Nexplanon : what they don't tell you

Hi girlies :)

If you're reading this, it's probably because you're either considering the nexplanon implant, or you have it and are discovering that you have been lied to. It's no secret that patients are not told everything about medicines, and the nexplanon implant is a pretty lucrative deal for the NHS to have.

On the face of it, the contraceptive implant is like a perfect solution to a problem. No pills, no impact on your fertility, no stress of forgetting them, getting repeat prescriptions.... you just get it inserted and you're baby-proofed for 3 years; when you can either have it removed and change to the pill, or nothing if you're ready to try and conceive. You can also continue with nexplanon for a further 3 years if you so wish.

On 30th April 2013, I had nexplanon fitted for the second time. I had previously been using depo provera for two and a half years with absolutely no problems in terms of immediate side-effects. Of course, the damage to my bones was of concern after this length of time so I had to stop, much to my dismay! I opted for nexplanon as the next course of action. The combination of two and a half years of depo, plus nexplanon now being in my system sent my body into over-drive, and gave me the worst 6 months of my life.

No-one thought to warn me of the potential impact of such a change happening to my body. At that time, I was pretty oblivious to the level of impact these hormonal contraceptives can have on you.

It took my body a good 6-9 months to recover from the depo, once it had stopped. I bled constantly, with perhaps 12-18 hours respite once in a while. Of course, this made for a miserable existence. I was in a great deal of pain, and was prescribed mefenamic acid which helped somewhat. After talking to my boyfriend, we agreed that my body needed time to recover entirely and get back to normal before we tried with a different form of hormonal contraception. My GP was very understanding and agreed that I had a valid argument for wanting the implant out.

Most GPs will ask that you give it a chance to settle into your system, which generally means you have to have 6 months under your belt, maybe 4 if you're having really bad problems. Why? Well, nexplanon implants aren't cheap. In most settings, it is GPs that carry out the insertion and removal procedure, and their time is obviously costly.

So. The second time around I was prepared and had done a lot of reading. I had to go through the same counseling procedure as before, and it was this time I noticed that the nurse practitioner was not telling me everything. Nexplanon themselves list acne, breast tenderness and pain, weight changes, headaches and irregular bleeding as side-effects on their website. Most concerning, is that patient.co.uk completely deny any relationship between nexplanon and these side-effects: "There is no evidence that women with an implant in put on weight. It is also not associated with an altered sex drive or mood changes."

Thankfully, netdoctor.co.uk very clearly lists side-effects, and does not attempt to deny them. Another very useful resource was netmums.com! Forums are amazing for getting advice and information, especially for contraceptives and other medicines.

It was while reading these forums, and others like it that I stumbled across along the way, that I realised all these upsetting changes to my body were more than likely attributed to the nexplanon implant. I wasn't alone and it wasn't in my head. Most importantly, there was a solution.

Looking back at my blog posts, I noticed quite early on that weight gain was hitting me like a train. Once my psychiatric medications started to increase, it felt more logical that they would be responsible. Now, I think that the combination of high-dose venlafaxine and quetiapine in combination with nexplanon resulted in the drastic and sustained changes to my body shape and overall weight. 

My typical day-to-day diet would not be responsible for 20 kilos of gain in less than a year. I can't even comprehend the amount of calories I'd need to eat for that to happen... Needless to say, this is incredibly distressing, terrifying and I am ashamed of my body. I have huge stretch marks, none of my clothes fit, my skin has rolls and I am always bloated. My boobs have exploded to a 36DD and are still going. I'm a size 14(ish) and nothing about this is ok. I don't recognise myself most of the time. 

I have chest pains. My back hurts. My digestive system is a mess. I haven't had a period in 6 months, but I get all the classic PMS symptoms on an almost 3 week cycle. I'm always hungry, but I make sure to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables, and low calorie things like Metcalfes Topcorn. My skin is a disaster zone. I get anxiety attacks and horrible bouts of nausea. My boobs hurt so much. I am a giant gross water balloon and the anorexia voice is making itself known again. 

