It’s easy to know when you’re menopausal…
…just wait 12 months, and if in those 12 months you haven’t had a period, it’s sorted! Sounds easy, right? Well, not quite. Irregular periods, or no periods all together, can be common. This is especially true for those who use a contraceptive like the Mirena Coil, a plastic intrauterine system (IUS), which releases small doses of progestogen, making the lining of your uterus thinner and less likely to accept a fertilized egg. While the Mirena Coil is a great option for contraception, especially for those who experience heavy bleeding during their periods, it can often stop periods all together. If your periods have stopped because of the Mirena Coil, how can you know you’re menopausal? Here’s a few important facts to know about the Mirena Coil and the menopause:
- The Mirena Coil does not affect the onset of the menopause.
Just because you have a Mirena Coil in, does not mean your menopause will start later than it would have without the coil. As mentioned, you might not know you’re menopausal if your period has stopped because of the coil but it does not affect when your menopause will start.
- The Mirena Coil could affect how you experience your symptoms.
The Mirena Coil can mask, mimic, and worsen different menopausal symptoms – which means it can make some feel better, some feel the same, and some feel worse (as if this wasn’t complicated enough). Let’s start with ‘mask’. A very common symptom of perimenopause is irregular periods (sometimes heavy, sometimes light, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) for the years leading up to the menopause. Yet, the coil helps keep your period stable (and again, for some, nonexistent). In this way, it can mask a very crucial perimenopausal symptom.
Next: mimic. Some side effects of the coil include headaches, breast tenderness/pain, mood swings, and (rarely) weight gain. Inconveniently, those are also symptoms of the menopause! As before, this can make it that much harder to know whether your symptoms are caused by the coil, or by the ‘big change’. Finally, it can make some symptoms even worse. During perimenopause and the menopause, your estrogen levels are in decline. However, because the Mirena Coil is providing you with progestogen, your oestrogen-progestogen ratios will be unnaturally and abnormally off. While this isn’t dangerous, it can cause some menopausal symptoms, like irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and joint pains to be more intense.
- That said, some menopause-specific symptoms you’ll likely experience regardless.
Because the Mirena Coil doesn’t provide you with estrogen, symptoms that are caused by falling levels of estrogen, like hot flushes, can be experienced regardless of the coil. While this might sound like bad news, it can be a welcom fact for those who want some kind of signal that they’re reaching the menopause.
- Even with the Mirena Coil, you can be tested for the menopause.
If your periods have stopped and you aren’t sure how to understand your symptoms, you should know that the blood test which can establish the onset of the menopause does still work even with the coil! If you’re coming close to the age of the menopause and want to know if your menopausal (to best treat whatever symptoms you’re experiencing), then don’t hesitate to ask for a test.
- If you’re unsure, keep it in until it expires.
Mirena Coils are typically retained for 5 years after which they should be replaced. If you’re unsure, there’s no harm in keeping the Mirena coil in for this length of that time, even when you have the menopause. As previously mentioned, you might experience worsened symptoms, but if not and you want to be sure, there’s no harm in leaving it in!
The Mirena Coil can be very confusing when it comes to the menopause, but it doesn’t have to be. Regardless, it’s safe to use (when used correctly) and if it’s your choice of contraception, it should be used until the menopause because you can still get pregnant during perimenopause! If you’re unsure or have any questions, it’s important to speak to your GP or gynaecologist to be sure you’re managing your symptoms and menopause in the best way for you.