Write-Up: Nexplanon (the arm implant of birth control)
On May 3, 2018 I received the Nexplanon Arm Implant, a birth control method that is covered by almost all insurances and that allows you the freedom from remembering a daily pill. I wanted to share my experience to serve as a reference point for women who are considering other birth control options.
Birth control usage history:
I was a junior in high school, stuffing three packets of birth control into my backpack from a friend who had switched and did not need them anymore. I was desperate and way too scared to inform my parents that I needed a doctor's appointment for the sex that didn't think I was having....so a friend helped me out. *Disclaimer: I do not recommend this method; if you need birth control, seek a professional.*
When I finally did come clean about the fact that I was on birth control, my mother was not overly pleased but she was glad that I had at least thought that part through. She was more displeased that I did not just come to her in the first place. So, I scheduled a doctor's appointment to be assessed for a birth control option that would work best for me. At the time, my only options were the traditional pill format, that was taken daily and still had me producing blood during my menstrual cycle. I personally did not notice any specific weight changes; my acne remained as it had before and I even began to experience less painful periods. They were not usually debilitating, like they can be for some women, and this was not my reasoning for wanting to be on birth control. I simply was strongly against becoming pregnant, ever.
In 2013, before leaving for New Zealand, I began to experience side effects from my birth control pills that caused major headaches, back aches, and increased cramping during my period. I decided to come off of The Pill.
I did not return to this method until I was living back in the United States, where I sought out a medical professional to reassess me for a new prescription. She prescribed me a birth control pill that had a lower dosage of estrogen in it, hoping that with the lowered amount, I would not experience the side effects mentioned previously. It worked great for me.
In the midst of increased anxiety levels, my depression began to take a stronger hold over me, and I was again questioning the pills that I was putting into my body. I was convinced that, having taken birth control pills since I was sixteen, I was suffering from imbalances at this point. Taking an increasingly large notice over my behavior and reactions, I decided that it was time to start exploring what other options I had.
After moving to Montana, my health insurance completely covered the costs of birth control and I made an appointment as soon as I could. Luckily, my doctor let me ask questions for 45 minutes, as I was extremely anxious to have something placed into my body. My options included the arm implant and a vaginal implant. I made the appointment for the insertion, choosing to go first with the arm implant, Nexplanon, in case I ended up freaking out about having a foreign object in my body.
I chose to have the device in my left arm (non-dominant arm for me). It felt very much like a dental visit: I sat in the chair, my arm was slightly elevated into position, and I was given a shot to numb the area of my arm that would be minimally sliced open for the device. I felt nothing, in fact, I had to ask my doctor if he had even placed the implant because in less than five minutes it was completely over. The implant is supposed to be inserted in the layers closest to your skin, not deep tissue, therefore making it somewhat visible and easy to touch/check on. My upper arm remained numb for roughly five to seven hours after the procedure and no soreness on day one. I did notice a minimal amount of swelling, to the point that it was not comfortable to wear my watch on my wrist or have a hair tie in place.
Day two was different. I developed bruising at the site (common for most) and my upper arm was extremely sore, all the way into my shoulder. This comes as little surprise if you are familiar with receiving a shot, however the soreness extended a few days past what I was hoping for. The only marking left on my skin is a small dot of a scar from where I was cut open. I experienced the soreness in my arm for about one week in totality and my "recovery" lasted around two to three weeks before I began to stop noticing it's presence.
The Adjustment Period:
I received my implant just days prior to my scheduled period according to my pill packet. This is the preferred method so that you do not have to continue to use your pills after the implant is inserted. That being said, my period came roughly three days later than expected and nothing was out of the norm. *side note, I highly recommend The Diva Cup as you will save tons of money on a very sanitary device that won't give you TSS*
After having about three days of spotting, lighter flow, my period was gone and I did not experience any of the expected spotting that I was told might happen within the first three to six months with the device, until roughly two months after my last period.
The spotting was extremely light and not as irritating as it could have been; I did use my Diva Cup but noticed that even with a whole day of it in, I was not producing nearly enough blood to really have it in (exciting news for me). I was informed before agreeing to the implant, that my period could and would most likely totally disappear, much like the IUD implants.
So far, all that I have noticed in the sense of discomfort, is that certain ways that I slept made it feel like the little implant was going to slide right out of my arm through the incision site (ridiculous of me to think this...I even asked my doctor about that possibility and he laughed a little with me). The longer that I have had, the less I notice it now, and sometimes it even is something to fidget with. It definitely feels like you've been "chipped" in the sense that it is RIGHT under the surface layer of your outer skin, sometimes being visible depending on your arm movement (noticeable in my opinion if you already know it's there).
So why did I not go with the IUD vaginal implant?
Fear. For me, the arm implant is easy to have removed, easier than having something go potentially wrong and needing to have it removed in an emergency. This was my top concern as I can be overly sensitive to pains that my body produces and I tend to jump to conclusions. Having the arm implant right under the surface of my skin gives me the ability to "check" on it, something that I did religiously for the first three months of it being in.
I have yet to meet another woman who has the arm implant however I have found myself surrounding by women who have chosen the IUD instead. Their stories vary from having a painful adjustment period but beyond that, nothing negative. In fact, I have had some gals excitedly tell me, "I LOVE this thing", commenting that their partners have not been aware of the implant unless otherwise told about it.
Overall, I would and will get the arm implant again, as it's due to renewal in three years anyways. I have been extremely pleased with the switch, even though my doctors claimed that the hormones in my pills could not have been affecting my moods, reactions, or emotions (I still don't agree with them on this). The freedom of not having to remember a pill is by far the best one so far; I live an active life that involves a lot of time away from home base sometimes and therefore remembering to pack pills was often times forgotten and I would get into phases of "oops *pops two pills on day three of forgetting*".
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Please visit https://www.nexplanon.com/ for more information!