In which I get a new medicine

Like many women, I take some sort of medicine for birth control. And no, before you run away, this post will not be focusing on that. Not that it’s any of your business, but I take this particular type of medicine so that I don’t get deathly ill for several days each month. The “no babies” thing is just a nice bonus.
Anyhoo, for years I was on the depo-provera shot. This only requires visiting a nurse practitioner once every 3 months and getting an injection in the top of your glut muscle. This is preferable to the pill, which you have to remember to take at the same time every day. I tried that in the past, but with my irregular work schedule, it was a challenge (even if I set an alarm on my phone). The only problem with the shot was that I gained weight that I just could not lose. I eat pretty healthily, I go to the gym usually 4 times a week, and I hike in the woods and walk around town often. But even after months of this routine, I still had a muffin top that I just couldn’t get rid of. So I looked into the Nexplanon implant.

I’m writing this blog today because though I had heard of the implant, I didn’t know anyone who had been on it, and neither did any of the people I talked to. So I think it’s not a very common form of birth control.

This is a tiny plastic rod that is surgically implanted in the inside of your upper arm, and gives you 3 years’ worth of medicine. THREE YEARS. Not only can I completely forget about it, but I don’t have to pay for it ever again. I did a lot of research, and a consultation with the doctor at Planned Parenthood (because they are awesome and I love them) and decided this was the right way to go. I asked of course if you could see the implant, and they said no. I asked if I could get tattooed in that spot, and I was the first person to ever ask that, so they would have to get back to me. I waited the set amount of time after the consultation, and was still ready to go for it. They told me to take the day off from work, especially since in my work I use my arms more than anything else.

When I got there, they asked if I had any questions. I asked again about the tattoo, and was told that it should be fine, but I should use my own judgement according to how light- or heavy- handed my artist is. I have many blank spots on my skin, so even if I have to wait 3 years to get a tattoo in that one particular spot, it’s not a deal breaker.

I knew that it was a minor surgical procedure I was about to get done, but I didn’t realize how involved it was still going to be. I had to sign all sorts of forms, and the doctor was very strict on the sterilization of everything. They actually had to start the prep again at one point because the assistant handed something to the doctor that she wasn’t supposed to touch. Everyone was wearing gloves and the surfaces were covered in sterile towels, but the doctor was adamant. I don’t mind that, because the less chance of grisly infection, the better. In fact, most of the side effects that I had to acknowledge as possibilities were from the procedure (infection) and not from the actual medicine.

I did not watch them once they actually began the procedure, because I do not do well with things like that. But I could feel it. They first gave me a shot of local anesthetic, which in itself hurt and burned a little bit. Then they literally sliced my arm open and inserted a matchstick -sized piece of plastic. A coupla stitches were made, and various sterile bandages were applied. I was given instructions that the outer bandage (a stretchy plasticy cloth type thing that wrapped around my entire arm) was to stay on for 24 hours, and the butterfly shaped steri-strips were to stay in place for three days. Regular bandaids could be used to cover it for as long as I felt necessary. I was also told to take it easy for a few days, as my arm was definitely going to hurt. Showering was fine, but no swimming or submerging my open wound in water. More instructions on what to watch for, and when to call them back if one of those side effects did happen, and then they sent me on my merry way.

My arm did hurt that day and the next, very much. More than a fresh tattoo. There was a constant ache, and I could not wait to get the outer bandage off, because it was VERY tight. Once the outer bandage was off, however, I wished it was back on. Like a fresh tattoo, you never notice how often you hit your body on other things. You wouldn’t think the inside of your upper arm would make a lot of contact with the outside world, but wait until it swells up and is extremely tender. Even brushing the sore spot against my own boob caused me to yelp out in pain. But you know what, it healed normally and the pain stopped completely within a week. I was still nervous about going to the gym, but I think part of that was psychological, since I was aware of the implant near my muscle and was so sure I could feel it straining.

As of this writing, it’s been exactly a month since I got that procedure done. There is no pain at all anymore. There is a small round scar from the implant site, but it’s not actually noticeable to most people. I can feel the implant itself if I touch my arm, which I have mixed emotions about. As for tattooing, I think I’ll go ahead and wait until it’s out to get any ink in that spot. If I change my mind, however, the implant can be removed at any time. I just have to go through a similar (minor) procedure.

Here are the pictures. I didn’t take any until now because frankly, it was gross. I didn’t want to look at it, nor subject any of you to it. Also, it’s really hard to take a picture of yourself in this manner. Go on, try it.

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The first picture shows the placement of the site on my arm. If you look closely, you can see the spot just above my finger. The actual rod that you can feel extends towards my armpit from there a few centimeters, maybe an inch. The second picture is a close up of the scar, and also goosebumps because I was cold. I think it looks redder in the picture than it does in real life. Nobody has ever asked me about it – one because it’s in an odd spot that most people don’t usually look at or see, and two because that’s a weird thing to ask someone.

As for the cost. I am glad I have insurance. (Thanks Obama!) According to my insurance’s website, they were billed $1309. Because this is something that insurance covers (probably partly due to the fact that I’ve tried other medicines), I was told I owe $8.09. That’s right, EIGHT DOLLARS. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s a pretty damn good deal on my end. I can easily spend more than that on lunch, and I don’t have to pay anything more for three years. That’s totally worth it, besides the fact that if I didn’t have it I would be missing out on several days’ income each month, and/or all the costs that are associated with pregnancy and raising a tiny human. So yeah, I’ll pay the $8. If I didn’t have insurance, that would be another story. I certainly couldn’t afford $1300 up front, but maybe if they let me do payments…. Anyway, I’m glad I don’t have to even think about the what ifs.

How do I feel? Well, I mentioned that after the first few days, there is no pain. I haven’t noticed any hormonal side effects either. I am positive that it is because I have already been on this medicine for years, just at a different dose. If I went to the implant straight from the pill (or nothing), there would probably be more for me to write here. But thank goodness on that. I still notice the scar, but if I wear long enough sleeves, even that is not an issue.

I hope this has been helpful and informative. I am not a doctor of course, so if you are considering getting this medicine, definitely talk to someone who is. I can answer any questions you have, based on only my experience. But I think that since my experience has been a good one, this blog is a good blanket to start with in your research.

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