First, before we get into this topic, I want to make it very very clear that this is only my experience and that choosing which contraception is best for you is a very personal choice. It’s great to hear other people’s experiences but each different method will react differently with each of us.
Despite this, after seeing there was a demand for it on Instagram, I’ve decided to let you guys know my experience with the contraceptive implant. For all the nitty-gritty important medical things you can head over to NHS direct and have a gander.
After a nightmare of a few months with the pill where I just wouldn’t stop spotting, I decided to look into other options. The implant was the clear winner because every other method I had discounted for some reason. The only downside to the implant seemed to be the chance of irregular periods, but I was told that it normally splits into thirds: one third of women on the implant have periods as usual, one third doesn’t have them at all (win) and the last third has irregular periods. Plus, it’s not exactly fun getting your arm cut open but that was a very short term issue.
After chatting with my boyfriend about it, who was very supportive and adamant that I choose the one I think will be best for me, I booked an appointment to get the implant fitted. Once it was fitted it could stay there, all hunky-dory, for up to 3 years and then they either take it out or replace it with a new one.
It was August 2017 when I went for my appointment. I’m not going to lie to you and say that it wasn’t uncomfortable having it inserted. The pain comes from the local anesthetic which is injected into the site before they insert it, but it doesn’t take long and once it had kicked in I didn’t feel anything except a bit of tugging. I had the kind of disposable stitches and a dressing plaster (technical, I know) which I had to keep on for about a week. The whole area of my arm around the implant bruised really badly but it was expected. It healed fairly quickly and only left a tiny scar.
Because I knew the risk of irregular bleeding, I decided to download a period tracking app to see what was going on and keep an eye on it all. I chose Clue, which I’ve had before and works well for me. I’m very glad I did this so that I had the information on hand and I could see the trends.
Essentially, I got into this weird cycle of having a two week+ long period every 40 days or so. Sometimes I would have a normal light period, then think it’s finished and a few days later start bleeding again for another eight days. My periods seemed a little lighter but that didn’t really mean much when I was on for that long. It was a nightmare. Any woman who’s had periods will know that it’s very tiring to shed the lining of your womb and doing it for this long exhausted me. Not only that but I am prone to low iron levels, so it was really messing with my body.
I did try and perservere. They say to at least give it three months to settle, and also I was really keen for it to work because I’d done all my research. I didn’t want to just give up.
After six months of the same, I returned to my doctor to see if there was another option. They said that a way to regulate the cycle on the implant is to take the combined pill alongside it. This seemed a bit deluded to me, because I came off the pill for a reason and didn’t see the point in having two different contraception methods at the same time. I also wasn’t too keen on having all those different hormones in my body at the same time. I decided to keep trying a little longer as I was doing and see, because I was told with the implant it can take longer than other methods to settle down.
Needless to say, it didn’t. I had the implant removed this week (May 2018) after spending a whole morning at the weekend weeping about the fact that I was still bleeding. Being on your period for that long made me emotionally and physically exhausted and I just wanted it to stop. I’d had enough.
Thankfully, my doctor managed to fit me in the same afternoon that I went in to see them to have it removed. The removal process took a bit longer because it was hard to get out. Although I couldn’t feel the pain, it was quite uncomfortable because they had to rummage around my arm to get it out. The healing process should be a bit simpler this time because there isn’t a foreign object under my skin, but I suppose we’ll see about that. I’m just relieved that the stupid thing is out of me.
For now, I’ve decided to give myself a break from hormonal and long acting contraception. I’d spent quite a lot of time researching the implant and now I’m back to square one and I’d rather not rush into a decision. I’ve been on the pill or implant since I was seventeen (seven years) and I have no idea what my natural cycle is like. A part of me thinks my body needs a break to settle and then I’ll make a decision. Obviously, this means I have to use condoms to stop pregnancy. As I’m in a long term relationship, I stopped doubling up a while ago, but beware that condoms are important in protecting you from STIs.
I want to make it clear, that I don’t regret getting the implant. I tried for nine months and if it wasn’t for the prolonged periods, I would definitely kept going with it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t bare it any longer. If you think it might be for you, it’s worth chatting with your doctor about your options. There’s also lots of information about the different methods of contraception here.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
Happy menstruating! ❣️