check.
Yup, always a struggle.
Has oestrogel and the Mirena coil worked?
The jury is out – although it’s hedging towards a yes.
My first few weeks of oestrogel and the Mirena coil, however, were not good. I had a lot of spotting – almost every day – and that would at times turn into a proper bleed.
When that happened, I would get the familiar PMDD blues and while they weren’t as bad as they can be, I would still feel desolate and alone.
I also felt as if I could feel the coil and felt uncomfy in my body.
But thankfully, I am lucky enough to be able to contact experts and a chat with the lovely Dr Nighat Arif after a few weeks helped.
She told me that the hormonal fluctuations could last several months and while that is a bit of a blow, knowledge is power. I know this is natural and what I’m going through is to be expected.
Nighat also advised me to take some antihistamines, which I did and they really helped. I didn’t feel so swollen and bloated.
Which has made me realise something – the last few days have been bad, with a real downturn to the dark side of the menopause, complete with itchy skin, RLS and insomnia. And lots of tears.
And I ran out of antihistamines last week and haven’t got round to replacing them. Right, off to Boots for me…
My final thoughts on oestrogel and the Mirena coil… for now
Last week I had a chat with my NHS menopause specialist and told her – it’s a hit. I think.
We’re going to up my oestrogel to three pumps (mebbes four) and see if that helps with the general “mehness” I’ve been feeling and the tiredness. If not, we can look at adding testosterone into the mix (which is something I’m wary about, given my hair loss).
But I also have to acknowledge that these are stressful times we’re all living in and HRT can only help me with menopause, not with the general unease of life at the moment with Covid.
I’m bumping up my lifestyle measures, too, and have started exercising with a personal trainer, which I’m loving. Now I need to tackle my food (and cut down on the alcohol).
So my final thoughts on oestrogel and the Mirena coil is I think it is working, but HRT is only one part of the jigsaw.
Menopause is more complex than just a drop in hormones. It’s a reckoning on all we’ve been through and how we want the future to be. How I want ME in the future to be. And that’s more than just relying on oestrogel and the Mirena coil.
But I guess the fact I’m thinking this way is a good sign. The future is mine…
Have you got a Mirena coil? Let me know how it’s affected you in the comments below.
Do you need to talk through your menopause options? Why not give me a call? Find out more here. And don’t forget to get your free 20-page guide to menopause and midlife…