Diseases / Lifestyle / Physical / Series

Contraception: The Implant

Have you ever wondered about a time when microchips could be implanted under the skin instead of cell phones or as tracking devices? Yes, that does sound like the plot of an apocalyptic sci-fi film but when it comes to birth control, the future is here.

The contraception implant is a flexible 40mm tube that is inserted into the upper arm by a doctor and lasts for three years.  When implanted correctly it is over 99% effective. The high efficiency of this kind of contraception is as a result of the fact that it continuously releases the hormone progesterone, which is the hormone factor commonly and mistakenly missed on the pill.

Implanon Nxt, the implant brand used by the South African Health Department

Implanon Nxt, the implant brand used by the South African Health Departmeny and mistakenly missed on The Pill.

The constant release of hormones stops the release of an egg, thickens the mucus from the cervix and makes the lining of the womb thinner so that a fertilised egg cannot be supported.

Carla Kirk-Cohen, a third-year Computer Science student at Rhodes University, had opted for the implant and says, “Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic in the area where it is going to go. For those who hate needles, this is not the best. The implant comes with an applicator which is used to pierce a hole in your skin (only about 4mm wide) and then push the implant in. This doesn’t hurt as much as you’d think.”

In South Africa the implant is available for free. This has been the case since February 2014. The brand of implant currently used by doctors and clinics is Implanon Nxt.

“The implant seemed like a no fuss option, and there’s no way I could forget to take it (like the pill) because it would be in my arm,” explained Kirk-Cohen. “When you’re having sex often, paying R30 a pop for three Durex condoms is not viable.”

For those who are not concerned with the transmission of STI’s the sole use of implant can be a better choice.  “I’d been on the pill before I got the implant so I knew that I preferred sex without condoms. We’d both been tested, we’re responsible and all that,” said Kirk-Cohen

The side effects of the implant are irregular bleeding, called ‘spotting’, in the beginning. This should regulate over time. This occurs as a reaction by the body to the change in hormones.

“I noticed that my skin became more prone to bad breakouts and my hair started to have problems with dryness and frizzing,” said Kirk-Cohen.

Normally such side effects go away after a year as the body gets used to the continuous addition of hormones. But, negative side-effects should always be brought to the attention of your doctor.

Coming up next week: The female condom

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