Today I wanted to talk about something that’s a pretty personal decision but I know that a lot of women take contraception and because it’s a taboo topic, there’s not a lot of info about everyone’s experience with it. To allow for people to have an open discussion about an important part of many people’s lives, I wanted to talk about my experience with contraception, why I chose to get the implanon and then have it removed early. I hope that you enjoy more of a personal topic today and if this isn’t up your alley, you won’t have to wait too long for my next post!
I’ll start by explaining why I wanted the implanon in the first place. I’d been on the pill since I was about 16 years old and I was on Levlen. I chose that one because it was cheap and to my knowledge, it didn’t mess with me too much. I gained some weight but it was nothing crazy at all and I’m fairly certain that any mental health issues I went through while on it were mostly fueled by my age, rather than extra hormones.
So after being on Levlen for about 5 years, I wanted to transition to the implanon, some know it as ‘the rod’, which is inserted into your arm and is meant to stop your period and block any spermies from creating babies. I hated the pill, so much so that it would make me feel sick thinking about it and I gagged at the smell. Taking it every day was an absolute nightmare because I hated it so much and I would often forget to take it, rendering it pretty useless but thankfully, I didn’t actually need it for contraception so there was no chance of me actually getting pregnant while I yoyo-ed with using it properly. So to eliminate having to take the pill every day, and eliminate my next hated thing, the period, I decided that I wanted to go on the implanon so that I wouldn’t have to keep paying for sanitary items and have to take the pill.
I knew that the implanon really wasn’t for everyone and that a lot of people struggled on it. Whether it was that they had non-stop bleeding on it for months after it had been inserted or whether it was very bad depression, a lot of people had trouble with it. For me, I wanted to at least try it because on my health card, I only needed to pay about $6 for one rod and that last me three years, which was so awesome, especially for someone who had very unstable income, at that point.
I knew the risks and I knew the benefits and for me, I thought the benefits outweighed the risks so I tried it, and I was happy (or so I thought) on it for a year before I had had enough. Toward the end of my experience with the implanon, I started having my period every fortnight, after not having a period at all for about 8 months. I started to try to take other medication to stop the bleeding but nothing worked and I was fed up with it so I thought it was time to give up, it was fun while it lasted. However, the thing that really drove me to take it out the next available day, more than the bleeding, was the new(ish) knowledge that it is extremely hard to work off the weight gained on the implanon because of the way the implanon works. For that last year, I went up a dress size and it was making me really depressed because I used to really like how I looked and I didn’t feel like I was constantly having to wear jumpers and jackets to hide my fat. Not only was I depressed about my weight, I was depressed about pretty much everything. I wasn’t going through the best time at uni but my experience was probably a lot worse because I was incredibly moody for the entire year and I have a lot of people who can confirm that.
So lets talk about my symptons while I was on the implanon. I do want to note that my experience may be vastly different to your experience and that tends to be the nature of contraception. We’re all made of different things and different things will work for different people.
1. I gained quite a bit of weight
I always knew contraception had the chance to make you gain weight but what I didn’t know was that personal trainers actually ask a lot of women whether or not they’re on the implanon, so that they can adjust the expectation of weight loss for that client. It is incredibly hard to lose the weight you’ve gained while on the implanon because a lot of your weight is actually water retention. I remember when I first bought my first Pandora ring in 2014, I was a size 52 on my ring finger on my left hand but when I started working for Pandora at the end of 2016, I realised that that wasn’t my size for that finger at all anymore, and when I tried on new rings on that finger, and any other fingers, I had to go a size up to what I thought I was. My fingers were feeling larger than I’d remembered and I remember really feeling some body dysmorphia because I really didn’t understand what was happening and why I’d believed something about myself for so long that had been wrong. I remember reading that water retention can cause fingers to swell so I tried to change my diet to help it but nothing worked and it never clicked that it could have been from my implanon.
