I’ve been on and off hormonal contraceptive since I was about 14. Starting with the combined pill Microgynon to help control heavy periods and reduce the pain I was having. It didn’t really work to be honest but you follow your doctor’s advice and hope for the best. Since then I’ve also had Cerazette, the mini-pill and the contraceptive implant, Nexplanon. That’s pretty much 12 years on and off, but mostly on, some form or hormonal contraceptive with a small break where I had a baby. My reason for having the implant was to prevent pregnancy in my new relationship and in the last five years I’ve had an implant inserted, removed three years later and exchanged for a new one. Two years on and I’ve had enough of hormonal contraceptive.
I’ve been really lucky with Nexplanon, the implant has worked perfectly for me. It’s a small, flexible tube put into my upper left arm. It was first put in with a local anaesthetic to the area, a small incision and a stitch. I had a dressing for about a week and awful bruising for around two weeks. It wasn’t a painful procedure but the local anaesthetic made me feel a bit sick and the bruising was a lot bigger than I thought. Within around six months my periods had reduced, then completely stopped. I haven’t had a baby either so it’s done its job pretty well. Nexplanon, when inserted correctly, is apparently more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. It can move, so you have to keep checking that it’s been inserted in the right place and if you can’t feel it, speak to your GP. It contains the hormone Progestogen which is the same as the mini-pill. They last for three years and then you can decide to remove or have a new one put in. This is again done with a local anaesthetic, a small incision and the removal and insertion of a new Nexplanon implant. For me, the bruising was a lot bigger this time because there was a bit more poking around on my arm to remove the old implant.
The science bit; The implant stops the release of an egg from the ovary by slowly releasing progestogen into your body. Progestogen also thickens the cervical mucus and thins the womb lining. This makes it harder for sperm to move through your cervix, and less likely for your womb to accept a fertilised egg. – NHS
The not so positive side effects are very person specific. On the whole, the implant has been pretty good for me over the last five years. No pain, no periods and no pregnancy. My GP told me that fertility should return to normal within 72 hours of the implant being removed. It’s great after birth because it’s safe to use with breastfeeding too. However, there are always side effects with every single medication and hormonal contraceptive that you take. These can include, for some women, disrupted periods, acne, headaches, breast tenderness, changes in mood, loss of sex drive and feeling sick. These are typical of hormonal contraceptive and should subside over the first few months.
Since having a baby and then having the implant I’ve suffered really badly with migraines which have been awful. It wasn’t really something I’ve ever connected with my implant but if removing it helps reduce them then brilliant. The biggest side effect though is the women that report weight gain. In the five years that I’ve had the implant, I’ve gained around five and a half stone. That’s a pretty massive chunk. This has absolutely been down to food cravings and mood changes. I wouldn’t say the Nexplanon implant has made me depressed but it’s absolutely made me more emotional. I cry all the time, at all the silly things, I am a sensitive soul anyway and I think the implant has affected that and contributed to quite a few of my mood swings. I’ve had a lot of skin breakouts too which are always down to a hormonal imbalance. I’m also in a loving relationship with a man and we both want to have children together, so if pregnancy happened then, well, we are both adults and I’m sure we’d cope absolutely fine with the prospect of being parents (again).
The weight gain has been a significant reason as to why I want a break from my hormonal contraceptive implant. I want a chance to lose weight, healthily, safely and if this is a stumbling block for me then it makes sense to get it removed. I am hoping removing the implant will make weight loss easier, reduce cravings and prevent mood swings. The only downside is my periods returning because they’re horrible and painful and rubbish. I’m going to invest in a period happy box so I can get chocolate treats and things that make me feel better. Mostly, I want my body to be in a much better shape than it was in my previous pregnancy. We won’t be trying for a baby until I’ve lost a significant amount of weight and we know where we’re going to be this time next year. We need to move really as well because we have no space for beautiful baby things.
I’m speaking with the contraceptive nurse on Wednesday to get my appointment with the only doctor in my surgery that is trained to remove the implant. When I’ve got my appointment and everything’s been removed I’ll keep you updated on any changes I feel.