Implanon

Cyborg Kris, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Implanon
As some of you may know, two Fridays ago I went to my doctor to get Implanon. While this is a slightly icky topic, sure, I figure it’s also important enough to discuss (especially for future Googlers). Implanon is the most effective form of birth control available. (It’s actually four times as effective as surgical sterilisation, if you can believe it.) It’s also incredibly cheap: it cost me less than $100 and it lasts for three years. So what is it? It’s a matchstick-sized rod that’s implanted on the underside of your arm. The other big advantage it has over Depo-Provera (which I was on for years) is that once you remove it, your hormone and fertility levels come back up within days. (Depo can take months and months to leave your system.) I know that I don’t want kids now; but time is running out and I don’t want to screw us over if we change our mind. So that was the rationale for switching. (Well, that and the fact that even with multiple calendar reminders, I still missed my last Depo shot. Oops.)Okay, but is it weird? you’re all asking. It was kinda weird. When I took the prescription for the implant to the chemist, he gave me a MASSIVE box (like a foot long). It was a little scary. My doctor explained later that the applicator basically has a needle on the end, and then a plunger to push the implant into the correct spot. (He also advised me NOT to look, as it’s a little scary to look at.) I laid down while he prepped my left arm with some betadine. Then there was a small bit of pain as he injected me with a numbing agent. The implant doesn’t go straight into your arm; it lies along the surface (but down a bit; it doesn’t poke up or anything). So he kinda pushed the numbing stuff all along where the implant would go. Then I looked away while the applicator went in. There was no pain at all; just some pressure. Within a few seconds it was all over. I had a tiny hole where the implant went in, so he put a bandaid over that. Then the icky part: he had me press on the spot so that I could feel that the implant was actually in there. Legally, it was important that I could verify that he had done it properly. Then he wrapped a compression bandage around my whole arm to minimize the risk of any bruising. I was out the door in less than 20 minutes. I even got a fancy-pants card for my wallet that recorded the date of insertion and which arm it went in. (Presumably because three years from now, I might have forgotten!)

I’ll be honest now. My arm felt “weird” for like a week. It wasn’t out and out painful; just that occasionally I’d move it and there’d be a weird twinge because I could tell that something was in there. I also had a couple days of feeling a bit emotional and stressed out (presumably from the hormones). It didn’t keep me from knitting or running or doing anything else though. Ten days later, the bruise and insertion wound are nearly completely gone and my arm feels 100%. I can definitely feel the implant by running my fingers over the spot. (It’s kind of addictive. I made half the people at knitting do it the other day.)

Anyway, there you go. Implanon isn’t terribly well-known yet, so I figured it would be useful to put my experience out there for other women. Like I said, it was pretty cheap. ($30 for the implant, plus $60 for my private doctor’s appointment.) Cheap, effective, and reversible is worth the slight weirdness of having an implant, I think.

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  1. a young girl i work with had hers taken out a while ago because it messed her around so much (aside: the genY girls called it a sl&t stick – nice huh?) – I hope it works ok for you!

  2. Heh. I’m hoping I shouldn’t have any problems, given that it works similar to the Depo and I was fine on that.

  3. My doc in Korea tried to convince me to take this but it was beyond the uncanny valley for me.

    So. How do they take it out?

  4. I’ve had mine for just over a year. I had some of the side effects (crazy hormones, weight gain) to begin with and occasionally feel it in my arm, which is weird, but overall, I forget it is there and am happy about that.

  5. The removal process is in the leaflet that comes in the box. It’s not too scary. Basically, they numb the area again, make a tiny cut (2mm), and pull it out with some forceps. It doesn’t look took horrible.

    Before I got it, my doctor gave me a sheet with all the plusses and minuses. It made me laugh that one of the contraindications for using it was “Doesn’t like the idea of having an implant.” So yeah, I think some people are weirded out to the point of not having it. But for me, having a thing in my arm is much less weird than, say, an IUD. (And based on what I’ve heard, a lot less painful.)

  6. This for posting this. I’m not worried about the insertion/removal – I’m more worried for my poor husband. Me on more hormones = uh no! LOL. I think it’s a good option though, and something we all should think about at some point.

  7. And I’m about to get Mirena (an IUD) after almost 10 years on the pill! I’ve heard varying stories about insertion and it really doesn’t seem to matter if you’ve had kids before. The thing I really like about it (apart from the cost – $30 for five years instead of $30 every 3 months!) is that the hormone levels are incredibly small and after it’s settled down you get almost no periods at all thanks to the hormones. I’m rather looking forward to not taking pill every morning!

  8. I was tempted by Mirena, actually… but my sister had a very bad experience with hers last year. (I won’t go into specifics that might freak you out!) I had no periods with the Depo, and I’m hoping that will continue on the Implanon. It really is AWESOME. (Plus again, a big money saver.)

  9. I read lots of stuff when the doc first suggested it and it was about 95% positive. Obviously I am marginally apprehensive, but the good by far outweighed the bad, and if it’s really horrible you can get it taken out and everything is back to normal. I’ve reacted fairly typically to every other hormonal treatment I’ve ever had, and I’m basically normal, so I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal. *fingers crossed*!

  10. I was an early user of Norplant shortly after it’s FDA approval in 1991. Short story: bad side effects (never-ending period, anyone?) and painful removal. BUT just read an article about Implanon ( http://tinyurl.com/yf5mvch ) and it sounds like they’ve got it right this time!

  11. You mean the most effective form of birth control…AFTER ABSTINENCE?!?! (I kid, I kid.)

  12. I too had a bad/annoying experience with Implanon. I had mine for 18 months before I had it removed. The bad side effects I experienced were: spotting and bleeding (all of the time), weight gain, weird hormonal reactions/mood swings and low libido (got that on the pill too). Btw, I didn’t like Depo either.

    Now, I have a copper IUD and it has been the best. It is really cheap, there are no artificial hormones at all (reason I chose it over Mirena) and I have had no bad side effects.

  13. I just learned about Implanon and am considering getting it. Thanks for such a thorough description of the process!

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