* Contraceptive Implant – My Story is aimed at helping break down the stigma of discussing contraception on the internet. I hope it will also raise awareness for the contraceptive implant and any side effects. Whilst I will be mentioning facts and figures, please speak to your doctor about whether it is right for you. This is based on my experience in England, but it might vary from country to country.
Times might have changed in the last ten years. However, when I was a teenager, one of the biggest decisions I had to make was what form of contraception I wanted to use. It was never something that was spoken about during sex education lessons at school. All we were taught was the reproductive side of things. There was nothing mentioned about preventatives other than “here’s some free condoms!”
I’d like to think that times have moved on and things have improved on this front but I’m sceptical. This thought and the lovely comments you all wrote on my let’s catch up post, helped to form a plan for a new series on my blog. It made me realise that I could talk more about my health, including my own personal contraceptive journey. For this, I need to take it right back to the start and my first form of contraceptive.
What Is The Contraceptive Implant?
Taken from the NHS website: The contraceptive implant is a small flexible plastic rod that’s placed under the skin in your upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy and lasts for three years.
To fit the implant, a local anaesthetic is used to numb the area before the implant is inserted under your skin. It almost feels the same as having an injection and takes just seconds to do.
The contraceptive implant is more than 99% effective. Once its in place, you don’t have to think about it again for three years. You can have it removed at any time, and your natural fertility will return very quickly.
How is The Contraceptive Implant Removed?
You are giving a local anaesthetic which will numb the area around the implant. A tiny cut is made in your skin, no bigger than a paper cut. The implant is then gently pulled out and the cut is taped up to heal.
My Journey With The Contraceptive Implant
Thinking back to 2009 where my contraceptive story begins, I’m still at school and have just got my first steady boyfriend. I know that I’m started to feel ready to have sex but at the same time, I’m scared. There’s a girl in the year above me who came back from the summer holidays with a pregnancy bump. Teachers whisper amongst themselves that she has been silly and her life is over. I don’t want to become like that girl. I knew I needed to learn from her mistakes and make better choices for me.
A week later, my best friend comes up to me in a panic. She had unprotected sex at the weekend and she’s frightened she’s going to end up pregnant. We know that there’s a sexual health clinic in town and form a plan to go there together the next day, after school. Not only can I support my friend with getting emergency contraception, I can also get some advice too.
The nurse was really helpful and explained in detail everything I needed to know. Looking back, I wish she had been able to visit local schools. She would have giving so much better understanding to girls about the choices they have. I explained to the nurse that I just couldn’t swallow tablets and needed an alternative to the pill. It was agreed that the contraceptive implant could be the best option and so an appointment was made for the following day for it to be fitted.
The First Contraceptive Implant
At the time, I was fifteen and a half. Whilst it was advised that I should inform my parents of my decision, I wasn’t forced and it would be kept private. Fitting the implant was so quick and easy, I felt such a relief that I’d made the right decision.
Contraceptive services are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. If you’re under 16 and want contraception, the doctor, nurse or pharmacist won’t tell your parents (or carer) as long as they believe you fully understand the information you’re given, and your decisions.
Doctors and nurses work under strict guidelines when dealing with people under 16. They’ll encourage you to consider telling your parents, but they won’t make you.– NHS Website
My first implant was called Implanon, which they have since stopped doing. This is because there were a percentage of women who still fell pregnant. Around the time that my implant was due to be removed, the news was full about the compensation these women were giving. It turned out that some implants may not have been fitted correctly. It caused me a lot of worry because I had got on well with this contraceptive implant and wanted another one. But what if they didn’t fit it correctly this time?
I needn’t have worried because the government had stepped in and switched all contraceptive implants over to Nexplanon. The great thing about Nexplanon is that the manufacturers have designed a special applicator that improves the accuracy of fitting the implant correctly.
