Health

Contraceptive implant Implanon: Your experiences

  • 5 January 2011
  • From the section Health
Contraceptive device being inserted
The Department of Health says around 1.4 million women have used Implanon since 1999

Nearly 600 women have become pregnant despite using a popular contraceptive implant, a health watchdog has said.

There have also been more than 1,600 reports of adverse reactions to the Implanon device, which is designed to prevent pregnancy for three years. The NHS has been forced to pay compensation to several women because of the failures, Channel 4 News reported.

The implant maker, MSD, said no contraceptive was 100% effective.

BBC News website readers have been sharing their experiences with the contraceptive device:

Jennifer, County Durham

I had the implant put in December 2009. The pain was intense and the bruising covered my whole upper arm.

When I pointed this out to the professionals they told me this was perfectly normal and the bruising would go down in a few days. It took two weeks.

It felt too close to the surface of the skin and itched a lot so I finally decided I wasn't going to be fobbed off anymore and wanted it to be reinserted. I had used it before in 2000, just after the device came out, and had absolutely no problems with it.

Before I got the chance to make the appointment I found out I was pregnant.

Every professional I spoke to kept telling me and convinced me that I must have been pregnant before it was put in and some were even quite defensive and abrupt.

I had just started a relationship which was the reason for getting the implant to begin with. I am now a very proud mother of a beautiful little girl and me and her dad are enjoying every minute.

We are lucky to have accepted this and seen the good that has come out of this but there are many that clearly haven't. I think it is only right that compensation was paid out and don't always listen to what you are told. You know your own body and if it doesn't feel right persevere until you sort it. I would like to say I wish I had sooner but I may not have my little girl.

Kimberly, Devon

I was fitted with the Implanon back in August 2008 and fell pregnant with my daughter in early May, so it failed me after only seven months.

My periods had stopped after only two months of having it fitted so I had no idea I was pregnant until I was 31 weeks - it was a massive shock!

The doctors then tried to remove the implant but they couldn't find it. I was sent for an ultrasound to try and locate it with no success.

To this day its still "floating" around in my body. I was told it wouldn't do any harm to my daughter.

She is a very healthy one-year-old, but I did worry a lot at the time. Having only nine weeks to prepare for a baby I thought I couldn't have was a big worry, let alone the added stress of wondering what the Implanon was doing to my body - and if it had effects on my unborn child.

It was worrying how little the doctors knew about people who had conceived on the Implanon.

Just crossing my fingers for the best was all I could do. I didn't ask for compensation as I my main worry at the time was the baby.

Emily, Wiltshire

I became pregnant two months after the Implanon wasn't inserted properly. I told the doctor I couldn't feel it in my arm but the doctor said it was okay.

I believe this isn't an effective form of contraception as human error is too high and it devastated me - I was about to go to university.

I was told I wouldn't get periods, so didn't realise I was pregnant until I got morning sickness.

I was panicky and couldn't understand how I could be pregnant.

I successfully claimed compensation. I had an ultrasound and they found out it wasn't in my arm at all, but it was a lengthy process as the procedure wasn't properly documented.

And compensation may not be the case for everyone. Also, the issue is so much bigger than money and one of painful decisions that shouldn't need to be made.

Gemma Byrne, Liverpool, Merseyside

I am an Implanon user and feel slightly cheated that I was expressly told that this device is 99.9% successful in preventing pregnancy.

However, there are certain requirements to a successful insertion and I feel my local student health care provider met those, such as insertion on the correct day and teaching me to make sure that the device is in and how to check it hasn't moved around.

She made sure I had it fit correctly and then taught me how to find it - it took me around five minutes to find it and from there I knew where to look for it.

I know that this device is having an effect on my cycle and I am happy to continue using it.

In some ways I feel that these unfortunate women who resulted in unwanted pregnancies should have taken it upon themselves to find out all the facts prior to insertion.

I was expressly recommended to read up on the device and speak to other users.

I was also told that I had to have it on the first day of my cycle and continuing taking the contraceptive pill for some time.

This was to help me feel comfortable with what I was doing and to understand that I had a responsibility to make sure that the device was in fact there and having some effect.

