On 28th October I sat in the waiting room of the Gynaecology department at my local hospital (alongside lots of pregnancy bellies) and I couldn’t sit still. I was incredibly nervous.I could feel my pulse pounding all over my body. My boyfriend of just over two years was sat next to me, holding my hand in one hand, and a book in another.
It didn’t take long for me to be called in for the initial weighing, height taking and blood pressure. All was normal (which is surprising, considering I normally have low blood pressure, but I put that down to the fact that I was feeling rather stressed in this instance!)
Then, I was ushered into another room. The lady asked me all sorts of personal questions about my menstrual cycle, my sex life and she asked me about the different contraception I’ve tried over the years.
I was quite surprised by the fact that she seemed shocked that my boyfriend of two years wasn’t keen on having a vasectomy – Apparently, when asking for a female sterilisation, the first thing they do is ask if your partner would be willing to undergo sterilisation instead (it’s less invasive than female sterilisation). The fact that he’s younger than me (only by 2 years, but still) and that we’re not yet married meant that I wasn’t willing to try and persuade my other half to make the life altering decision to undergo male sterilisation. After all, my quest to remain childfree has been MY quest since I was a young teenager. It’s not his responsibility or burden.
We moved on to discussing other reasons for sterilisation. As you are probably aware, I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type, which is a debilitating, degenerative and genetic connective tissue disorder. There have been reports (from specialists in the EDS field) that suggest a link between the Mirena Coil – which I currently have – and the worsening of EDS symptoms. I know for a fact that my EDS flares up during that time of the month and if I can have the option to go without any hormonal contraception, I would benefit from it; emotionally and physically. The lady doing my assessment was keen to refute the idea that the Coil could have any effect on my EDS but I held my ground. I made in clear that I wanted rid of all hormonal contraception, end of.
She then went to another room to discuss this with the Consultant. 5 minutes later, the consultant came in, shook my hand and said she understood that I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and asked me who else in my family has the condition. I explained that my sister and mother are both hypermobile, as were my Grandmas on both sides of my parents. She explained that she understood that EDS is an autosomal dominant condition and was happy to give me the go ahead for female sterilisation.
I couldn’t believe it, I grinned from ear to ear. I said thank you very much, and she left the room. It was then down to the other lady to go through all the paperwork with me and explain what’s going to happen next.
It was explained to me that there are some risks associated with a Tubal Occlusion and they are: possible perforating/damage to the inner organs during surgery, infection, failure rates and so on. I am due to undergo a Tubal Occlusion using the clipping method which has a failure rate of 1 in 200 which doesn’t sound too great, but as we all know, abstinence is the only way to stay 100% pregnancy free, unfortunately!
But, this was all worth it, to me. Knowing I won’t have any other hormones in my system other than my own, is worth the risk.
I signed the consent form there and then, and even underwent a surgical pre-assessment – bloods and a medical history were taken and I was told that as I don’t work, I may be asked to attend surgery at short notice, which is absolutely fine with me! The sooner the better really.
So that was my (surprisingly short and easy) experience with being referred to Gynaecology for female sterilisation.
I feel I must add my own thoughts.
Firstly, if there is anyone else out there that is young, childless and absolutely sure that they don’t want children and would like to be sterilised on the NHS, I would absolutely recommend talking to your GP about it. My own GP refused to refer me, so I got a second opinion from another GP who, when pressed, put me forward for it.
Unfortunately, with the country and the NHS in the state it’s in, we now have to fight for treatment. We have to put our case forward and fight to be taken seriously. But, the funding is out there for female sterilisation – you just have to make a case for yourself.
I went to my GP fully armed with information on the NICE guidelines for female sterilisation, articles on my genetic condition and articles on other young women being sterilised on the NHS. (If you’re not aware of a young woman named Holly Brockwell, look her up – she has been an inspiration to me, in my quest for sterilisation). Holly fought for four years to be sterilised on the NHS and she had never even had a coil fitted (unlike me, who had to undergo every type of contraception before being taken seriously!) so if Holly and I can be heard, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be heard too.
Being childfree is a choice that we all have a right to make. If you don’t want children, that’s entirely up to you and no one should make you feel bad for your own lifestyle choices. Be proud of the life you lead and stand by it. If you’re at all unsure and think you may want children someday…. sterilisation is definitely not for you. It’s a big decision that requires years of thought and you must be absolutely sure.
I’ve never been more sure.
Stay tuned; I will be updating this blog every step of the way and as soon as I get a surgery date, I will let you all know x