What is Nexplanon?
Nexplanon is an implant that contains a synthetic version of a progestogen called etonogestrel. It’s a small, flexible, plastic implant that’s inserted under the skin of the upper arm and lasts for three years.
It’s the only implant licensed for use in the UK. Previously, Implanon was used but it’s since been discontinued. Women are encouraged to choose Nexplanon instead because the applicator device has been designed to prevent the implant from being inserted wrongly. Implanon and Nexplanon are virtually the same in terms of the hormone they contain and the dose, efficacy, side effects and duration. The only other difference is that the Nexplanon implant can be seen on X-ray.
It stops ovulation, which makes it over 99% effective. Clinical studies showed that one in 1,000 women will become pregnant during the three years of using Nexplanon.
How do you use it?
If you decide to choose Nexplanon, you’ll need to book an appointment because only a trained person can insert the Nexplanon implant into your arm. After you’ve been given a local anaesthetic, the applicator will be inserted into your arm and a purple slider will be pulled back to release the implant. The needle is retracted into the body of the applicator.
If you decide to have the Nexplanon implant fitted, it will usually be inserted between the first and fifth day of your period. If it’s inserted any later, you’ll need to use another method of contraceptive for seven days. If you’ve had a baby and you’re breastfeeding, the implant can be inserted four weeks after the birth. If you’re not breastfeeding, it should be inserted between 21 and 28 days after birth.
In general you won’t need to even think about it, for another three years. However, a high BMI can affect how long it works for. Your doctor will tell you when you need to plan to have the implant removed.
The Nexplanon implant must also be removed by a trained expert, which means another procedure. When the implant is taken out, you’ll be given a local anaesthetic so it’s not painful. An incision will be made at the base of the implant, and it will be pulled out of your arm through the incision. If the implant can’t be found, methods such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance can locate it. It’s important your doctor or nurse knows exactly where the Nexplanon contraceptive implant is, because trying to remove it blind can damage your arm.
What are the benefits?
Generally women choose Nexplanon because it offers the following benefits:
- Over 99% effective
- Lasts for three years
- Doesn’t require any action once inserted
- It’s suitable for women who can’t use oestrogen
- It’s not affected by antibiotics or sickness
- Fertility is restored when it’s removed
- Period pain is reduced
What are the side effects?
There are a few side effects associated with using an implant. When it’s inserted, you’ll probably experience pain, and there’s a chance that removing the implant could leave you with a scar.
Other side effects experienced by women who have the Nexplanon implant fitted include acne, breast tenderness, headaches, irregular bleeding, vaginal infection and weight changes.
If you do experience side effects they should become milder with time. If they persist for a few months, you should speak to your doctor. Any symptoms should disappear when the Nexplanon implant is removed, or once your body adjusts to the hormone.
Who can and cannot take it?
You won’t be able to choose Nexplanon if you’re pregnant; if you have breast cancer; if you have abnormal, undiagnosed vaginal bleeding; or if you suffer from hereditary blood disorders.
The absence of oestrogen means that more women can use this progestogen-only implant, including those over 35, those breastfeeding and those who choose to smoke.
What did it do for me?
I want to have children in the future, so I wanted a contraceptive that would restore my fertility and that’s why I decided to choose Nexplanon. When I started using it, my periods were all over the place; there was no way of predicting when I might bleed, but this seems to have settled. For me, not having to think about pregnancy for the next two years is worth the occasional random bleed.