Katherine, Surrey

I strongly feel that the success relies upon the doctors and nurses fitting it.

In my case, I had a fantastic doctor who checked the device was in my arm, and made me check too, bandaged me up so well that I had no scarring or bruising, and prepared me for what the implant would do to my body.

While women have become pregnant, I think the issue we should focus on here is that, firstly, they are difficult to put in so you need to check yourself if it has been inserted, and that in the first month or two of it being fitted, it is advised to use other non-hormonal contraception, such as condoms, while your body is adapting to the new hormones.

This is obviously not advised strongly enough and, until further research has continued and my own personal experience changes, I stand by that Implanon is an effective contraception.

Other comments:

I had one in following the birth of my second son. Worst mistake I've made! It was incredibly painful to get it in my arm, no one seemed to have a clue about them either besides one trained person at my surgery. I never lost the sensation of it being there in my arm and so every time I used the muscle (as when picking up my children) I could feel it there and it was very uncomfortable. After a year I was fed up and wanted to have it taken out but no one at my surgery was able to do it (I had moved to a new area) and I had to organise it somewhere else and travel to have it done. Surprisingly only one person here knew how to do it as well, so my appointment was turned into a training session for several nurses. The stitches were put on wrong amongst all the gossiping/"training" so the wound was painful and never healed properly and I have a scar. Besides a complete takeover of my hormones and a dramatic weight gain (which I'm afraid to say a lot of women expect from contraceptives in general anyway) the lack of training, awareness and experience that medical professionals have for this method was ridiculous. I will never use it again and have already recommended my girlfriends do the same. Jenny Knight

I have had the implant for seven years with no problems. How can someone not realise the implant is not in their arm? It's like a large match stick under your skin! My GP made sure I could feel it and showed me the correct position for it. And as for damages money? Nothing is ever 100%. You wouldn't sue a condom factory if one split. Too much of a compensation society. Katy Tyler, Brotton, North Yorkshire

My implant lasted a year then I began to have awful "spotting" periods and bleeding during and after intercourse. I had it removed and then heard that with people I knew it only lasted a year for them as well. I really don't recommend it at all as removal and insertion can be quite traumatic. Vikki Pullen, Lincoln

I find it very difficult to believe that people didn't realise it wasn't in their arm, or for the doctor/nurse who inserted it, as I remember distinctively the doctor showing me where it was under my skin and suggested for me to feel it. I have had a few issues with the implant but these have been addressed by doctors I have seen and I am confident that it is one of the better forms of contraception on the market. Alex Theaker, Shillington, Herts

Although I did not fall pregnant, I did have the Implanon removed after a year of near constant periods. Ann Archer, Pencaitland, East Lothian

I'm into my fourth year of using Implanon and feel it has greatly improved my life. With my first implant I experienced light menstrual bleeding consistently for the first couple of months, which was resolved easily by taking the pill for two months. The removal and re-insertion has left a scar which is so faint I only know where it is by feeling for the implant under the skin. The nurse who has fitted both my implants is excellent and my advice to women contemplating a contraceptive device is that you should be able to feel it when you apply light pressure to your skin. My Implanon has stopped my periods all together and given me a new lease of life. I'm twenty-eight years old, healthy, active and empowered by this method of contraception. I thoroughly recommend it. Lauren Birdsall, Loughborough

I had the implant put in and had a severe reaction, my arm became inflamed and itchy and sore. I now have a scar from the implant being inserted and removed. Also my doctors surgery effectively refused to take it out when I requested not only that but I was not happy with having it done in the first place I felt their tactics were forceful and unnecessary. They gave limited information with regards to possible side effects and talking me through the procedure. I was also told I was not allowed to stay on the pill I was on as it was dangerous but immediately after the implant was removed I was put back on the same pill! They have wasted my time and I have also had to take unpaid time off work as a result. Katy Lee, Bradford

I am now using my third Implanon device,the first having been inserted soon after the birth of my third child in December 2002. The only issue I have ever had was the removal of the second implant early in 2006 - it was in my arm at an odd angle and difficult for the doctor to retrieve. Twenty minutes and a small scar later and all was fine. I can feel the implant safely in my arm so I know it is there. I think it is a great thing! Joanne, Dartford, Kent

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