2. I had a larger appetite
Not only does your body retain more water and swell, you also tend to be hungry more often. I remember being a vegetarian for only about 6 months when I went on the implanon and I thought that I was hungry all the time because I wasn’t eating enough or maybe because I was still getting used to a diet change, I was constantly thinking about my next meal, so I was always hungry because of that. While on the implanon, I remember eating meals until there was no food on the plate, at restaurants that I typically was only able to eat 3/4s at previously.
3. I suffered from extreme anxiety and depression
I mentioned this a bit before with regards to my weight and view of my body but I really struggled a lot with feeling worthless, feeling like a waste of space and not feeling good enough. At a time when I needed to really show off my talent, I was feeling my worst about my quality of work and I needed constant reassurance, which often was completely disregarded. I couldn’t be in crowded spaces comfortably because the business of my surroundings mixed with my busy brain really clashed. I needed a lot of days to myself to really refresh myself. Thank goodness I only worked over Christmas last year because I don’t know that I would have survived working during my study.
4. Constant bleeding
Again, another one that I mentioned earlier. I had my period every two weeks for four months at the end of my experience with the implanon. I actually didn’t completely lose my period on the implanon anyway, I had pretty regular spotting for the whole year so my periods probably laid only semi-dormant. My doctor had me on ponstan a medicine for inflamation, that I was to take daily, thus making my daily tablet goal a fail. After that didn’t work, the doctor said I could try going on my pill for a bit while on the implanon and I just said no, because at that point I was so fed up trying to make something work for my body that just wasn’t working.
In almost every other aspect of my health, I will refuse a lot of medication purely because a lot of the time, unless it’s serious, the body is able to fight off a lot. For example, I don’t take panadol and those sorts of tablets for headaches because I don’t want to gain some kind of immunity later on and then have them not work when I really need them, so I’ll only take it in my most desperate hours. I don’t tend to have the worst headaches anyway so it’s never been much of an issue. Anyway, the same really should be said about contraception for me. My body wants to go through this process and I think for all it’s worth, it should just go through this process naturally. Yes, that means that I have a greater risk of becoming pregnant but you can’t get pregnant if you don’t have sex so I think I’ll be just fine hahaha.
I also want to quickly add that having the rod in my arm and being able to feel it was absolutely disgusting for me. I have a very irrational phobia about people scratching their skin (ironic because I have dermatillomania) and that stems from an ad I saw about the drug ice and how people thought they had bugs under their skin, so I felt like I was knowingly putting something under my skin and I just wanted to constantly take it out.
I’ve had my implanon removed for over a month now and even within the first week, I noticed myself improve. No, I haven’t lost weight (that I know of, I don’t own a scale), no my fingers aren’t slimmer, but I am already much happier. I have a lot more energy and I eat a lot less. My appetite has already gone back to normal and I am not able to finish meals like I once was before. All of these things once contributed to weight gain and now (hopefully) will contribute to weight loss. I know it all sounds like I gained weight and had trouble losing it because I was eating more but I wasn’t eating enough more to warrant the change that I saw, and the behavioural issues were noticable to those around me and my behaviour now has been noticed by those same people since I’ve gone off it and they didn’t even know that I was off the implanon.
I’m becoming happier and happier as each day passes and I really feel like I am enjoying my life, as I should. And if I don’t happen to lose the weight, that’s fine too because I’m learning to love myself again and I think that’s far more important.
So, I just want to say, if you are on the implanon and it’s working for you, keep it and keep using it because it is a fabulous way to keep yourself from becoming pregnant and it is so no fuss. Having it removed is gross, I’m not going to lie. I sat on an operating table for over an hour while I had the doctor push and push at my arm to have it removed. But if you can stomach it, I think it’s a good option. If it isn’t working for you, or you identify with some of my symptoms and you begin to hate it, I don’t think there’s any reason why you should stay on it. You can always go back to oral contraceptives and there is always physical contraceptives as well. It’s not the be all and end all so it’s definitely not something that you need if it isn’t working for you!
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Au revoir xxx