After almost 18 months of waiting, I finally had my coil fitting. There I was, legs in stirrups, a stranger sticking her fingers in my vagina, only to hear a sharp intake of breath – the sound the plumber gives before handing you a big bill – and the words: “You have a retroverted uterus.”
Well, obviously, my response was: “Oooooooooookay… A retroverted uterus, eh? Well, well, well. Fancy that.”
“So what’s a retroverted uterus?”
How did I get here?
It was January 2020 that I first found a GP who sat and listened. Truly listened. And not only that, he understood as I explained all the problems I had with progesterone sensitivity. We came away with a plan for oestrogen gel and a Mirena coil and I was ecstatic.
Then Covid hit and everything went backwards, exacerbating all the troubles HRT shortages were having, too.
And then the HRT I did get made me bleed. Bleed a lot.
I was ready to give up HRT completely. I’ve been trying various forms for the last three years – God, that’s a scary thought – and while I thought I’d found an answer with oestrogen gel and Utrogestan, those dark days were starting to slip back in every month.
But I’d got the second Holy Grail: a phone appointment with a menopause specialist, who advised substituting the Utrogestan with a coil and a date was set to get it fitted.
What is a Mirena coil?
A Mirena coil is an intrauterine device (AKA IUD, which I always confuse with military jargon, so you can see why it’s usually called a coil. I mean, who thought to give a name that sounds like a landmine to a device that goes up your vagina? We have enough explosions in our bodies with hot flushes.)
Anyway, in 50Sense English, an IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic or copper gadget that’s put into your womb (AKA uterus – why can’t we have one word?) usually as a form of contraception. Around 0.2% of women using a Mirena coil will fall pregnant, so they’re pretty good.
It’s inserted past your cervix, which is the small passage that connects your womb and your vagina, and into your womb, where it usually sits happily for several years. The procedure takes a few minutes.
As well as being efficient contraceptives, when it comes to menopause, the Mirena coil can overcome the problems of progesterone sensitivity by giving you progesterone exactly where it’s needed. In tablet form, it has to be processed by parts of the body that usually have little to do with progesterone.
Mirena coil insertion problems
It’s typical, isn’t it? For years I’d never heard anything about the Mirena coil or IUDs beyond an occasional friend saying they used one. Suddenly, it was everywhere – and it wasn’t good.
It started with TV presenter Naga Munchetty, who said her coil fitting was “one of the most traumatic physical experiences” she’d had.
While Naga was speaking to make women aware of the need to speak out for pain relief if their IUD fitting hurt, social media wasn’t so mindful. I know, what a surprise… My Twitter feed was filled with horror stories, the most memorable being the woman who “was ripped to pieces”.
I was petrified.
You see, like me, Naga hasn’t had children and I’d already been warned the fitting could be “uncomfortable” because of this. In addition, I’d also been told, during a smear test in Madrid, that my cervix was wonky, which is why smears were often painful. (She had then thrown her hands up in dispair, proclaiming my imperfect body was making her job harder.)
What happened at my fitting?
Honest to God, I was shaking as I went to the hospital. Covid rules meant I had to go alone and as Mr 50S works in the local hospital, he wasn’t at home that morning to help calm me down.
I’d taken some paracetamol beforehand, but the tweets kept replaying in my mind and I know I was shaking as I was led into the room to meet my torturers…
Okay, to meet the lovely two nurses and the equally lovely gynaecologist, who thoroughly explained the procedure, told me they would use a local anaesthetic to numb my cervix and if I felt any discomfort at all, to say.
There was a bit of pain as the anaesthetic was inserted but then – nothing and one of the nurses was by my side chatting to me to take my mind off things. Compared to some smears I’ve had (and let’s not go into the polyp removal in Madrid), it was fine.
Until the gynae said she had to stop.
What is a retroverted uterus?
Your uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ which has one function: to grow a baby. Diagrams show it sitting straight up but for the majority of women, it tips forward, with the top tilted towards the stomach.
However, for one in four women, it tips backwards so instead of the top being by your belly, it’s by the rectum – the last part of the large intestine leading to your bum.
It can also be called a tipped uterus, retroflexed uterus and uterine retrodisplacement – or, as I have christened it, a wonky womb.
Symptoms of a retroverted uterus
A wonky womb isn’t thought to cause any problems, but other conditions, such as endometriosis, can have an impact.
However, women can suffer:
- painful sex, especially when the woman is on top (yup), and
- period pain (yup again).
But a retroverted uterus shouldn’t interfere with your fertility so if you’re trying for a baby, go for it – just be careful when you’re on top!
A retroverted uterus and the Mirena coil
Having a wonky womb doesn’t mean you’re unable to have a coil fitted, but my gynaecologist stopped because she said it would be too painful. Instead, I’d have to have it fitted under general anaesthetic.
I have to admit, this made me think twice. Did I really want to go through that? As I said, after three years, I’m exhausted.
But I chatted all this through with the gynae and explained how I felt on the progesterone and she agreed with the menopause specialist.
“You can’t go on feeling so bad each month.”
So a retroverted uterus means I’m on a new waiting list. I can still change my mind about having it fitted this way, but last week was another bad week so I’m still deciding.
What would you do? I’d love your advice in the comments…