Warning: slightly graphic image of a wound, under a bandaid, but still a wound
I got the Nexplanon Implant and had it removed four months later
Due to my inability to access birth control as it was prescribed to me (prescribed for continuous use for mood and migraines) at any pharmacy where I previously lived (rural, isolated town). I opted to try out the Nexplanon hormonal birth control implant as a last ditch effort to get the hormones my body needed. I had the Nexplanon implanted October 18, 2019 and I had it removed January 30, 2020: just a little over four months. I did this for a variety of reasons but the primary reason was painful hormonal acne and pimples. Nexplanon destroyed my skin to the point where I didn’t take any pictures of my whole face for almost four months.
Why did I get the Nexplanon Implant?
I got the Nexplanon implant expecting it to be a solution to my current yet ongoing problem with access to birth control and was hoping it would be an alternative to birth control pills long term.
For whatever reason (probably living in a rural area with terrible healthcare), I could not get my birth control as prescribed (even though the previous town I had lived in had pharmacies that filled it no problem). After years of not being able to take my birth control as prescribed, I had enough and called my local clinic and within a day had an appointment to have the Nexplanon implant inserted. I had been researching Nexplanon and reading general “reviews” that complained of spotting, mood swings, etc. All things I was prepared to live with. I decided that the worst thing that could happen would be I would have to remove it.
When I went in to get the Nexplanon implant I signed the consent forms, got the implant (which is a small surgical procedure), and was told me not to shower until the next day. I sighed a massive sigh of relief that I had something that I at least didn’t have to refill every month. This is what the implant location looked like almost directly afterwards.
It looked like hell. So I started to look into after care because I realized the doctors who inserted it really didn’t tell me anything and I had failed to ask (always ask questions!). On Nexplanon’s official sight I read about the procedure and the after care. I noticed that it mentioned a compression bandage. I did not receive a compression bandage. I messaged my cousin who had the procedure and asked her if she had received a compression bandage after insertion, she said yes and she had to keep it on for a few days. So this was when I started to question whether the docs that did this really knew what they were doing (again, rural town, shit healthcare). Once the numbness went away I was in quite a bit of pain, and I have a relatively high pain tolerance. The bruising got worse and I was bruised for two months after the insertion (I only had the implant for four months!). I also have a nifty little scar there. The entire time I had the implant it would ache every now and then and sometimes it felt like I was being pinched from the inside of my arm. It was, to say the very least, not what I had expected.
My skin was the worst it had ever been in my life
About 3-4 weeks into having the implant I started to notice I was getting pimples more frequently and in spots I didn’t normally get pimples. I had recently gotten bangs so I figured my bangs were the culprit and started making sure they were clean all the time. Then I noticed my face was getting oily in my t-zone which is something I had never experienced before. I have always had clear, incredibly dry, sensitive skin. So the pimples and oiliness were weird (and new) for me. I consider myself blessed to have gone 24 years without experiencing real acne.
Then I started getting break outs all over my forehead and mouth and I couldn’t keep my skin from getting excessively oily. My glasses wouldn’t stay put on my nose because my t-zone was so oily. I was blotting oil away at least once an hour. I started taking into account everything that had changed in my life recently. Which was only the Nexplanon implant and bangs. I was already making sure my bangs didn’t touch my face at night and that they were kept clean during the day by washing them daily and not touching them. So I started googling whether Nexplanon can cause your skin to change. I found many sources saying that Nexplanon can cause acne (its also listed on the drug products potential symptom list, go figure).
I changed my skin care to compensate for the change in my skin
I found a post from a woman who had similar symptoms. Her “before” skin was exactly like mine: super dry, sensitive, and clear. Her fix was changing her skin care routine entirely. So I tried her skin care routine down to every last product for three months and did not have the same results (which retrospectively, of course not) aside from a little bit of control over the acne.
Regardless I was still getting a bunch of unmanageable breakouts, cystic acne, and painful blind pimples. The worst part of it all is that my forehead and chin became covered in acne scars. I think some small bumpy breakouts would have been ignorable but on top of acne breakouts I was getting one to two cystic pimples and blind pimples (a painful cyst or nodule under the skin) a week and they took one to two weeks to get rid of. Every spot of acne, pimple, and zit I got over those four months scarred.
This was too much for me. You can call me a wuss or shallow for caring this much about the appearance of my skin all you you want but this was my own personal hell. Even some facial expressions hurt because of the kind of zits were covering my face! When your face reminds you that there is are at least three painful horns growing out of our face every time you smile you are bound to feel like you’re being tortured.
I decided to have the Nexplanon removed as soon as I got back to my hometown
When I moved back in with my parents, I made an appointment with a new doctor to have it removed. It took longer for my doctor to remove the implant than it took the other doctors to insert it. It took two doctors to cut it out. And even though the removal procedure involved cutting and tugging; it healed within a few days.
It took nearly four months after the removal for my skin to return to normal and for the acne scars to fade. The scar I have on my arm is only a little bigger than the original scar from insertion, and is barely noticeable.
My final thoughts on my experience with the Nexplanon implant
I think the Nexplanon implant is probably a great option for a lot of people, especially since everyone uses birth control for different or a variety of reasons. For me, painful acne was a deal breaker and made the implant a bad option for me. I was desperate for an option that I didn’t have to fight my pharmacists over and didn’t completely look into all the potential symptoms.
I had decided spotting was something I could live with and hadn’t considered that there were other symptoms that might suck. I probably wouldn’t have gotten the implant if I knew cystic acne was a potential symptom. I probably wouldn’t have gotten the implant if I wasn’t desperate for access to birth control.
Desperation is what drives a lot of women to make choices in their reproductive health. We need to work collectively to protect and have full reproductive rights for women so that desperation is never a factor in what choices a woman makes for her sexual and reproductive health.
Support comprehensive sex education. Support Planned Parenthood. Support bodily autonomy for all women.