After exploring my options throughout my teens, I decided that the pill wasn't the best contraceptive method for me. This came to mind after I had my blood pressure taken three times in one appointment as they were not satisfied than even after I had chance to sit down that my blood pressure was what it should be. I was advised to change from the combined pill to the progestogen-only pill because of this. The progestogen-only pill is given to people who have high blood pressure or other conditions as it doesn't contain oestrogen, and is taken every day with no break. As I was now having to take a pill every single day without a break, it seemed silly not to switch to a contraceptive implant.

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible tube that is about 40mm long and 2mm wide that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm. The procedure is carried out by trained professional and will last three years. The way it works is it stops the release of an egg from the ovary by slowly releasing progestogen into the body, which thickens cervical mucus (lovely!) and thins the womb lining. This makes it harder for sperm to reach your cervix, and less likely for your womb to accept a fertilised egg. If the implant is inserted correctly, it's more than 99% effective (source) and fewer than 1 in 1,000 women who have the contraceptive implant for three years get pregnant. 

The implant can be inserted during any point during your menstrual cycle as long as both yourself and your doctor are confident that you're not already pregnant. In the UK the most common contraceptive implant is Nexplanon (which is what I have) as it is designed to reduce the risk of insertion errors and is visible on X-Ray and CT scans. 

After a small consultation with, a doctor or nurse will numb the area of your arm with a local anaesthetic. You feel a sharp scratch from the needle but this is over in a matter of seconds and is not worth worrying about (I got worked up for it and it was absolutely fine). A small wound (about 0.5cm) is made once your arm is numb, and Nexplanon is inserted. The wound is closed with steri-strips and a larger plaster which you must keep dry for three days to prevent infection or slow down the healing process. I was told when I had it inserted in 2013 that I must stay on the progestogen-only pill for 7 days to prevent pregnancy whilst the implant worked its way into my system.

After my three years were up, I made an appointment at my local health centre to have the current implant removed and then replaced. Some GPs can do the procedure but since mine did not offer this service I went to an NHS Sexual Health Centre. The process is pretty similar to having the implant inserted, as you have a consultation, local anaesthetic and a small wound created. To take out the implant the nurse uses an instrument that are similar to tweezers to ease the tube out. You can't feel a thing, and I could barely even feel any pressure of her using her hands to feel the implant nor ease the tube out. 

After the implant was removed, the nurse inserted a new Nexplanon implant into my arm and I couldn't feel a thing. You can hear a click from the instrument that places the implant into the arm and it's done in seconds. I decided to replace my implant as I do not plan on getting pregnant in the next three years. I was told that in three years if I wanted another implant put in, they would remove the current implant from my left arm, and insert a new implant into my right arm to prevent building up more scar tissue in the same place.

My Experience
When my first implant started working I had next to no periods, which I new would happen since I was on the same contraceptive that I was on in pill form. Having no periods suits my personal needs, since I used to get really painful cramps and had a heavy period that would last a full 7 days. I was told that if I ever wanted it taking out due to side effects or deciding to start a family that I could, but this hasn't been necessary for me. I don't plan on getting pregnant in the next three years since financially it wouldn't be good for myself, my partner or a baby and it's one pain less in my body since I have chronic health conditions. On that note, the implant can offer some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease and also cancer of the womb. I'm not sure whether I have been at risk of these but it does add another bonus that there is slightly less chance of them occurring. 

After both the insertion and the replacement I did have some beautiful bruises on my arm which fade completely after about two weeks. Your arm is tender but if you need to take paracetamol I was advised that this was fine. For me, it's great not having to plan in another medication each day, and it's great not getting worried that you've missed a pill since the implant is in your body for three years. When I decide to finish my journey with an implant, I was advised that my periods and fertility would return to normal but I would need to find another method of contraception unless I was planning a pregnancy.

I felt I was well informed about all the advantages and risks of using the implant thanks to the nurses in the NHS and I'm very happy with my experience with the Nexplanon implant. I'm not sure whether I would get it replaced in three years, since I will be 26 then and may decide to start a family then but that's hard to predict right now. If you're looking at getting the implant or have any questions that you want to ask, you could write a comment below or pop me an email to laurahadleyx@gmail if you'd like to speak privately. I wish I had someone close to speak to about it since I don't actually know anyone who has had the implant apart from one friend who decided it wasn't for her and has chosen another contraceptive method since. Everyone is different so I'm not to say it will work for every person out there, but if you have similar circumstances to me or don't wish to take a pill every day then it might be worth asking about it with your local GP or nurse.

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