Greenland’s ‘Coil Campaign’ investigation: Victims continue to speak out on forced contraception – Screen Shot
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Greenland’s ‘Coil Campaign’ investigation: Victims continue to speak out on forced contraception

During the 1960s and 70s in Greenland, under the direction of Danish government officials—Greenland transitioned from a colony to a district of Denmark in 1953—thousands of Inuit women and girls were fitted with an intrauterine device (IUD), more commonly known as a coil, a T-shaped birth control device that is inserted into the uterus in order to prevent pregnancy.

Many of the women and young girls who underwent the procedure did so unknowingly or without consent. Now known as the ‘Coil Campaign’ or ‘Spiral Campaign’, the programme was first introduced to control Greenland’s birth rate and has since been described by Danish-Greenlandic politician Aki-Matilda Høegh-Dam as a form of “genocide.”

In 2017, Naja Lyberth was among the first people to publicly speak out about her experience as a victim of the campaign. Writing about it on Facebook, Lyberth revealed that she believed she was only 13 when she was instructed by a doctor to go to her local hospital and have a coil implanted following a routine school medical examination.

At the time, she was living in Maniitsoq, a small town on Greenland’s west coast. “I didn’t really know what it [was] because he never explained or got my permission,” she told the BBC in a recent interview. “I was afraid. I couldn’t tell my parents. I was a virgin. I had never even kissed a boy.”

Now 60, Lyberth is on a mission to shed light on the human rights violations committed by both Greenland and Denmark, and hold the two nations responsible. And it’s definitely been working. In 2022, Spiralkampagnen, a podcast hosted by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), uncovered the campaign’s records.

The found records indicated that up to 4,500 women and girls—roughly half of all fertile females—had an IUD implanted in Greenland between 1966 and 1970. What’s even worse is that the procedures continued into the mid-1970s.

With girls as young as 12 being affected by the campaign, it remains unclear just how many cases lacked consent or proper explanation.

Following the podcast’s release and success, politicians and human rights organisations began calling for investigations. On 2 June, the Inatsisartut—the Greenlandic parliament—voted to demand that the Danish government investigate the history of the programme.

Later that year, the Danish and Greenlandic governments agreed to begin a two-year investigation seeking to document the background of the birth control campaign, its implementation, including Greenlandic government involvement, the reasons it began and continued, and other fertility control programmes until 1991.

Since the beginning of the mammoth investigation in September, victims have continued to come out, with one of the four most recent ones being a woman named Bebiane, who told the BBC that she believes she unknowingly had a coil inserted when she had an abortion at the age of 16, in the early 2000s.

Then, when Bebiane was 21 years old, she went to have a coil fitted—only to hear the shocking news that there was already one inside her. “I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks, and I told them that I couldn’t understand how I already had a coil in me… How could I not remember when I had it put in?” she shared with the publication.

The experience of Mira, whose real name has been changed for privacy, is even more recent. In 2019, she discovered she had a coil inserted when a doctor found it during a medical examination. “I was so shocked,” she told the BBC.

The only time it could have been inserted without her knowledge, Mira believes, would have been during a minor uterine surgery she had in 2018. After suffering intense pain following the surgery, Mira went to see a doctor who told her the coil, which she had no idea was even there, had pierced her uterus.

Mira ended up having her uterus removed completely. She further shared with the publication that because the operation was not a success, she can no longer have sex.

The coil isn’t the only contraceptive device that appears to have been inserted in some of Greenland’s female population without their knowledge. Another victim revealed that she woke up from getting an abortion in 2011 with a contraceptive implant—a small, flexible plastic rod that is placed under the skin of the upper arm.

These relatively recent experiences suggest the governmental investigation’s current scope—up until 1991—is too limited. “I would like that the investigation doesn’t stop with 1991, and that the investigation into giving contraception to women without their consent continues to the present day,” said Bebiane.

Viral TikTok video claims menstrual cups can cause pelvic organ prolapse. Is it true?

A recent video, which was shared on TikTok by user @eely.vickere and has already accumulated over 2.9 million views and 425,000 likes, is making waves among gen Zers on the platform for supposedly proving that menstrual cups—which had so far been celebrated for their overall practicality—can cause pelvic organ prolapse.