That is the final straw. This sodding thing is coming OUT. My medications can't work if I'm so miserable because of how fat I am. Let's not deny it here. Look back at my old posts. I'm so, so ashamed. 

On Wednesday 8th January I am having the implant removed, and this date really cannot come fast enough. I want to feel like myself again. 

If you've had problems with nexplanon, or have had a very positive experience, please share in the comments! The more information that's out there the better. I hate the thought of all this sneaking up on another person!!

12 comments

  1. Im so glad you're getting it out Sammi, sounds like you've had a torrid time! I havent had the implant (my one friend who had it actually got pregnant and didnt know it until she gave birth!) but i've had a long history with contraceptive pills. It actually really annoys me that the GP brush the side effects under the carpet. I now look back at certain things I experienced and can now recognise how obviously attributed to the pill these were. Now that ive had my daughter (which incidentally happened because i had enough of the pill!), the GPs are keen to get me back on the pill/implant/insert other horrid hormone filled thing here and i nearly got sucked in but I then remembered how I turn into a completely different person and just dont want to put my body through that anymore. Good luck with whatever path you take next. xx

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    1. Oh my god, she must have been absolutely terrified. That's like the stuff of genuine nightmares!!! I hope she recovered from it ok?? And took them to court. Jeeeeez. I'm glad I'm not alone in taking a more natural approach to contraception. It wouldn't surprise me if 25-50 years from now all these health complications start surfacing from excess hormones in our system. Joys of being a girl.... Xx

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  2. I've had 2 implants and i've had issues with my periods since about 2 years into the first one. I'm now waiting for the hormones to balance out before chosing another option

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    1. It's a common side-effect of the implant. I think it's 1 in 5 that they completely stop, and the rest seem to just be irregular. I hope you find something that suits you better! :)

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  3. I've had the nexplanon implant for 3 years in February and this post just reminded me to call & get it taken out. It hasn't been easy, I've not had anywhere near as many side effects as you have, bless you! I just get irregular bleeding - I have a period once every 4 months ish and its just not normal at all but I stuck with it because I couldn't be bothered to choose another option but now I'm gonna have to and I'm still not sure what to get! Hope you find something that works for you soon without horrible side effects xx

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    1. You can stay on nexplanon for as long as you like. There's no impact to your bones or fertility, so if you're plodding along with it then I'd stick with the implant. You can have a progesterone pill alongside it if you're having problem bleeding. I'm just going to stick with a natural method, it's the only thing that doesn't give me problems!

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  4. Replies
    1. It was over and done with in 10 minutes! :) The bugger didn't want to come out so there was a bit of pulling involved but it's out and I'm so relieved!!

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  5. I have just had my implant replaced....This is my 3rd one!! I've been fine with it...
    It sounds like you've really had a tough time...

    I actually blogged about it last week!
    http://northumberlandmam.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/the-contraceptive-implant.html

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  6. I can only imagine what youre going through. Ive had mines for five months and its been great. I had a bit of spotting and breast tenderness the first two weeks but since then ive been fine, and i dont have a cycle anymore. Im glad you had it removed, you shouldnt have to live in misery.

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  7. i was allergic to nexplanon! my doctors kept insisting that it was NOT the implant, but then my body started to react severely to EVERYTHING: food, fragrance, soap, contact with metal, etc. my heart-rate was all over the board, i would get the shakes, chills and sweats were common. i demanded the implant be removed, and once it was, things started to settle right away. it's been a long road to recovery, i still can not eat certain things, and during the part of my cycle when my progesterone is high, i have to be particularly cautious as my body remembers the implant. nexplanon needs to be taken off the market.

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  8. Oh my gosh. I'm so, so sorry you had to go through that! It's an incredibly rare side effect :( Have you tried taking an antihistamine (benadryl, piriton etc) during those parts of your cycle to try and settle your immune system? Well done for being persistent with your GP though! I really hope you fully recover soon! xx

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