So, we’ve talked about why I decided on Implanon and about the implantation, but what about my experience so far? What have the side effects been? Two months is probably not long enough to know how the hormones will affect me for the full duration of the implant’s life but here’s how it’s going so far.
Yes, I’m going to be slightly graphic and mention my vagina. Obviously.
The First Two Weeks
The first few weeks I’m on any new pill or form of birth control are usually rough for me. Even when I was on Camilla, which had next to no side effects, I still felt grouchy and slightly anxious for the first few weeks. With Implanon, I spent the first few focused mostly on making sure that my arm healed properly.
The Arm – A few days after implantation, the site started to feel a little irritated. It traded off between being itchy and sore. It took a few weeks for my arm to adjust to the fact that it had a foreign object inside of it. I figured that it was my body’s natural immune response. Still, the itching was pretty awful for a while.
The Cramps – I’ve read that a lot of women experience worse cramps after implantation. What I experienced was less like the cramps I get when I have my period and more like a sudden but brief pain. Some of these pains stopped me in my tracks. Because of these, I had expected a particularly brutal period and continued cramps but they stopped before I even got my period and have not returned.
The Skin – My skin doesn’t like any hormones. Ever. Period. While I’m not constantly breaking out like I did on the pills that contained estrogen, my skin doesn’t look quite as smooth or clear as it usually does. I had a pretty severe breakout on my shoulder that still hasn’t fully healed but it is fading. It takes my fair skin a long time to lose the evidence of a breakout.
The Bleeding – My period was supposed to start shortly after the insertion but was mysteriously absent. It didn’t give me pause enough to worry since I had taken a pregnancy test before insertion and hadn’t been sexually active for a while, but because I had heard about heavier and inconsistent bleeding, I dreaded when my period would actually come.
The Mood – I had a slight increase in anxiety after insertion but I think that it was due more to the fact that I was nearing the end of my quarter at school and because I was feeling like my relationship with Mr. Young Money was probably over. Incidentally, I was right. After these first two weeks, though, it’s had no effect on my mood as far as I can tell.
I spent most of August wondering if I had made the right decision and trying to decide if I could deal with some of the side effects. While the cramps and mood issues never resurfaced, the others did along with a few new side effects.
The Arm – The itching and soreness continued for the first part of August. When I’d bump the implant and cause it to push against my skin, it would feel pretty unpleasant. I can’t remember when this stopped. I play with the implant pretty often when I’m lying down and it doesn’t hurt anymore.
The Skin – I’m going to have to figure out some way to cope with the little bit of extra blemished I get from the hormones. It’s not bad enough to make me want to have the implant removed, but it’s still noticeable to me.
The Bleeding – When my period finally came, it was just probably the least intense period I’ve ever had. No cramps and minimal bleeding? Yes please. Except that the minimal bleeding just kept going. And going. After about two weeks of spotting (I guess that’s the technical term?), the bleeding increased again to more of a menstrual flow. I hoped that this time it would be more like a real period and go away after a week. No such luck. It wasn’t heavy enough that I needed to wear anything for it and it only showed up on toilet paper after I used the bathroom, but it was annoying. At this point I felt like the birth control worked by enforcing abstinence.
The Dryness – This was my main complaint. Despite the light amounts of blood, I was totally dry. Considering that the purpose of progesterone is to thicken the mucus in your uterus, it made sense to me that there would be a change but it was really uncomfortable. This above anything else made me consider getting the implant removed. Again, talk about enforced abstinence.
The Last Two Weeks
I had decided that I was going to give the implant until October to learn to play nice with my body before I made any decisions on it. I mean, I get that it takes some time for my body to adjust and that the first few months can be a bit on a hormonal rollercoaster. I figured that the thing got three months before I couldn’t take it anymore. Luckily, in the last two weeks, a few of the symptoms have changed and improved.
The Arm – There’s still a slight discoloration around the implant site but everything else has healed. I can fidget with my implant in peace.
The Skin – There’s been no real change. I’m still getting more blemishes popping up than I usually do but, again, I’ll have to figure out some way to manage this. Maybe something crazy like exercise would help…
The Bleeding – Last week it finally stopped. I have no idea when to expect my period again and know that it will continue to be somewhat unpredictable, but at the moment I feel like I can deal with it. As much as I grumbled about the enforced abstinence, I was single and avoiding the male gender like the plague anyway so it hardly mattered.
The Dryness – This comes and goes. It’s started to be a bit more normal since the bleeding stopped but it’s still not quite the same. I hope it continues to improve because it’s still uncomfortable.
So, I’m still not sure about how I feel about it. I’m still giving it three months before I even think about removal but at the moment I’m tending toward being happy with it. The discoloration on my arm will go away but the skin issues, bleeding, and dryness are obviously things that could be highly annoying.