For You I Tried: Nexplanon Birth Control Implant [Guest Post]


This month's For You I Tried was written by Molly Jean Bennett, who was recently featured in my I Peer Into series. 

First of all, let’s get one thing straight, dear reader: I did not try the Nexplanon implant for you. I tried it for me. But as your humble servant and guest blogger, I am more than happy to tell you about the good things Nexplanon has done for my body and my mind.

A year and a half ago, shortly after I moved to New York City, I took a ferry across the harbor to the Staten Island location of Planned Parenthood to get a prescription for the same birth control pills I’d been taking in Virginia. The nurse told me that, due to my high blood pressure reading, I should consider getting off pills containing estrogen stat. My birth control pills were putting me at an increased risk of stroke. Not a fun thing to hear.

The nurse recommended that I try either a non-hormonal method like the copper IUD or something with only the hormone progestin. She suggested the Nexplanon arm implant. The matchstick-sized plastic rod steadily discharges progestin into the body, she explained, preventing the ovaries from releasing mature eggs. It also thickens the cervical mucus to stop sperm from entering the uterus in the first place. Built to stay snuggled in the flesh of my arm for up to three years, the Nexplanon implant would be free with my health insurance.

A week later, I made the trek back to Staten Island for my implant insertion. The nurse numbed a small patch of skin on my left bicep with a topical anesthetic. She then made a small incision into which she slid the implant rod. I chose to look away during the pinchy part. The whole thing was only slightly more dramatic than a tetanus shot. A vivid bruise appeared at the insertion point but healed within a few days. Now, I can feel the implant under my skin if I run my fingers over that part of my arm, but I’m not consciously aware of its presence as I go about my day.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, the hormonal implant is the most effective reversible contraceptive method available, with only .05 percent of users becoming pregnant over one year of use. And if you want to get really dorky about contraception effectiveness, check out this graphic from The New York Times that shows the failure rates of different methods compounded over time. Only about one percent of implant users become pregnant after ten years. That’s some serious peace of mind. Looking at that final graph affirms all my life choices and makes me feel like a cyborg goddess. My uterus is a fortress. I emit pure golden light.

I noticed that I began to feel a bit calmer in the months after my implant insertion. It’s hard to pinpoint causation, but it made me wonder if the estrogen in my old birth control pills was heightening the anxiety I was feeling at my stressful job.

Another reason I love my Nexplanon: happily, I a can count myself among the one in three women who does not get a period at all on the implant. For about four months after my implant insertion, I had light but irregular periods. They tapered off entirely at six months or so. In the past year, I haven’t so much as touched a tampon. While I honor those who revel in their menstrual cycle, I’ve always viewed mine as an annoyance. My only regret is that I don’t have a reason to try those new period panties everyone is talking about. Real talk: I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t get a little turned on by the THINX ads that are plastered across a handful of NYC subway cars right now. There’s something about women in modest underwear and turtleneck crop tops that just gives me the shudders, you know? In the good way. All those tasteful earthtones and frank, unsqueamish portrayals of women’s bodies. But I digress.

Often, when I get tipsy at parties, I like to evangelize my birth control at a high volume. NO PERIODS, I say. HERE, FEEL MY ARM. I’M A CYBORG, I say. BE MORE LIKE ME. The enthusiasm is real, but I do realize that decisions around birth control are highly personal. While I hope that long-acting reversible contraceptives like Nexplanon and the IUD become increasingly accessible options for everyone making choices about their reproductive health and autonomy, it is impossible to make a universal recommendation when everyone’s body reacts differently. Bodies are tricky and sensitive and fickle and beautiful. For me, the Nexplanon implant has been wonderful. I tried it. I like it.

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