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A raised arm showing the placement of the birth control implant.

Illustration by Marta Pucci

Sex

What it’s like to use a birth control implant

by Jen Bell, Writer
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There are so many types of birth control and it can be hard to know which one is right for you. People have a huge variety of experiences with the contraceptive implant. We reached out for personal stories—here’s what you had to say.

“If you're unhappy with the hormonal contraceptive you are taking—ask about other options”

I got my first Nexplanon implant in 2012, and had it removed in 2015. I then had a second one of the same brand put in in 2015-2016. I decided to get an implant because I was already limited due to not being able to take estrogen, and had tried the progestin-only pill as well as the injection.

The pill gave me irregular bleeding, sometimes constant bleeding, for months on end, as well as severe nausea. After a year or so I knew I had to look for another contraception method. I had a similar reaction to the progestin injection, minus the nausea, and as I was only a teenager at the time, I found it difficult to remember when I needed to get another injection (which resulted in many a post-coital panic). I was only offered the implant after expressing to my doctor that I did not want to take the pill.

The insertion was completely pain free (apart from the pin prick of anaesthetic). I felt a slight tugging when they are putting it in but no pain. My arm ached for the next few days, and I wasn’t able to do any heavy lifting with it, and there was some bruising and tenderness but nothing serious. I experienced some irregular bleeding for the first three-ish months, but it seemed to sort itself out and went from a light monthly period to 100% period free for two years.

During the last year of my first implant I did start having regular monthly periods again, and when I had my new one inserted I experienced the same irregular bleeding as before for the first few months. Side effects wise, I did find my sex drive lowered (this happens to me when I take any hormonal contraceptive) and experienced vaginal dryness (thank god for lube) however it didn't negatively impact my love/sex life at all.

I had my second implant removed as I had been on hormonal contraception since around the age of 15 and wanted to get to know my body without the additional hormones. I went completely hormone-free for about a year, using only barrier methods, but quickly got tired of their unreliability. I decided to get the copper IUD which is still hormone free, however I am thinking about getting it removed in favor of the implant, as it has made my period cramps almost unbearable.

If you're unhappy with any hormonal contraceptive you are taking, always tell your doctor. Do not back down if they try to offer you more of the same, and ask about other options—because they are there!
—Grace, female, 22, England

“Talking with my doctor helped open my eyes about birth control options I had dismissed”

I got an Implanon implant inserted in September 2017, and have had it for over a year now. I wanted to have sex with my significant other without worrying about getting pregnant. I also hoped it would help reduce the frequency of my periods and my acne. Getting the implant inserted was a simple and quick process. I had a large bruise in the area for a few days, but no other discomfort since then. The first few months with the implant left my cycle significantly altered and unpredictable, but keeping track of it with Clue helped me a lot. My acne and frequency of bleeding are still all over the board, but I am a firm believer that this is the best birth control choice for me, and I will continue to use it for the next several years.

Your doctor should go over all of the different birth control options and side effects before you receive any type of birth control. Doing so helped open my eyes about other birth control options I had dismissed. Also, practicing healthy sex is extremely important! Just because you are on birth control does not mean you shouldn't use a condom when you're with someone new or don't know the sexual history of a partner. Better safe than sorry!
—Bonk, nonbinary, 19, Minnesota, USA

“My insurance was running out and I didn't want to risk not having birth control”

I got the Nexplanon implant in October of 2016. I was 25 and had it in for around a year and a half. At the time, my insurance through my parents was running out and I didn't have a full-time job. I didn't want to risk not having birth control if I didn't get a full time job, so I got the implant to be on the safe side. Not because I wanted to. I loved the pill I was on.

Getting it in wasn't bad because the area was numbed, but there was pain in my arm afterwards, which lasted for a few days—like someone punched me really hard in the arm. There weren’t any mood swings, but there was HORRIBLE acne. I always had almost perfect skin before, then I started to break out every other day, and nothing cleared it up. My period was completely irregular too. I would bleed for three to four months straight, then not get a period for three months, and then it would be back for months again. It was horrible. My period was light most months, but I use a cup exclusively so things got sore inserting a cup every day for months on a light flow. I had to switch back to pads/liners, and I hated using them again.

I decided to have my implant removed because I could not deal with the side effects. I went from a great birth control, Jolessa, to the Nexplanon and hated it. My skin had never looked so bad and I gained a lot of weight in the year I was on it. It was not worth the hassle. When my insurance with my new job kicked in, and I could get in to see my gyno, I switched back to my pill. After 4-6 months, my skin cleared back up and I lost 10 pounds. For me the implant was not worth all the side effects. I hated being on it.
—Erica S, 27, female, New York, USA

“It went in easily, has caused no pain, and has even lightened my periods”

I got the Nexplanon implant 2 years ago. I was in a long-term relationship that was getting physical and I wanted birth control that didn't require me to remember to take a pill. My experience has been great! It went in easily, has caused no pain, and has even lightened my periods. It has made period cramps worse, but nothing Midol can't handle.
—Anonymous, female, 36, Washington State, USA

“I did not connect the depression with the device until I had the implant removed”

I got an Implanon four years ago, and had it removed a year ago. The reason I got one is because I was anemic and my doctor recommended it to reduce heavy periods. Insertion was easy. At first it made my periods impossible to track, then it settled down. My periods became lighter but this might also be because of my age (mid 40s) I put on quite a bit of weight and experienced depression which struck especially just after my period, and went away as soon as I had the device removed. I did not connect the depression with the device until I had the implant removed and experienced a dramatic change in my moods.

I had my implant removed because they wear out after 3 years. I have not replaced it with a different kind. My advice would be: Track your moods carefully. Keep a mood diary. If you notice you are getting depressed and anxious, find a doctor who will listen to you and believe you. My implant definitely made me depressed in a way I had not experienced before.

