Hello, so I put a possible TMI warning in the title just to warn you all that this post is not necessarily something you want to read…I’m going to be talking about my experience with Nexplanon, which in case you don’t know is the contraceptive implant. So read no further if you don’t want to know about it. Or read on. You know, up to you!
I’m also not going to share this one on Twitter like I usually do…
Quick update! January 2016
After getting on/off abnormal bleeding, I saw my G.P and was prescribed Norethisterone (a drug which can be used to delay your period. Will have to bear that in mind in the future…) I took it every day for three weeks and then had one week off where I’d have a small bleed. I stopped taking it around September though because I was no longer bleeding in the week off – and I haven’t had any bleeding since. Hurray for no periods! My skin was also awful when I was on Norethisterone (and it’s normally not great) and I’ve noticed I break out less often now I’m not taking it. But yes, overall I’m very happy with the implant and am glad I got it!
I’ve been in a happy relationship with my lovely boyfriend for over a year and a half now, I’m 22, I don’t want children for at least five years and I know I’d probably forget to take the pill, so I thought I’d try the implant. Originally I researched it and was put off having it (or any other foreign object) inserted into my body by the horror stories on the internet in which women tell tales of massive bruises and constant bleeding. However eventually I decided that ‘you know what, some women find that they love it because you get it inserted and then you don’t have to do anything, and some women don’t get any periods with it. Maybe it will work for me, and if it doesn’t I can just get it taken out and try something else.’
Obviously I was still a bit worried, cos you know, there’s lots of possible side effects. At my first visit to the sexual health clinic I had my height and weight measured. I also had my blood pressure tested, which is apparently something which needs checking every now and then while you’re on a hormonal form of contraception.
Anyway, one of the side effects some women experience is weight gain, and it may sound silly but I don’t want to put on weight despite being underweight. I talked to the nurse about this and asked if the implant effects your metabolism, since that’s what I have to thank for me not putting on weight after I eat all the things. She said it’s not related to metabolism, but it can cause bloating. Further research on the net showed that some women just find that they might get cravings and eat more with Nexplanon, and thus they put on weight, although some women in the drugs.com reviews have said they’ve actually lost weight while on Nexplanon. Plus there’s apparently no actual evidence that the implant causes weight gain.
I also didn’t like the sound of irregular bleeding, acne and mood swings. However, my skin was already bad, usually around ‘that time of the month’. (WHYY.) Again, reading online, experiences differed – some women got terrible acne with Nexplanon, some got nice clear skin. The unpredictability of just what effect the implant was going to have on my body made me quite apprehensive.
INSERTION – 30th April 2015
I was assured that the insertion was very quick and relatively painless (basically they stick local anaesthetic in your non-dominant arm, make an incision and then stick the matchstick-sized implant in the tissue of the side of the upper arm.) but turning up for my appointment I was nonetheless shitting myself. I don’t like needles.
My clinic told me I should be on my period when the implant is inserted, presumably to stop the next egg being released (since Nexplanon stops ovulation) and so I was. But the doctor insisted I have a pregnancy test there and then before insertion just in case I was somehow pregnant despite being on my period.
The pregnancy test results were in and I was not pregnant, hurray. While the nurse got the results the doctor told me to put my fingers on my arm in a certain way so he could make some pen marks of where he was going to put the implant. The doctor was Indian and had a fairly strong accent so for a while I felt very awkward as I couldn’t understand what he wanted me to do. (Really hope that doesn’t sound racist at all!) Then I laid down, extended my arm out for the doc and looked away as I endured the needle. In fact I looked away for the whole thing because I just really didn’t want to know!
Then I still felt some slight sharpness as they put the implant in, but it wasn’t that bad and honestly I probably would have found it less painful if I didn’t worry so much. So if you’re getting the implant, my main advice is don’t stress about the insertion, as it’s really nothing to worry about! The nurse knew I was nervous and kept stroking my head during the insertion and being like “you’re doing really well”. A little patronising, but whatever, she was still nice.
Once it was in the doctor showed me how to feel for it with my fingers and made sure I was happy that I could feel it.
And that was it, it was definitely quick. The nurse put loads of bandages on it and gave me some leaflets etc. Of course, I forgot to ask when I’m okay to take off the bandages/how I’m supposed to shower with the bandages on. I read the leaflets and they gave me conflicting information – one said wait at least 24 hours before removing most of the bandages and the other said 48 hours. I heard you were supposed to keep the butterfly stitches on but I didn’t have those and I was slightly alarmed by the fact that the bit of cotton wool closest to the insertion site had actually stuck to the scab there a little bit…(sorry, that was gross.) It didn’t look or feel good, so I carefully took the whole lot off.
