I was in a tricky spot. It was mid-May and I was ending my job at the end of the month, which meant my health insurance was ending too. I was starting grad school in the fall and wanted to have birth control all set before then so that I wouldn’t have to worry about adjusting to a new birth control while adjusting to my new settings.
I had spent a couple of months researching my options for long-acting birth control. I had several friends who had IUDs. Almost all of them were happy with their choices, but I was a little squicked by their stories of how painful they found it, and I got nervous about some of the (very very rare) possible side effects. I was intrigued by the Nexplanon implant though. I liked the idea of just an injection-esque procedure, and I liked that I would be able to feel it just by touching my arm.
I set up an appointment with my OBGYN for my yearly well woman exam and to discuss birth control options and set up a second appointment for insertion. I brought up my desire for a long-acting birth control method with my nurse practitioner and she laid out my options. I told her I wanted the Nexplanon implant and she went over details and possible side effects, namely spotting, acne, weight gain, depressions and mood swings, scarring with removal, nausea, headaches. I had already read all of the horror stories online, so I knew what I was getting into. I’m the type of person who likes to know what the worst case scenario is, so reading about the things that could go wrong was comforting in some way, especially because I knew that if I was one of the unlucky few and those things started to go wrong for me, I could have it removed.
It was a two appointment process. After my first appointment where the implant was ordered, the nurse practitioner sent me to one of the other nurses to set up an appointment for the procedure. The other nurse told me that they would put in the implant between the 1st and 5th day of my period. Luckily I was expecting my period about two weeks later, which was the average wait time for the implant to be delivered at my OBGYN office. I also spoke with the other nurse who assured me that the loss of insurance shouldn’t impact the procedure, that they would bill it to my old insurance that day and that there would be no copay because of Obamacare (#ThanksObama). She told me to give her a call when my period started so we could schedule the insertion.
I got a call from the CVS Specialty about a week and a half after my consultation appointment. They went over some details with me, potential side effects again, if I was taking any other medication, and then they let me know that they would deliver the implant to my OBGYN at the beginning of the next week. The timing lined up perfectly for me, because I was expecting my period to begin right around then as well.
My period started right on time and I gave my OBGYN a call. They set up an appointment for me the very next day. They told me to take some ibuprofen beforehand to deal with the post-procedure soreness.
I showed up to my appointment and they took me back immediately. It was really short, it took less than 15 minutes and it went down like this: I was again told of the potential side effects, and was given some paperwork to sign that indicated that I discussed the procedure and the implant with my healthcare provider. I was also given some more literature to take home and read. The nurse practitioner then prepped the area of my upper inner arm where they were going to put the implant by disinfecting it. I was then given an injection of lidocaine, a local anaesthetic, so that my upper arm would be numb during implantation. My nurse practitioner warned me ahead of time that lidocaine tends to burn and hurt, and boy did it. TBH that was the most painful part of the process by far. I like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance, I have tattoos, I’ve had major surgery, but that totally hurt. After the injection, the nurse practitioner gave it a minute or two to kick in. While we were waiting, she prepped the Nexplanon injector. It looked a lot like a plastic click pen, and not all that threatening, But I still looked away during the procedure because ultimately I am a big baby. The nurse practitioner told me that I shouldn’t feel anything while the implant was being placed until the very end, where I would feel a little pinch. True to her word, I didn’t feel anything until the end where it hurt a teeny bit, but nothing like the lidocaine. Though I didn’t watch the Nexplanon implantation process, it only left a tiny hole at the injection site, so no huge wound to stitch up or anything.
Once the implant was in, she showed me where the implant was by placing my finger on it, and then applied a pressure dressing to the implant site. I was told that I could remove the pressure dressing after 24 hours, but to keep the injection site covered with a bandaid for the next week, and that I would probably bruise pretty badly. I walked out of the OB GYN paying nothing, and had no follow up appointment.
I definitely bruised. It looked like I had been punched in the inner arm for about a week. There really wasn’t any pain, aside from the soreness associated with the bruise. I avoided touching it at first because I had this fear I would push on it the wrong way and it would pop out of my skin. Needless to say, that never happened. After the week was up, I stopped putting on bandages and all that I was left with was a fading bruise and a small healing pinprick.
I’ve now had it almost a month and so far so good. My bruise has faded, I have no scarring, no side effects, and my new favorite freak out trick is having people touch it. I sometimes touch it, just to make sure it’s still there and it hasn’t broken or anything. I feel cyborg-esque, which is pretty cool. All in all, I’m very pleased, and I’m happy not to have to worry about pregnancy when I’m busy worrying about homework.