Implanon is easy to put in, and difficult and painful to take out. The doctor had to dig in my arm for ages. Doctors also didn’t want to believe me when I told them my hormonal contraceptive was affecting my mental health.
—Masha, female, 46, Cape Town, South Africa

“Maybe my body just rejects synthetic hormones”

I got an implant in 2010, for about 6 months—to reduce heavy bleeds and for the added contraceptive value. Before I got it, my GP at the time was hesitant because she was concerned that the implant would exasperate my depression—she was ABSOLUTELY right. Of course, the implant wasn't the only factor but within three months of getting the implant, I had made two suicide attempts. I had never attempted suicide before. During recovery from the suicide attempts, I tried to eliminate various things from my life to help pinpoint the problem, the implant was the last step and I did get better. Again, it definitely wasn't the only factor—I was in therapy at this point and making life changes that all contributed to my recovery, but I think the implant played a part.

I never had any improvement with bleeding. I bled for 30 days straight when I first got it and then continued to bleed irregularly until I got it taken out. I get really bad side effects from the combined pill, the mini pill and norethisterone, so maybe my body just rejects synthetic hormones. My sister got the implant after her third child and seemed to be happy with it. Having it inserted wasn't an issue. Having it removed was a little more unpleasant, and I have a tiny scar only I can notice, but overall it wasn't an issue.

I would advise that anyone with PCOS and/or depression/anxiety, does some research and has a thorough talk with their doctor before going for it. Technically, you can have it taken out whenever, but getting rid of it is less convenient than simply not taking a pill.
—Adjoa, cis woman, 27, Ghana/UK

“Because I have epilepsy, I need to be careful about my birth control methods”

I got the Nexplanon implant in August of 2016. Before I got Nexplanon, I tried the Mirena (IUD). I had that for about a year or so until I started experiencing cramping every single day. It was just as bad, if not worse, than my menstruation cramps. Nothing was wrong with the IUD, its placement, nor did I have any cysts; my body just didn't like the IUD in it after a year.

Because I have epilepsy, I need to be careful about my birth control methods. I didn't want to do depo (Depo-Provera) shots since that would require regular visits to a doctor that I wouldn't be able to afford. I chose Nexplanon for how long it lasted, and how it wouldn't interact with my antiepileptic medication.

My experience with Nexplanon has been fantastic. Its insertion was relatively painless, especially compared to that of an IUD. It stopped my menstrual cycle (the bleeding, cramping, and whatnot), which I cannot be more happy about. During my menstrual cycle, not only is the cramping intense, but my mental illnesses and gender dysphoria get worse. After I had the Nexplanon put in, I experienced a lot less of that. Before I had it inserted, I was worried it would not work out for me just like the IUD, and that it would move. In the two years I've had it, I've experienced nothing but positive side-effects.

My options for contraception as an epileptic are limited. Out of all the forms of contraception I know of, it appears to be the best for me short of tubal ligation. The only reason I would have it removed is to have a child, or to get a new one put in.

My advice to others? Talk to your gynecologist about all of the options available to you, and why you want to use an implant. Ask about the side-effects, what could happen, and the cost with and without insurance.
—Anonymous, neutrois (trans/nonbinary), 28, Maine, USA

“My mum suggested it”

I got an Implanon implant when I was 16. My mum suggested it. I think it gave her peace of mind, and I was happy not to have to think about the pill. Getting it inserted was weird, but not that painful. It was a dream for the first year or so—no periods, no side effects that I noticed. But after a year or so i started getting three week long periods, and it got annoying so i got it removed.
—Gemma, female, 26, Newcastle, UK

“Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up”

I got the Nexplanon implant in 2015 and had it removed around nine or ten months later. The birth control pills I was taking triggered migraines, and the birth control shot had a lot of unpleasant side effects. Also, I loved the idea of not having a period each month.

The insertion process was simple, and I didn’t find it painful. Unfortunately, I experienced several unpleasant side effects. I would bleed for about three weeks of every month, I gained quite a bit of weight, and had extreme mood swings.

I had the implant removed because of all of the negative side effects I was experiencing. The removal process was more tricky in my case than the insertion. It had migrated, and my doctor had difficulty removing the implant.

The implant did not work for me, but I have friends who have the same implant and they love it. If you’re interested, go ahead and try it. But listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up. I kept the implant in for far too long because I kept waiting for it work for me the way it was supposed to. I should have had it removed months earlier than I did.
—Morgan, female, 32, Springfield, Missouri USA

“I like having the extra backup on the contraceptive side of things”

I got a Nexplanon implant two years ago, mainly to stop having periods but I also moved in with my partner full time, so I decided to get some method of round-the-clock contraceptive too.

My experience has been fine. Insertion was very quick. The doctor talked me through what was happening. I had a small dose of localised anesthetic before hand, then she used what looked like a piercing gun to insert the implant (not as traumatic as it sounds) and I didn’t feel any pain. I kept it bandaged for a day or two afterwards. Now I have a small scar on the point of insertion, but I do scar easily. I had some light bleeding but no pain like I used to [before getting the implant]. After the insertion I didn’t have a period for about 8 months, then I bled lightly for about 3 days, then it stopped again for another 8 months.

I plan on sticking with the implant. For me, it has been useful in stopping periods, and I like having the extra backup on the contraceptive side of things.
—Anonymous, female, 20, Sheffield, UK

We at Clue recommend that you see a healthcare provider to discuss which birth control is best for you, and let them know if you are experiencing any negative side effects.

Read more about birth control.

Download Clue to track your birth control and cycle symptoms.

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