As social media users and experts alike continue to argue online over whether that claim is true or unfounded, I looked into it all in an attempt to debunk the latest period-related myth to join a long list of misconceptions and taboos.

https://www.tiktok.com/@elly.vickere/video/7166507912884407554

What is pelvic organ prolapse?

First things first, it’s important that I start by explaining what the condition that is allegedly linked to the use of the sustainable period product consists of—and why it’s worrying if this claim is proven true.

Pelvic organ prolapse happens when the muscles and tissues supporting the—you guessed it—pelvic organs (the uterus, bladder, or rectum) become weak or loose, in turn moving out of place, pressing into or out of someone’s vagina.

Symptoms include discomfort, a bulge or lump in your vagina and needing to pee more than usual. Treatments for pelvic organ prolapse usually come in the form of pelvic floor exercises, hormone medicines and sometimes surgery.

In most cases however, the condition is caused by pregnancy and childbirth, going through menopause and being overweight—as opposed to wearing a menstrual cup.

How could a menstrual cup hypothetically cause vaginal prolapse?

In case you weren’t among the lucky ones who got to read my 2020 review of my favourite menstrual cup ever, the OrganiCup—which I still use to this day, by the way—let me run you through a quick beginner’s guide to the tampon and sanitary pad alternative.

Long story short, it’s a soft, medical-grade silicone or rubber cup that is inserted into the vagina to catch the blood flow, just like a small vessel. Once inserted, it only needs to be emptied every eight to 12 hours, rinsed under some water, and then put back in.

Unlike other single-use products, the menstrual cup is reusable and can last for a couple of years. All you need to do is to make sure that you sterilise it by boiling it in hot water once you’ve reached the end of your period.

If you’re still confused as to how the small cup stays in place down there, let me tell you, this is where things get interesting, my friend. Once correctly inserted, it pretty much all boils down to suction—meaning that when you ultimately end up taking it out, it’s important that you relax, then pull on the stem only until you can reach the base of your cup and pinch it slightly to release the suction seal and ease it out.

The argument behind the whole prolapse debate is based on the possibility that, over time, the motion of bearing down on your cup for removal could weaken your pelvic floor and result in prolapse—an argument that even the BBC debated in March 2020.

For most cup users, their vaginal canal is short enough for their cup to easily be within reach without them needing to bear down for removal. However, some users with a high cervix report that their cup moves up to a height where it is difficult to remove, and find themselves straining as they bear down to move their cup within reach.

@byallmatters

There you have it! We’re answering questions in the comments below. Go! 👀 #organicup #newperiod #menstrualcup

♬ original sound - AllMatters

Can menstrual cups cause prolapse?

It’s important to mention that currently, there are no peer-reviewed studies that show a direct correlation between menstrual cup use and prolapse. Regardless of this, period care company Saalt spoke to board-certified women’s health physical therapist, Doctor Marcy Crouch, to hear what an expert had to say about the claims.

Dr Crouch explained that repeated, prolonged bearing down beyond what you would do to begin an easy bowel movement, or release gas, can compromise the health of a cup user’s pelvic floor. A better alternative would be going into a position like a deep squat, or even a ‘Happy Baby’ pose, to encourage lengthening of the pelvic floor instead of pushing.

Further, she said that if bearing down is necessary, she would instruct people to do it with an open throat. This essentially allows for a pressure exchange to take place that decreases the force on your pelvic floor, while allowing you to safely move your cup lower.

Now back to your question, can menstrual cups actually cause prolapse? It seems that, in a few rare cases, it can lead up to it, yes—maybe. Which also guides me to the second argument presented by the BBC—that cups are not regulated in the first place.

Due to the momentum being gained within the world of sustainable period care, there are now hundreds of cup brands available to consumers online, and many of them are not regulated by health agencies in their country of origin.

Because cups are medical devices, it is important to ensure that any cup you purchase is certified by a reputable governing body. For example, Saalt and OrganiCup (now AllMatters) are both FDA-registered and compliant. This means that the two brands are continually working to ensure the safety and efficacy of their products, including the educational resources they provide.

That being said, if you somehow end up buying a brand that has not been regulated by your country’s health agency, it is possible that the instructions that come with it end up countering the advice you would have been given to avoid prolapse.