Implanon Is Great... Until It Isn't

Three and half years ago, I inserted the popular contraceptive Implanon into my arm. But when the side effects outweigh the benefits, it's time to get rid of it. As scary (and boring) as going back to normal contraceptive methods might seem, you might love yourself for it.

Implanon image via Shutterstock

Once inserted, Implanon stops your body from releasing an egg, stops eggs from sticking to the womb, and prevents sperm from getting through. It's described by Family Planning Victoria as 99.9% effective, and has become popular because it's largely an insert-and-forget system, requiring a new rod every three years. But as I recently discovered, when the side effects start appearing, it's just not worth it.

The first three years I was happy with it — it worked, and it was convenient. But after the third year, it was time to have my first one removed and the second put in, and my body started going haywire. Something definitely wasn't right.

For months, I was bleeding about 80% of the time. Not large amounts, but enough for it to be very annoying. At this rate I wondered if Implanon worked as birth control by making you bleed so much you just never felt like sex. How could it be so good on one course, and so horrible on the next?

It turns out this isn't too uncommon. I spoke to a handful of my friends and they were going through the same thing, even on the first dose. One even commented, “I’m starting to think my boyfriend thinks I'm using bleeding as an excuse not to have sex. But it's not an excuse, it's true!"

We laughed. We thought Implanon would decrease the barriers to sex, and instead they were increased.

For about four months I put up with it, thinking it would settle down, but it never did. Then when I noticed a funny smell (sorry to be so blunt, but if this has happened to you, know that you’re not alone) it was time to have it removed.

Within days, the bleeding stopped and things went back to normal. It has been three months since then and I feel so much better. In a word, I feel "sexy" again. Firstly because I am not bleeding all the time, but secondly my whole body just feels like it is working properly. I hypothesised that my boyfriend feels more sexy again too, because I'm more interested in having sex and my orgasms are coming easier and stronger.

We were lying in bed the other morning after testing that hypothesis (for science - you understand), and I said – “I used to think I had more control of my body with my mind, particularly related to sex and orgasms, but now I have to believe my body is doing its own thing, and we just don't have complete control." I think Implanon was influencing my body’s sexual responses negatively. Now it’s being so much more responsive and doing again all those things I like it to do.

It’s true that I now have to think about new types of birth control, but after that experience, I'm keen to explore non-hormonal methods. Implanon isn't the only treatment with side effects. First up will be the ovulation method, which isn't recommended because it's risky, but can work if implemented properly. And I like this idea because it's about listening to your body and coming to understand its rhythms. It takes months to implement the ovulation method and to determine the exact times you are ovulating, though some tools can help. It's definitely not as simple as picking a date right in the middle of your period. So don’t use it without intentional and dedicated planning.

I’m still in the process of implementing it, and condoms have to suffice sometimes. I'll look into diaphragm as well. But for now, I am the voice that is saying Implanon can make a woman’s system go crazy, and if you are not happy with it, get it taken out. If you're at all like me, you’ll feel a lot better for it.


    You make it sound like someone has an implanon gun to the head (arm) of every woman. Its a great option for those that dont have side effects. For those that do, take it out and move along

    "I think Implanon was influencing my body’s sexual responses negatively. Now it’s being so much more responsive and doing again all those things I like it to do."

    The problem with the above sentence starts with "i think".

    Ovulation method for contraception? Sounds like a recipe for disaster (or more accurately a recipe for a child) .

    Genuinely sorry to be negative but i feel like this post doesnt belong here. Mostly due to its assertions without any factual content

      I'd have to agree that the ovulation method for contraception seems like it could lead to some unfortunate circumstances.

      Personally (and from a male perspective) I wouldn't like to solely rely on the ovulation method as a technique for contraception.

      I agree with the replies above.

      "But as I recently discovered, when the side effects start appearing, it’s just not worth it."

      This statement pretty much declares that adverse side effects are inevitable. However, many women, myself included, experience no adverse effects from implanon. For many it's an extremely reliable, low-cost and hassle free method of contraception.

      Furthermore, the ovulation method probably shouldn't be seen as a reliable life hack. Definitely talk with your GP about all of your contraception options and do some thorough research into the effectiveness of your contraception choices.

