Preparing for your coil fitting

For many people, coil fittings are fine and manageable, maybe a little uncomfortable. For others, it can be very painful. Planning ahead can help you make the experience more comfortable. And knowing exactly what will happen can make it feel less nerve-wracking. So take a look at these top tips from our clinician, Helen:

Plan pain relief - Speak to your clinician about pain relief and how the pain can be managed during and after the fitting. We recommend taking some ibuprofen and paracetamol an hour before your appointment. And have plenty at home so you can manage any cramps afterwards. Stock up before your appointment so you don’t have to worry about it on the day.

Eat well - Arrive for your fitting well fed and well hydrated - trust us, it makes a difference! Often people who faint or feel sick during or after a fitting are those who have not eaten a meal or drunk enough water beforehand. Eat a good meal before your fitting, and drink plenty of water on the day. And bring water or a favourite drink with you to the clinic.

Rest and recover - Plan for self-care for the rest of the day. Take the afternoon off work or school and plan for a sofa day. Have a hot water bottle (and something to binge-watch) on hand, as well as extra pain relief. Think about how you’ll get home from your appointment too. You might feel a bit sick or faint right after the appointment, so you might want to plan for a taxi or ask someone to pick you up.

You may get cramping, period-like pain and some bleeding after the fitting. This can last a few days. So you might want to have a few sanitary pads at home too, though your clinic will give you one to use right away. If the pain or bleeding carries on or gets worse, speak to your doctor.

Your clinician should let you know when you can start having sex. They might recommend you wait a few days to reduce the chance of infection. With a non-hormonal (copper) coil, you’ll be protected from pregnancy straight away. With a hormonal coil, it will take 7 days after fitting to be protected.

How is the coil fitted?

The process for getting an IUD or coil can be different in different parts of the country. You might talk to a clinician on the phone before your fitting. They can explain what to expect, how the coil works as contraception and talk you through any risks and side effects. You might get given a leaflet of information or be asked to watch a video. They’ll also let you know how to prepare for the appointment.

To get the coil fitted, you can:

The fitting will be the same for a hormonal coil and a non-hormonal coil. It’ll be done by a specially trained nurse or doctor.

Once in the clinic, you’ll be given privacy to get ready. You’ll need to undress from the waist down. Or you might want to wear a skirt or dress so there’s less clothing to remove.
When you’re ready, you’ll be asked to lie back on the bed and use a sheet to place over your lap.

Before they start the fitting, the clinician might want to get an idea of the size of your uterus. They’ll do this with a physical examination, putting 2 fingers inside the vagina to hold the neck of the womb steady and one hand on the lower part of your abdomen. Between the two hands, the clinician will be able to feel the size of the womb (uterus).

The clinician will then insert a speculum, so they can see your cervix. They’ll then put some anaesthetic gel on your cervix. This will feel a bit cold. The clinician might need to hold your cervix in place, using forceps. This step can be uncomfortable or painful for some people.

The clinician will measure the length of your uterus using an instrument called a sound, which looks like a plastic pencil. This helps them fit the IUD correctly. The sound goes through the cervix and touches the wall of your uterus. Then they can then insert the coil in the same way. Coils are made of flexible plastic with the arms folded, and go in as a narrow tube. The arms of the T fold out once it's in place.

When the coil is in the right place, the clinician will cut the strings that come from the bottom of the coil. This leaves 1 to 2cm of string hanging at the top of your vagina so you can feel them and make sure the IUD is still there. And that’s it! Your coil is fitted. The fitting should take around 10 minutes.

Your clinician should give you a card with information about your coil on it. Remember to make a note of how long it lasts! Coils can last anything from 3 to 10 years, depending on whether they are hormonal, copper or what size they are.

Written by Helen Burkitt. Senior Sexual Health and Contraception Nurse
Last updated at: 05 February 2024
Published on: 01 August 2023