My poor Blog has been suffering from some severe neglect of late. Since having the implant fitted back in December, I have found it so difficult to write, my thoughts scattered and unfocused, my mental and physical energy depleted. Last week I made the important decision to have the implant removed. On Tuesday, a small incision was made in my arm and within seconds that tiny little rod of progesterone was deftly extracted from my life. For such a small thing it has made a massive impact. If I hadn’t been able to use Utovlan to control the flow, I would have bled heavily for the full five months of it being in my body. Every time I lowered the dose of Utovlan to test if the implant had ‘settled’ (the euphemistic term that my doctors constantly used to persuade me to hang on in there), sure enough I would start bleeding again. This would have been bad enough in itself but what has been far more alarming has been the implant’s impact on my mental and emotional health. In short I have felt dreadful. There were mornings when I sincerely regretted being awake, when I just couldn’t see the point of my existing. I have never felt like that ever before, not even at the lowest moments of my life. It was frightening. Since the removal of the implant my whole mental and emotional state has completely changed; within a day of its removal I could feel the lifting and brightening in my head; each day since then I have felt more and more like my old self; my energy increasing, my engagement with life deepening.
Many of the search engine terms coming into this Blog have been questions about both Utovlan and Implanon. Like me, lots of women are obviously struggling to cope, so to place a line beneath this, I just want to summarise my own experience in the hope that it might be helpful to others.
For some women, Implanon obviously works. For those women who have it fitted in order to help menstrual problems, you need to be aware that there is a good chance that these will be made far worse. The bleeding that I personally experienced on the implant was extremely heavy, to the point that I found it difficult to leave the house. Without the use of Utovlan – synthetic progesterone used to stem abnormal menstrual bleeding – life would have been pretty impossible to negotiate, not to mention exhausting. Also be aware that you might start to suffer from depression or moods swings. For me, these were severe. Judging by the many internet sites of women discussing their symptoms, I have not been alone in my experience. I also found that my sleeping patterns were disturbed. I don’t think I slept normally for the entire five months, waking many times in the night. Usually I have very vivid dreams but these stopped. Amazingly, this week of being implant free, I have started dreaming again and sleeping far better.
For women with dysfunctional uterine bleeding, I believe Utovlan to be really helpful, although I think it also has its difficult side-effects. For a while, I was blaming most of my symptoms on Utovlan, but over time, and having taken the pills last week without the implant, I have discovered that, for me, Implanon was the main culprit in making me feel poorly; Utovlan makes me a little manic but has been far more manageable than Implanon with regards to my emotional state. I would certainly use it again, for instance in delaying a period for going away on holiday (can’t tell you how many holidays have been ruined by my menstrual problems!) or for getting through unavoidable situations. I am viewing it as a temporary but useful ally.
I think that far too often, women with menstrual problems are shunted down the contraceptive route without first exploring more deeply the causes of their symptoms. As a form of contraception, Implanon is extremely good and if a woman is having no problems on it, that’s great. It might be added that if you are bleeding constantly and feeling very depressed, sex is truly the last thing on your mind, so it’s little wonder it works so well as a contraceptive device!!
In the week prior to removal, I started bleeding, even with the assistance of Utovlan. I haven’t actually stopped yet, yesterday being particularly difficult. I am hoping that eventually my body will settle back into its own natural cycle. I have finally been told by my doctor that I have a retroverted uterus (tipped backwards); this might certainly explain the severe menstrual pain I have suffered my entire life. It has also meant that my doctors now feel it important to check if the retrovertion is natural – i.e. the way I am built – or being caused by something else. At last, I might actually get some answers. It strikes me as rather depressing that despite the severity of my symptoms I have never been referred to a gynaecologist and have never been tested for endometriosis. I think after the misadventure of the last few months, it’s now about time that I was.
My advice to women who are suffering from negative symptoms since having Implanon fitted is to not be afraid to ask to have it removed, particularly if it is affecting your mental health and well-being. The makers of the implant themselves recommend that it is not fitted in women who have had a previous history of depression. I have been alarmed at how quickly my emotional well-being crumbled once the implant had been inserted. I have also found that since its removal, despite the heavy bleeding of the last few days, I have at least felt like I can cope psychologically. This alone is so vital if you are dealing with health issues; if both your body and mind become fragile, it is so much harder to retain one’s resilience.
The other point to remember is that devices that are fitted within the body like Implanon inevitably mean that your control is taken out of your hands if things go wrong; you are dependant on others to remove it, unlike taking a pill which you can simply stop. It’s important to think about this. Many doctors seem to want women to persist with the implant in the hope that symptoms will settle. If it hadn’t been for this, I would have asked for it to be removed long before it was. It’s important to remember that it is your body and if you truly feel the implant is making you unwell, you have every right to have it removed.
I had also been feeling a spiritual crisis over these last months. This I now put down to the implant too. It severed my connection to the world around me. I found it very hard to feel anything, as if my ability to be stimulated and moved by my environment had closed down. In the last week, I have been noticing how beautiful everything is, being touched and moved by what I am seeing. How awful that something that I was given to help me, actually cut me off from myself, my world and my sense of spiritual belonging.
I don’t write any of this to frighten or alarm. I think that things probably have to be tried and that each individual response will be different. And yet, I also think it is important to understand that there are very real risks. Despite the uncertainty I face at present, I feel so grateful to be implant free, to be liberated from the emotional and mental fog that has engulfed me for weeks.