    I'm with the poster above. Plus I've had the complete opposite experience. After a month my periods stopped altogether (which is a good thing because feeling like someone is trying to kill my from inside my uterus once a month isn't much fun). After about two years it started to come back so the doctor just replaced it and voila!
    The only side effect that I have noticed is that my weight loss has slowed down, but then again the m&m's don't help that either.

    I think my point is, everyone reacts differently and people should try it first. I, for example, long ago took the morning after pill and for three or so days was the epitome of hormonal, with my moods changing literally every other minute, but I would never suggest that someone doesn't use it.
    Oh, and I love Implanon.

      I love implanon too. I haven't had my period in two years. It's great! I had constant bleeding for one month when first inserted then it stopped altogether.

    One person's experience does not make a study. And that personal diary blog entry shouldn't be a reason for a headline with a forgone conclusion.

    As with the posts above, I feel like this article is a bit irresponsible. If this was a private blog, fine. But on life hacker?

    The side effects you describe are well known side effects of progesterone only contraception. Side effects occur with any drug, but do not necessarily occur with everyone.

    Generally if side effects don't settle in 3 months then it's worth considering alternatives. However the majority of people tolerate implanon well so you are doing people a disservice by scaring then away from this option.

    The good thing about implanon is that if you cannot tolerate it, you can just have it removed and side effects generally quickly reverse.

    The ovulation method sounds okay on thoery, however it turns out to be very unreliable. I really cannot recommend anyone using this as their sole method of contraception. It is worth looking up failure rates of this method before going ahead with this, and weighing up how much an unplanned pregnancy will effect you before committing.

    At the end of the day, it will always be about weighing the risks vs benefits for people. Again, most people will have very few side effects with implanon, but a smaller subset of people will have side effects and will elect to try alternatives. The standard combined oral contraceptive pill is another good alternative as long as there are no contraindications (eg risk factors for clots in the blood stream/stroke, or migraines with auras). If you have contraindications to oestrogen containing contraception, and have issues with the progesterone only contraception, then things like the copper intrauterine device is reliable and worth considering. I recommend speaking to your doctor before deciding on your method of choice, and be very careful about adopting medical advice from the internet.

    Now we need a story of someone who actually likes Implanon


    My wife went crazy on the implanon, so this article really rings true for us!
    We just ended up saying 'stuff it' and had kids :)
    Well written piece and I think a lot of people will be able to attest to your experience.

    I had the exact same issues as the girl above. The first three years were great and other than a little weight gain I had no real side effects. The second implanting I had gave me constant bleeding for months than periods every couple of weeks, no real enjoyment in sex along with skin issues and weight gain. I lasted almost three years with the second one but now I have it out and I realise how much it did affect me. I won't be getting it again.

      I agree with you and the lady who posted this. My first two (six years all up) were great! No issues what so ever! I'm nearly 12 months into my third one and I have had nothing but problems. I have acne really bad, sore boobs, headaches and always feel like I am getting a cold (all common side effects) I have actually just booked an appointment to get it taken out, just want to be normal and enjoy sex again and feel like a girl not some pimpley freak!

    By crazy do you mean pysco (not n a nasty way). I feel i cant control my anger since having it. I have no patience for the kids and hubby. I fly off at anyone for anything.

    I get hormonal rage a week before up to getting my period. I was going to go back to implanon but I'm worried that going on implanon will decrease or cut out completely my libido. Had implanon for 8 years before been without it for just over 1 year.

    I am about to start my 7th yr with implanon overall i cant complain and i have had next to none side effects. I have noticed that only now i got my period and still have it 24 days later.. This is the first time in 6 yrs that i have had this problem for me the postive has out weighed the negative and i will keep using it as it is a much easier and cheaper solution for me.

    This article was clearly meant for those who have questions about similar side affects. The implanon may have different affects on others. I happened to experience the same issue. It's truly a bomber because I absolutely loved this contraceptive option. After my first replacement (yr 4), my body went haywire as well. I went from no periods to menstruating all but maybe a few days a month. My GYN and I tried regulating it with hormones supplements which worked as long as I was taking them. Eventually my iron levels were beginning to fluctuate and become harder to maintain...
    That was my breaking point.
    I'm still in search for a better birth control. Any thoughts on the IUDs like the mirena? I really wish I could try the I'm plan on again to see if my body will regulate like the first time.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now