Contraception, hey ladies: what a bitch, amirite?! For much of my adult life, contraception has been either a pain in the arse, just another thing I have to remember, a cause of panic, the bane of my existence, or some combination of the above.
Obviously, no matter what type of sexual activity you're engaging in or who with, safe sex is essential. Sexually transmitted infections are here to stay, and it's vital to have honest discussions about safe sex with any partner you have. If you're a woman and you have sex with men (either frequently, sometimes or once every blue moon), you've thought about contraception and preventing pregnancy. And while until the day comes that men can fall pregnant - a day I sometimes wait for with bated breath - responsibility for preventing a pregnancy will fall largely to us, we've got an increasing number of options in terms of contraceptives.
Here at Settle Petal, we've been talking a bit about pregnancy prevention options lately, and through our shared discussions with each other and with our friends and family, it's become apparent that there's a lot some of us don't know. I don't know about you, but when I first became sexually active, my options were presented to me as the pill or male condoms, and it took a long time before I became aware that there's a lot more out there. With this in mind, here's our first on a series of articles on the options: the Implanon.
What even is it?
Implanon is a small flexible rod inserted under the skin of your upper arm, which secretes a small but steady dose of progesterone, one of the hormones present in the contraceptive pill. The rod is about three centimetres long and the width of a needle, so you can feel it under your skin when you touch it. Sounds weird and cyborg-like, right? Here it is, explained.
The benefits: No remembering to take a pill every day, is the big number one. Hurrah! Also, around 20% of women using Implanon will stop experiencing periods all together while they're on it, which is a pretty big plus as far as I'm concerned. The other big plus is that it lasts three years.
Potential drawbacks: Some women can experience side effects similar to those as the pill produces: headaches, mood swings, weight loss or gain. It can disrupt your cycle, so your periods can be all over the place - this can settle down after the first six months and it doesn't happen for everyone, but still something to consider. It also doesn't protect against STIs, so if you're not in a committed relationship you'd still need to think about a barrier method to use with new or occasional partners.
Availability: It's relatively easy to access, as long as you find someone who can insert it for you. Some GPs are trained in how to do it, but the easiest option is a sexual health or family planning clinic, where the staff do Implanon implants almost every day of the week. There are clinics like this in most cities and regional centres, and they are mostly very affordable.
Effectiveness: Implanon provides over 99% protection against pregnancy, so out of every 1000 users, less than one will fall pregnant in one year, while using it. These are pretty good odds for any contraceptive, and the Implanon has the added bonus of the user not needing to do anything to make it work at full efficacy - unlike the pill, for example, which needs to be taken at the same time of day and is interfered with by vomiting, diarrhoea, antibiotics and some other medications. Most pregnancies which occur when a woman's using Implanon are the result of it not being inserted properly, which is why it's important to find someone who is properly trained in doing it.
Cost: Can vary from provider to provider, but is very cheap when you consider it's three years worth of not worrying about unplanned pregnancy. The rod itself costs around $35 if you're on Medicare, and you'll often need to pay a consultation fee for a doctor to insert it. That's under $100 total for three years - the cost of about three rounds of pill prescription.
User review: I'd had good and bad reviews from friends of mine - one said it affected her moods negatively, while another told me it was the best thing since sliced bread. Like any contraceptive, it's different for different people and a lot depends on your own physical reaction to it. Here's one review from a user:
"I stopped taking the pill a couple of years ago because I didn't like how it affected my moods and my sex drive. My partner and I had been using condoms in the gap, but boy were we over it! I looked at my options and decided to try the Implanon - even though it's still hormonal, it has a lower dose than most contraceptive pills and was pretty hassle-free to get, so I thought I'd give it a try. I went to a Family Planning Queensland clinic and had a chat with a doctor, who ran through the possible side effects and talked to me about what I wanted out of contraception - why I didn't like the pill, what my childbearing intentions were, my relationship etc. I had to get a prescription for the rod and take it to a chemist to get it filled before my appointment for the insertion. The day I got it inserted I think it was about 15 minutes from when I walked into the clinic to when I walked out with it done - it was such a breeze! I got a local anaesthetic to numb the skin and then the doctor inserted it - my arm bruised up a bit (which the doctor had told me would happen), but it wasn't painful in the slightest. So far so good! My moods went up and down in the first couple of weeks, but that could have been my body getting used to the hormone; the clinic said one of the possible side effects were disrupted cycles, as your body gets used to it. But that's settled down now, only five weeks later, and I'm really happy with it so far. No more condoms? BEST." - Kate, Brisbane.
Have you used Implanon? What are your thoughts? Good, bad or indifferent? We'd love to know - and so, we bet, would our readers.