My experience with the Implanon
For those that have followed me on social media you will know that I have had some health issues in the past. My health story is such a long and complicated one it’s difficult to know what to share. I thought I would start where it all began: the Implanon.
The Implanon is a progestin only birth control (Most hormonal birth controls use a combination of both estrogen and progestin). It is in the shape of a small rod that gets implanted into your upper arm and releases daily dosages of synthetic progesterone (progestin). It protects against pregnancy for three years.
I decided on the implanon a few months before I got married. Everything I read about it online made it sound amazing with fewer side effects than the pill. I also had friends that used it and loved it. I had previously tried the pill for 1 month in an effort to skip my period while I was on a rather rough holiday in Africa and really struggled to remember to take it. The pill also made me immediately depressed so it was not a good option for me. I was 21 and in no rush to have children so I wanted something I could just set and forget. I was praised by my doctor for making such a wise choice for birth control and was promised no more periods and a calm steady mood. My doctor suggested inserting it about 1-2 months before I got married to give my body time to adjust. About 3 weeks before my wedding I started to “spot bleed” continuously. My doctor told me that it was just taking me a little longer to adjust than most people and to give it another couple of months. I was given the mini pill to stop the spotting and away I went.
I actually could not tolerate the mini pill even though it worked to stop the spotting and I stopped taking it after three days. I was a little concerned about being sexually active while bleeding but my doctor reassured me that it was completely ok and that my body would eventually adjust and the bleeding would stop. After 8 months of bleeding and hoping every day that the bleeding would “just end already” I decided I had had enough and got it removed.
That’s my background story. For the remainder of the article I want to discuss the symptoms I had while on the Implanon and then what happened once I got off the implanon.
What I experienced while on the Implanon:
1. Heavy spotting every day
2. Extreme irritability
3. Zero sex drive
4. Tiredness and lethargy
5. Rapid weight gain & bloating
What I experienced after the Implanon:
At first I felt almost back to my normal self. My energy and sex drive returned and I immediately stopped feeling irritable and was just a lot more relaxed and content. About a couple of months later I started to experience some mild anxiety that was unnatural for me and about 2 weeks after I finished my final exams I crashed hard! To be honest I still have a bit of trauma over my experience so I am going to avoid giving details about just how horrible things felt because I don’t want to relive my experience. Instead here is a list of what I experienced as a result of a major hormonal imbalance caused by the Implanon.
1: Seizures – partial seizures to be exact as I remained conscious throughout but was unable to control my spasms, and movements
2. Severe nutrient deficiency – in particular magnesium and calcium
3. Severe panic and anxiety
4. Intense muscle cramps – mostly in the abdomen
5. Muscle spasms and jaw locking – inability to swallow
6. Late periods that were very long -(about 12 days) with frequent spotting
7.Nausea and very low appetite
It took about a year and various tests to figure out what was wrong with me. In short my body had stopped producing progesterone. Because of this my body was unable to produce allopregnanalone which is needed to make nerve cells receptive to the GABA neurotransmitter. The GABA neurotransmitter is responsible for reducing excitement in nerve cells. A deficiency in GABA leads to panic, anxiety, muscle spasms and twitching and seizures. I had no idea at the time, but our own hormone production gets shut off while on birth control because it is over powered by the huge influx of synthetic hormones. It’s natural for normal hormone levels to be lower than what they were to begin with when you come off birth control, and it may take a while for your body to return to normal. For most people the affects of post birth control syndrome intensify 4-6 months after stopping birth control (as it did for me) In my case my body stopped producing progesterone all together because I had lost the ability to ovulate. Zero progesterone leads to low GABA, seizures, muscle issues and very severe panic and anxiety. Birth control also depletes nutrient stores in the body, in my case eight months of bleeding exaggerated nutrient loss as well. The combination of no progesterone and low magnesium, vitamin b6 calcium and lots of stress created the lovely cocktail of problems mentioned above.
I will stress that even though I know now that the implanon is one of the worst forms of hormonal birth control, this was a severe reaction. I reacted so horribly because I should have removed the implanon sooner and also because I am a very small, skinny person. Manufactures of birth control test their products on women of average weight and size. In Australia that is about 65kg. I was 42 kg when I got married and so the levels of synthetic progesterone in the implanon were much too high for me and completely deregulated my hormonal system.
I know that it is unlikely that many others will have the same experience as me. It’s natural to think “yes but that won’t happen to me” and it probably won’t, however I do hope my story will shed light on just how powerful synthetic hormones can be. Very little is actually known on how synthetic hormones work in the female body or how each women’s body will react. If I had read this story or something like it before I took the implanon I truly believe it may have changed my decision to use hormonal birth control all together and would have saved myself a lot of years of suffering. That is why I’m sharing this story, because maybe somebody out there needs to hear this, and maybe they won’t have to suffer like I did.