My Implanon experience.
So if I haven’t been personal enough with you guys in the past, this post will change all of that. Today, we are going to do some serious girl-talk about one of the all-time least blogged about topics out there – birth control. Why? Because as women, sometimes we have trouble finding reliable information about personal topics like birth control. The internet is full of horror stories, biased information, and straight up stupidity sometimes. Who can you trust?
Me. You can trust ME.
When I was first researching birth control a year and a half ago, I had no idea what type I would use. There were so many options, so many pros and cons, and so many questions and concerns I had. I had friends on the pill, friends with IUDs, and a friend with a NuvaRing. They all told me the benefits of their form of birth control but at the end of the day, I realized none of those options appealed to me. When it was time for my gynecologist appointment, my doctor gave me a brochure with all of my options and I realized that there was one I had not even thought about – the Implanon (also called Nexplanon) implant.
What is the Implanon? How is it inserted?
The Implanon is a small rod, about the size of a matchstick, that is inserted into the skin of the upper arm. Usually, it is inserted in the nondominant hand. The procedure takes only a few minutes. The doctor tells you to lies back, your arm is straightened out, they give you a little lidocaine so you cannot feel it as it is inserted, and DONE! The rod is inserted so it is parallel to your skin. I felt no pain, which really surprised me. The doctor gently patted the site to make sure it is palpable and showed me where it was in my skin. I was given the rod information on a card to keep in case there was any recall or product defect, as with all birth control devices. Overall, the Implanon “hurts” more than taking a pill, but wayyyy less than implanting an IUD. (I know because my gynecologist gave me a preview of an IUD insertion while giving me a pap smear. Very painful. Very. Painful.)
How does it work?
The rod dispenses a steady dose of the hormone progestin into your body. Progestin is a synthetic (artificial) hormone that prevents ovulation (the ovary from releasing the egg) and thickens the mucus of the woman’s cervix. The thickened mucus prevents the sperm and egg from joining and fertilizing in case the egg is released. The Implanon does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. It lasts for 3 years, but you can take it out at any time with a doctor’s assistance. (Palo Alto Medical Foundation)
Did your arm hurt after insertion? Does it feel weird now?
After the lidocaine wore off, I only felt pain when I bothered the insertion site. Imagine having a cut on your body- that’s what it felt like. The rod itself never bothered me. The rod is about the size of a matchbook and lightweight, so most times I forget I even have it in. It doesn’t at all bother me or disrupt my schedule in any way. Scarring is minimal. I have a small dot on the inside of my arm. No one can see it unless I extend my arm and physically show it.
Why did you choose the implant?
Honestly, it was through a process of elimination. I knew I couldn’t trust myself to take a pill every day without forgetting. I didn’t want to ruin any of our family plans by accidentally forgetting to take a stupid pill. I knew an IUD wasn’t going to work because of the pain of insertion, NuvaRing seemed annoying since I would have to insert it and take it out constantly, and patches are less effective and visible. In addition, I learned that the Implanon is over 99% effective, and it lasts up to four years. They call it the “get-it-and-forget-it“ birth control. Plus, after it’s removed, you’ll be able to get pregnant quickly. Then I learned that my insurance was able to cover the whole cost of the implant and insertion fee, so that was a win.
What are the side effects of the Implanon?
The implant has the hormone progestin in it, so there are many common side effects that are related to progestin. You can find them here. Honestly, most contraceptives have similar side effects but many people do not even experience most of them. For example, I didn’t experience most of those. I did, like most Implanon users, experience a change in my period. It is said that one of three things can happen while on Implanon: 1) you can experience a normal period, 2) your periods can slow down or stop, or 3) you can experience constant heavy periods. As in you can have your period for a month straight with no hope of it slowing down. There is no way you can know how your periods will be affected before you insert the implant. What a gamble.
How did your periods change?
In the beginning, I was confused by how the implant was affecting my periods. The first change was that my periods were lighter. Typically, after the first couple of days of having a light-to-medium flow, I will have a couple of heavy days and it will taper off until it’s gone. With the Implanon, I only had light days. It was great at first. After a few light (but otherwise normal) cycles, I began to notice some of my cycles were longer than normal. I remember one month I had a longer cycle, had a few days of freedom, then had another longer light cycle. I had my cycle for almost a month, it felt like. But after a while, things started returning to normal. Now I have normal periods, though sometimes the timing can be a little off. I can go 4 or 5 weeks without a period, then the next cycle can come in 2-3 weeks. It doesn’t typically bother me because it doesn’t happen a lot.
Would you recommend this type of contraception?
YES! Personally, I knew I didn’t want to have to deal with pregnancy scares, and this definitely helps. Of course, nothing is 100% effective so I still have inkling suspicions sometimes when my period is late. When that happens, I usually just do a quick just-in-case pregnancy test just to settle my emotions. Always negative. I enjoy that I don’t have to remember to do anything. No pill to take, no ring to insert, or patch to apply. I am not in direct control of my contraception, which I love. The only thing I have to remember to do is get it taken out after 3 years. I can’t feel it at all, I don’t have any serious scarring, and the insertion procedure was super easy and painless. My cramping isn’t ever severe and my periods seem a little more manageable. I didn’t get any serious acne or hormone-related conditions. I have to say I think the Implanon was a great fit for me!