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"I fell pregnant despite having the coil"

·7-min read
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images
Photo credit: Jessica Lockett | Getty Images

It was obvious looking back: I'd been queasy for weeks, with certain smells and foods (that I'd usually like) making me nauseous. My breasts were tender too, and had definitely grown. But it wasn't until a month later, after spending a night in pain and ending up in hospital, that I took a pregnancy test. Why would I, when I'd had an IUD (also known as the coil) fitted a year and a half previously?

I knew something was wrong the night that the cramps started. They initially felt like bad period pains, so as I lay in bed next to my partner, Scott, I decided not to wake him, thinking it would pass if I fell back asleep.

Eventually, I drifted off again but when I woke up the following morning, my sheets were stained bright red. It was a different sort of blood to that which you'd typically see during a period, so straight away I called 111. My first thought was that my Kyleena coil must have perforated my womb (something I'd been told could happen in very rare cases when I'd had it fitted).

The operator who answered my call told me to contact my GP, who said they'd call back. After waiting all day and hearing nothing, Scott took me to A&E, where I explained all of my symptoms to a nurse, adding that many of them matched up to pregnancy. I remember her looking at me and saying, "Oh you'd have to be very unlucky for for that to happen, it'd be so rare."

Shortly after, she handed me a pregnancy test which came back positive. The world around me went muffled. Statistics say the IUD is 99% effective, but that still means somebody out there has to be the 1% – this time around, it was me.

Photo credit: MAKSIMS_LIENE - Getty Images
Photo credit: MAKSIMS_LIENE - Getty Images

I'm quite a squeamish and anxious person, so I'd read up a lot about the coil before having it fitted. I remembered reading that there was a slim chance of an ectopic pregnancy happening - which is where a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes - and straight away, my gut instinct told me that's what I could be experiencing.

To say I was shocked was an understatement. Although Scott and I had discussed having children, we were nowhere near ready, having just purchased our first house. Suddenly we were hearing the timeline we'd mapped out could be pulled forward (luckily the nurse had allowed Scott to come in the room despite it being in the middle of the pandemic). My head was a whirlwind and I just stared at the wall blankly as more medical staff came in and out to examine me. They all said the same thing: "You need to think about what you want to do next."

At that point, without all the information available, I barely knew what I was even trying to process. One thought was clear though: if there was any way of carrying the baby to full-term, I wanted to do it. However, I still needed further tests to confirm where exactly the pregnancy was growing, whether it was viable and how far along I was.

But, after pulling the thin curtain sheet around my bed, I heard one doctor say to another, "I think we can save the baby, there's a good chance it's growing in the right place." He sounded so relaxed and so sure that my heart leapt into my mouth. Still, Scott and I agreed we wouldn't get our hopes up.

"You hear about babies being born holding the coil"

We returned home, after being told I'd hear about a scan appointment the following day, and I called my mum. "I have some weird news," I began. "I might be pregnant." I could tell that she was excited but as nothing was confirmed yet, she was also trying to keep her emotions contained. Scott and I were attempting to do the same.

I tried to focus on other things, like watching TV and eating dinner, but I quickly found myself Googling statistics around my chances of having a successful pregnancy. I read stories about babies being born and coming out holding a coil in their hand, which gave me hope.

Not wanting to fully let myself indulge in happy baby-related thoughts, I wrote notes on my phone too, about things I wanted to think about in future. Things like the apps my sister had downloaded when she was pregnant, possible hand-me-downs our babies might share, and how I'd make the announcement to my friends. All the girls were coming over for my birthday soon, maybe I'd do it then? Scott and I kept smiling quietly at each other too, but still barely dared to discuss it aloud.

Photo credit: FancyTapis - Getty Images
Photo credit: FancyTapis - Getty Images

The following day, I rang around the hospital trying to find out when my scan would be, without much luck. At 5.30pm, a midwife finally called and spoke to me in a kind but practical tone, "To me, it sounds like you've miscarried. I'll book you in for a blood test."

Everything came crashing back down. My hormones were on a rollercoaster too, which didn't help. I was crushed.

When I finally did have the multiple tests (and the promised scan) a day later, it was confirmed that the pregnancy was still present, but it was definitely ectopic. Immediately it was explained that I could take a drug called methotrexate to stop the pregnancy growing and was told the pregnancy would be reabsorbed by my body. Had I been later along, I may have needed surgery. Some ectopic pregnancies result in the fallopian tube or ovaries being removed, so I felt lucky in a small sense that I'd avoided an operation.

My fertility in future shouldn't be affected, but there is a 10 to 15% chance I'll experience another ectopic pregnancy. Some studies have found that there's a slightly increased chance of having an ectopic pregnancy if you have IUD fitted, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly why it happened to me.

The drug to terminate the pregnancy was administered the same day. It was unbearable watching the nurse prep the needle and letting her inject me, knowing it was killing the baby. Cramps and bleeding - both common side effects - quickly took hold and I told my work I'd need some time off. I could barely stand up from the pain at first and spent days curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and painkillers. Everything had happened so quickly and it was a lot to come to terms with, both physically and mentally.

I then had to have weekly blood tests (carried out in the antenatal unit, meaning I was surrounded by pregnant women in the waiting room), to check my hormone levels were dropping accordingly. Every time I had a phone call confirming they had, I felt as though the person on the other line expected me to be pleased. Like I should feel happy about being 'less pregnant', when that was far from how I felt in reality (although I was grateful to be healthy). I did find some comfort in knowing my body had reabsorbed the baby, so that he or she will still always be a part of me.

Although the chances of falling pregnant while having an IUD fitted are slim, one in every one hundred women feels like a lot when you are that person. I wish I'd have used condoms alongside having the coil, just to be extra cautious. After the pain had settled, I had the coil removed, as I can't trust it anymore. The doctor told me I mustn't get pregnant again for three months and said, "Please use a reliable form of contraception?" which almost made me laugh. That's what I thought I was doing in the first place.

I'm still thinking about the type of contraception I'd like to use in future - possibly some sort of oral pill instead - but whatever choice I make, I know that there's no harm in using an additional condom for peace of mind.

If you're looking for support or more information about premature births, stillbirths or miscarriage, baby loss charity Tommy's have a free helpline 0800 0147 800 (open 9 - 5, Monday to Friday). There's also a Facebook group where you can share your story with others who've had a similar experience.


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