Women’s rights and reproductive justice have been front and center lately, particularly in the U.S. where the Trump administration appears to view them as irrelevant. Women across the world are now racing to the nearest clinic out of fear that their access to contraception will soon become a thing of the past. There’s a huge variety of contraceptive options: Pills, patches, vaginal rings, intrauterine devices, shots and even sponges that can help you prevent pregnancy. Choosing which form of contraception is right for you is becoming increasingly difficult as more and more options emerge.
How I Decided
About two years ago I desperately needed to make a decision about my method of contraception. I was on the pill but sometimes forgot to take the daily dosages and in need of a longer-term solution. I used Brook’s interactive tool to find out which methods could work for me based on my health and priorities. I scored highest in the contraceptive implant section and was a bit taken back because I only knew a handful of people who had these. My mind had been set on an Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) already because, well, they’re trendy.
When I went to see my doctor, her first recommendation was a contraceptive implant called Nexplanon—a thin plastic rod that is placed ‘discreetly’ under the skin of your inner, upper arm. It’s about the size of a bobby pin and provides up to three years of continuous birth control by releasing a slow, steady stream of hormones to control your fertility. I dropped my IUD dreams and went with Nexplanon.
The insertion was so easy. The entire process took less than 10 minutes and felt similar to having an IV put in. Afterwards, I had to wear a pressure bandage for 24 hours and I’ll admit that my upper arm was sore for a few days.
It’s worry-free. Once applied, Nexplanon is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. That means you don’t need any additional contraceptive side kicks—you’re all set!
My periods became lighter. While I was on the pill my periods were heavy and accompanied by days of severe cramping. With Nexplanon, I only get my period once every three months unaccompanied by my usual PMS symptoms, aside from a zit here and there. My periods do last a couple days longer than before, but since I don’t get them very often it’s not a bad exchange rate.
You don’t have to go to a shop or pharmacy. This convenience was a high priority for me considering I was about to move abroad. The idea of having a language barrier between me and my contraception made me uncomfortable. It felt better knowing I was already taken care of, birth control wise.
It’s reversible. Nexplanon can be removed at any time during the 3-year period and you can become pregnant as early as one week after the removal. While I plan to have my implant in for the full duration, it’s nice to know that I have these options.
The implant only lasts 3 years, so definitely not as long as a Trump presidency, especially if, God forbid, he gets a second term. Other contraceptive options, such as an IUD, last between 5-10 years and therefore work better as longer-term alternatives.
There’s irregular bleeding or spotting. Typically this occurs during the times when I would have been on my monthly period, but I’ve also had days where it just… happens. It’s getting better the longer I have the implant in, but it can be an issue at times.
No STI protection. It protects you from pregnancy, but unfortunately not sexually transmitted infections. You’ll need to use a condom as additional support if you want protection against STIs.
It’s kind of weird. If I touch the spot where it is on my upper arm, I can literally feel the rod. This, in theory, is great because then you know it’s secure and working, but it also grosses me out a little. It hurts when people grab my arm roughly and/or bump into it—nothing crazy painful, but enough to be annoying.
If you’re down for an implant, not getting pregnant and a shorter working timeframe, then I’d definitely recommend Nexplanon. However, if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that you should make contraceptive choices based on your own body and wellbeing, not on what the coolest method of the moment is. I highly recommend checking out the Brook’s My Contraception Tool before making any decisions.