The Second Contraceptive Implant
I booked in to have my old implant taken out and replaced with a new one. Whilst the nurse had explained it was quick and easy to do, I made sure I had the day off from work. It was just as the nurse had told me and twenty minutes later, I was leaving my appointment, safe for another three years.
The next three years flew by and again, I had no side effects. I already knew that I wanted to go for another replacement and so booked in with the nurse when it was time. I decided I didn’t need to book time off work because it had been such a simple process last time.
The Third Contraceptive Implant
This was the third contraceptive implant I had but it was such a different story. Although exactly the same as my previous one, I suffered so many more symptoms this time around. I felt like I was constantly on a period. My mood swings were out of this world and I just had absolutely no energy.
The nurses always say give it six months to let your body get used to it but it was like hell. It made me wonder if my body was fed up with the implant releasing progestogen into my bloodstream. Nine months after I’d had the implant put in, I returned and got it removed. It affected so many different aspects of my life, putting a strain on relationships too and I just couldn’t stand it any longer.
I asked for an extended lunchbreak and popped along to my appointment at the sexual health clinic. I’d had them removed before and felt I knew what to expect. I’d be back at work in an hour, I said to myself. How wrong could I be?
Just Another Easy Removal?
I laid on the bed whilst the nurse gave me a local aesthetic. After waiting a few minutes, she poked my arm with the handle of a medical tool, asking if I could feel that. This is something that I’m asked each time but this time my answer was different. I replied yes I could and so we waited for five more minutes. The nurse then made the cut, started to pull it out and told me that she would need to make a couple of small cuts inside because the implant had wedged itself slightly.
When I say that I could feel everything she was doing, its no exaggeration. I was in pain and wanted to move but arm to stop the discomfort but I wasn’t aloud to. Whilst I could have asked her to stop for a moment, it would only have prolonged the pain and I just wanted it over with. Once it was out and I was tapped up, I tried to sit up but I just felt really faint and needed to lie back down. After ten minutes, I felt better and went back to work. I haven’t told you this to scare you. I wanted to give my honest experience. There are “horror stories” out there, where things haven’t gone to plan. However, I wanted to prove to you that these are often occurrences and that if you repeated the process, you’d probably get a different outcome.
A Life With No Contraception?
I was then without contraception, just relying on condoms for protection. I still couldn’t swallow tablets no matter how much I tried. The other forms of contraception just didn’t appeal to me either. I stayed like this for two years and thankfully, had no accidents.
The Fourth Contraceptive Implant
In that time, my life changed several times and I ended up with a new boyfriend. I decided that as it was a fresh relationship, I wanted an extra form of contraception. So off I went and headed back to the clinic and asked for another implant. I hoped that the break had done me good and my body would accept it once again. I’d also got over the trauma of having the previous once removed.
It took a couple of months to settle down but I felt much the same as when I started this journey all those years ago. That is until the year three of this implant. I was having a period followed by spotting that was almost another period in itself. I knew I didn’t have too long left with it so I persevered with it. Then the pandemic hit just two months before it was due to be removed. I wasn’t able to get an appointment for removal because they had stopped the service with the exception of emergencies. Mine wasn’t deemed an emergency and so I was sat in limbo.
I had this implant inside me that had met its expiry date. I was still having hellish symptoms but I had the extra worry of whether it was protecting me from pregnancy. Thankfully services resumed in the summer and they then deemed that I was suddenly an emergency case.
Both the symptoms I had experienced and the pandemic taught me that I needed to bite the bullet and find something else. I won’t disclose that now, instead I’ll save that for another post. Before I end this post, I’ll just leave a few last minute points below. I hope you have enjoyed reading Contraceptive Implant – My Story.
- It may reduce heavy periods or period pain
- Your periods may become irregular or stop altogether
- You may get acne or your acne might get worse
- It protects you against pregnancy (99%) but doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections
- Some medicines can make the implant less effective which is why you should always discuss it with your doctor first
If you liked this post, why not sign up to my mailing list for exclusive content: