I fought with myself on whether or not I should publish this. Some people may not like it. Conservative family members, perhaps it’s best to look away. But if you’re interested in, or considering getting Nexplanon, maybe I can be of some help.
What is Nexplanon?
I’m going to try to keep this short and sweet. Nexplanon is a LARC – long-acting reversible contraceptive. (IUDs are also LARCs.) Commonly referred to as “the implant”, it’s a small-ish (inch-and-a-half, maybe two inches) long, flexible rod that gets inserted into your arm and prevents pregnancy for 3-4 years. It doesn’t contain estrogen, but instead uses a hormone called etonogestrel, which is a type of progestin.
It is super effective. Like 99.9% effective. More effective than basically any other birth control besides, you know, abstinence.
If you need STD protection, you should definitely also use condoms.
Why Did I Decide on Nexplanon?
I talked with my doctor about several birth control options – from the pill to IUDs, and everything in between. But ultimately, I decided on the implant for a few reasons.
I have limited options as far as birth control. Because I sometimes get visual artifacts (hello blind spots!) when I get migraines, methods with estrogen in them raise my risk for stroke and other serious medical issues. I’m not keen on an early death, so I only had a few options to choose from.
I wanted something convenient. And the implant is about as convenient as it gets. Nothing to do, nothing to remember, it just hangs out in my arm for a few years. Set it and forget it. And while IUD’s are similar, I felt like the implant might be better for me than an IUD because I love my Diva Cup. And the idea of potentially not being able to use it with an IUD was a big no no.
Nexplanon is effortless & estrogen free, and after talking with my doctor we decided it was probably the best option for me.
How was insertion?
One downside to the implant is, you know, getting it implanted in your arm.
In theory, it’s quick and easy. Your upper arm is numbed, and once you’re fully numb (10-ish minutes) they use this applicator thing to quickly slide the implant under your skin. It goes in just under the skin, so you should be able to feel it.
My experience was a little different. I have a pretty severe aversion to needles (despite having tattoos), and go into shock really easily. So everything went fine with the insertion – didn’t feel it, didn’t watch, thought I’d be fine. Until I stood up, went into shock, and almost passed out. It wasn’t fun.
Fortunately, I don’t think my insertion experience is typical. But I think it’s important to consider yourself and how you cope with stress/medical issues/shots before you get the implant. I’m not looking forward to when it has to be taken out.
What about side effects?
Like any medication, Nexplanon has side effects. The first one you’ll probably notice is pain, discomfort, and bruising at the insertion site.
This is my arm one day after insertion (left) and one week after insertion (right). As you can see, I bruised and stayed bruised for a while.
I found moving the wrong way was painful for the first three or four days, and I had general discomfort in my arm for nearly two weeks. It wasn’t like I couldn’t use my arm, but it would feel like a pinch or a twinge sometimes.
Sometimes it still twinges a little.
One of the more common side effects my doctor mentioned was spotting or irregular bleeding. About a month after insertion, I started spotting. It continued on and off for about a week, then I got a full-blown period, and have been fine since. I’m on my second month with Nexplanon, and I was told irregular bleeding could go on for three or four months, so I’m not sure what to expect down the road.
There are other things I’ve experienced since insertion that could be attributed to the new hormones pumping through my system. I say could, because they could also just be brought on by stress.
About 3 days after insertion, I had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve ever had. It felt like I was going into shock again. There were a few pretty bad bouts of acne. My appetite was all over the place; one day I was starving, the next I barely ate. I also went through a pretty rough depressive episode – for a few weeks, I was the lowest I’ve been in well over a year.
Overall, though, the side effects haven’t been bad enough for me to regret getting Nexplanon.
Since writing this post, the side effects have gotten worse – particularly the “spotting”. I’ve been on my period for two-and-a-half weeks. Cramps, bloating, acne, mood swings, and of course blood.
I’m not happy. I’m really hoping it will stop and this doesn’t become my new normal. Because between the depressive episodes (which have come and gone twice since insertion, the last one was fairly severe) and the bleeding/cramps, I am pretty miserable.
I’ve told myself (and my husband) I’m going to tough it out until October. That will put it at 6+ months since insertion. If I’m not ironed out and doing okay by then, this thing is coming out.
Want to learn more?
Obviously, before you make any decisions on something so major, you should consult a medical professional. But if you’re curious about Nexplanon and want to learn more (or be armed with some info when you bring it up with your doctor) here are some great resources:
As a woman who very much doesn’t want to be a mom right now, I think getting Nexplanon was a good decision for me.
The pros (literally not having to do anything) outweigh the side effects I’ve had. And while I’m not a doctor and can’t say what’s going to be right for you, I can say it would definitely be something to talk to your doctor about if you’re looking for an easy, long-term birth control method.