Viva Women – One For Ladies Only: Mirena Contraceptive Coil And Houseflies By Eyewu L. Walker-Nthenda


When I was a child, I learnt a nursery rhyme about an old lady who swallowed a fly. No one knew why she swallowed a fly, but then she swallowed a spider to catch the fly. Then she had to swallow a bird to catch the spider because she didn’t like how the spider ‘wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her’. She swallowed a whole catalogue of animals to catch the previous animal before it. In the end, she swallowed a horse and the writer of the rhyme declared ‘…she’s dead of course’.

I found myself in a similar sort of conundrum recently. I have always been a shameless pill popper. If there is a pill to fix my headache, I take the pill. No questions asked. I cannot understand people whose stance is to ‘wait for the body to wake up and do its thing’ when there is a fully licensed pill that can stop whatever ails them a lot quicker. Especially when no one is handing out medals for bravery or long-suffering!


I visited my doctor sometime ago as I wanted to review my method of contraception. I got sold the idea of a Mirena coil. Which sounded fantastic. Almost too good to be true (as they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is). Once inserted, it lasts for 5 years. In the five years, your periods become incredibly light (a plus), and sometimes, they could stop altogether (plus plus). I was told that I would experience some irregular bleeding until the coil ‘settled’. The leaflet that came with it said that a small percentage of women experienced prolonged, irregular spotting. Turns out that I was one of that ‘small percentage’. Mine was prolonged alright. 8 months worth of ‘prolonged’. And not strictly irregular either. It was more like single everyday.

mirena and how it works as a contraceptive IUD_uterus

I went to see my doctor, I went for a scan. Nothing was wrong. She felt I had a hormonal imbalance and put me on the combined oral contraceptive pill for a month and a half to balance out my hormones. Which would have been fine; but the combined pill also had some side effects. A small percentage of women also suffer nausea with the combined pill. Yours truly also happened to be in that small percentage! What are the chances, eh?

I went back to my doctor. And of course there is a pill that can also counteract the effect of the nausea. I began to feel like the old lady who swallowed a fly. But I put my foot down. I could keep popping the pills like the old lady swallowing her various animals. In the rhyme, she swallowed a cat to catch the bird, then a dog to catch the cat, then a goat to catch the dog. The writer of the rhyme gasps in horror ‘what a throat to swallow a goat’. It seemed that as she swallowed more and more animals, the original issue of swallowing a teeny weeny little fly got lost in the increasing size and complexities of the new animals she swallowed.

I think that as our lives get more and more complex, we grow new issues and develop new ways of dealing with them; and often times, the new ways come with their own challenges and a brand new facet of issues.

I decided to draw the line. There is no magic cure and there is no need popping pill after pill to counteract effects of the previous pill. Science says ‘You have a headache? Here take paracetamol for it. But not too much or your liver will suffer’

I think in truth, my decision from the beginning should have been to get rid of the Mirena and to explore other options instead of trying to plug new holes in my leaking bucket! Why did I opt for Mirena? Perhaps I need to fix that. Whatever I do, I am determined not to be the archetypal old lady who swallowed a fly….

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