You’re meant to keep the butterfly stitches on for a week after insertion but as I didn’t have them I simply used the spare bandage cloth the nurse gave me (or rather, my brother kindly wrapped my arm for me, since he’s done a first aid course) and kept those bandages on for a few more days just to keep the wound protected and clean.
I’m a somewhat squeamish person, so when I first looked at the wound and the bruise I honestly felt a bit sick and was thinking ‘WHAT HAVE I DONE TO MY BODY?!’ even though let’s be real here, my bruise and wound looked nowhere near as bad as the ones from the internet horror stories. I had a greenish bruise for a week or so which wasn’t very big or painful, and it did hurt a little to bend my arm at first (making me google it and find that someone had the same thing and then found out the implant had accidentally been inserted into their MUSCLE. Safe to say I would have been in much more pain if that had happened to me. And that you shouldn’t google your symptoms.) Overall the soreness/bruising was hardly noticeable and didn’t effect my daily life at all.
TWO WEEKS AND THREE DAYS AFTER INSERTION – 17th May 2015
*warning: even more possible TMI. Sorry.*
I got light, abnormal bleeding – this is probably known as ‘breakthrough bleeding’.
A MONTH AFTER INSERTION (well, close enough.) 31st May 2015.
This light bleeding was annoying but I am thankful it wasn’t:
1. Heavy and 2. Accompanied by painful cramps. I usually get somewhat painful cramps with my periods.
It stopped on around the 31st/1st of June, after about two weeks of bleeding which seemed to alternate a bit in flow, but overall I still probably lost much less blood than I would in a normal period. This shows that everything’s normal so far, since I think it says on the Nexplanon website’s FAQ that any blood you lose from irregular bleeding should be less than what you lose in a period. Plus if you do suffer from heavy or painful bleeding there’s things they can do to help it so don’t put up with it if it happens to you!
I am now slightly worried that this sort of bleeding will come back at some point…probably when I’m about to see my boyfriend.
ANY OTHER SIDE EFFECTS?
Nothing much! Every now and then I think I might be a bit grumpy for no real reason, but this hasn’t been a big deal. My skin does seem to have gotten slightly worse though. I seem to be constantly breaking out in some form.
No weight gain as yet. Bring on the Ben and Jerry’s.
TO SUM UP…
I’m not gonna lie, that random bleeding was irritating. However I can deal with it if I just get that sort of very light bleeding for a week every month, like having a much lighter period. Even better would be if my periods stop completely (no more spending money on pads and tampons) but we will see.
But yeah, it is still early days, so I can’t say yet whether or not I like Nexplanon. But what I can say is that, thank god, none of the horror stories have happened to me. Nothing in my experience so far has been extreme or hard to deal with. I can’t feel that the implant is there unless I go and physically feel for it with my fingers (which is weird.) And the best part is, I don’t have to do a damn thing to avoid pregnancy now for THREE YEARS!
Of course, if I don’t get on with it, I will have it out sooner than that, but still. Three years of no babies with no effort. If in the extremely rare case it messes up and you get pregnant, it will most likely be because it was inserted wrong.
I’d recommend getting it inserted at the sexual health clinic rather than at your local GP as they know what they’re doing a bit more there, however I’m sure the nurse at the GP is adequately trained in inserting and removing the implant.
Anyway, I might be wrong, but I think the implant is considered the most effective birth control apart from, you know, abstinence.
One last thing: I really don’t want to spend much of my life worrying about getting breast cancer, but I am a little bit concerned by the fact that using hormonal contraception such as the implant is thought to slightly increase the risk of getting breast cancer (though more research is needed.) I already have an increased risk due to my mum having got it, although she was told it wasn’t hereditary. So next time I go to the docs I’m going to mention this concern to them and see what they think. They will probably tell me to try not to worry and to basically live as healthily as I can (have a good diet, exercise regularly, don’t become overweight, don’t drink too much and don’t smoke.) The last one is easy because I don’t smoke. But I like chocolate and pizza and booze…
Anyway, I hope this post was interesting or maybe even a bit helpful if you’re thinking of getting Nexplanon yourself. Sorry if it was ridiculously long, I don’t blame you if you only skim-read it! Let me know what your thoughts are – have you had this form of birth control or do you happily use and would recommend something else?
I *might* do another post about my experience later on, maybe when I’ve had it for 6 months or possibly a year. Let me know if that’s something you’d want to read!
For more information go to http://nexplanon.co.uk.