Something a little different today but something I feel is important to share because my doctor never told me.
Women’s health is important and yet sometimes it’s still taboo, so let’s chat.
Being proactive about all aspects of our overall health should be easy with the help of qualified doctors and medical staff.
You trust their advice because, well it’s their job to give you all the facts that best suit your situation.
But the dangers begin when you don’t ask or don’t know to ask certain questions and your doctor assumes you know all the facts.
I believe this was my mistake when I went to my usual GP three years ago to talk about getting the Implanon.
I didn’t do my own research beforehand thinking my doctor will tell me all I need to know.
(The only thing I did have an idea of was that hormonal contraception can cause weight gain).
This just wasn’t the case. My Doctor only told me how it gets inserted, how effective it is, and that most women who have it experience little problems.
The only question I could think to ask at the time was will it affect my fertility once removed. The answer was “no, it won’t make a difference to your fertility levels once removed. If you were going to have problems you’ll have them either way”.
With that being my only concern and no further information offered by the doctor I felt I had no reason to doubt that this was the right choice for me. With referral in hand I was off to a specialist to have it inserted.
Now before administering any form of pharmaceutical contraception the doctor should check with you quickly on a few points, are you allergic to any medications, are you taking a course of anitbiotics or other medication, if you are currently pregnant and more specific to the Implanon; do you have/had breast cancer. These weren’t asked and I was ushered straight into the procedure room. The procedure itself was pretty straight forward and the doctor was off on his way as soon as it was done. The nurse was the one who advised me that I may experience some redness, swelling and or bruising around the entry site on my arm and that most women usually have it removed after 1 year rather the the full three years due to complications.
What? Complications? Like what? No one told me!
She said she herself had hers removed after a year because she couldn’t deal with the irregular heavy bleeding any more, but that it doesn’t happen to everyone.
Oh that’s all, I can deal with that, so off I went.
For the first 2 years everything was fine, my period became less frequent which is normal and I didn’t have a single problem.
I went the full three years that the Implanon works but it was in the final year that things change.
At the time I didn’t associate what I was experiencing with the Implanon but as time went on and with a new doctor I realised what was going on.
The first thing I and my partner noticed was my mood change.
From being pretty happy go lucky my mood would swing like an awful pendulum.
I would be content one minute and snippy the next. Relaxed and happy to really dark and brooding.
I honestly just thought it was me and didn’t do anything about it. I knew I should see a mental health specialist but didn’t.
Over time this just grew worse and worse. It got to the point where I would cry every day, usually when I was by myself on my drive home from work.
Sometimes there wasn’t any reason behind it, I would just burst into tears. Other times I would think about something minor that was then amplified in my mind and become really depressed.
Some days, getting myself out of bed seemed like the most challenging thing in the world.
Other days my mind would go to some very dark places I never want experience ever again.
This was what scared me into getting help.
The other thing I noticed was the pain.
I would have sporadic violent abdominal pains that would vary from being so brief I’d question whether it even happened or not, to being doubled over in pain.
Again being the fool that I am, I ignored it.
So after chatting to my sister I decided to go to a doctor. Thinking my symptoms sounded a little like endometriosis- I had these random abdominal pains, I would bloat like a puffer fish, I was depressed and I was tired all the time, I needed help. It never crossed my mind that my Implalon could be behind it all.
The doctor sent a referral to the local hospital for a laparoscopy (an investigative surgery performed on the uterus), and to a specialist for an ultrasound.
I had the ultrasounds and a blood test that day as well as quick discussion about the state of my mental health. She asked me straight away was I taking any form of hormonal contraception, I told her I had the implant. She advised that the implant may or may not be the cause of my mental health issues, there was only one way to find out. She also asked what it is I wanted to do. I could begin medication and therapy, however there would be no way of knowing the direct cause. Or I could have the Implanon removed and see what happens.
Unfortunately this procedure wasn’t performed at the clinic so I went elsewhere. In the meantime my referral was rejected on the grounds that the hospital needed a copy of the the blood test results, ultrasound and a most recent pap test.
I was pretty peeved that she didn’t think that these would be necessary and that I had waited weeks for nothing and would have to start the process all over again.
I went back to my regular clinic that has all my medical records, I thought this would be a much wise choice and would save time on any back and forth that may have occurred between the two clinics.
I met with a new doctor who informed me that the Implanon only releases a minute amount of hormones so it’s not likely that it could be the cause of the changes to my mental state. It was recommended we create a mental health plan and the doctor would book my in with the clinic’s onsite counsellor. This didn’t match the research I had done on forums beforehand, with women discussing their symptoms not doctors reciting pharmaceutical information. So it didn’t sit right with me but I agreed that if this was thought to be best that we should go ahead.
I had the Implanon removed, and we next discussed the pain I was experiencing. Straight away the doctor was quick to dismiss my concerns and replace them with new ones. It was suggested that I could have a gluten intolerance and asked that I get a copy of that blood test I did as well as keep a food diary for 30 days.
So I got the test results and brought them along when I went back to get my stitches removed. The test results showed I was perfectly healthy except for being almost dangerously Vitamin D deficient. The food plan was never mentioned and gluten intolerance can often give a false negative. My mental health plan all but forgotten and I’m guessing I was never booked in with a counsellor. After I informed the doctor about some other issues, it was advised that I begin seeing the female doctor to have a pap test.
So I was palmed off to someone else and by this point I was feeling more than a little peeved. I understand that I am not the only patient a doctor will see and it would be hard to keep track of every patient but I was so frustrated, I just wanted answers.
So while I waited the three weeks for my appointment with yet another doctor, I noticed two things.
My mental state had improved, the mood swings had lessoned, the crying stopped and thankfully, no more dark thoughts. Good news!
I also noticed that my abdominal pains had become less frequent; not gone entirely but a huge improvement.
The next thing to do was the pap test which came back normal but I did experience pain in my abdomen when pushed down on which the doctor was initially a little concerned with.
We had a chat about those pains and she explained that very often women who have the Implanon may experience phantom menstrual cramps around the time when they would normally be due for a cycle. This made a lot of sense but unfortunately for my own piece of mind, I wasn’t paying enough attention to when exactly they were occurring to seal this theory in concrete.
All I know is, in the first two months after I had the implant out the pains became less frequent and now that it has been four months they have completely stopped. I was informed that the altered mental state may also be attributed to it if this is unusual and there are no other contributing factors. Again in the four months since it’s been out I have noticed a vast improvement so I’m going to say it was influencing my mental health. I’m still always tired but like the doctors have suggested, this could just be my own fault for staying up late.
After doing some research I have seen a lot of info guides on the Implanon like Planned Parenthood (USA) Family Planning, (AUS) making little to no mention about the mental health side affects but plenty of women on forums like The Truth About Implanon suggesting otherwise.
My advice would be to do you research, have a good read through the official Implanon website (being in Australia I didn’t find until recently) which lists all my symptoms. Ask lots of questions and don’t worry about sounding like a hypochondriac to your doctor. If you notice any changes in yourself go seek medical help straight away! Trust your instincts, I don’t want to turn people away from going to a doctor in saying that they don’t always get things right. Sometimes getting a second opinion is best.
If I didn’t get a second opinion I would have just blindly had a surgery I didn’t need which could have been detrimental to my health.
Thanks for reading, I know it was a long one! Hopefully this will help you in making a more informed decision.
And please remember, mental health is serious and it should never be ignored.
Have you experienced something like this? It’s important we get a conversation going, you may not be along in what you are experiencing.
Miss Dottie DeMure