A. Because I was reading this question uncaffeinated, at six in the morning, my brain instantly went to visions of aliens and silicone boobs, a cacophony of all sorts of strange things. However, once the black liquid gold kicked in, it became clear that you were referring to Implanon: the birth control device that goes underneath your skin. While still relevant in the realm of aliens and silicone breasts, it made much more sense, given the context of the actual question. Yes children, sometimes even the naked lady on the Internet can get confused.
Now, for the readers out there who might not be familiar with this little device, Implanon (also known by its sister name, Nexplanon) is a sub-dermal rod-like birth control that is inserted in the under skin of a woman’s arm. The 4cm long and 2mm wide rod contains etonorgestrel and progestin, and acts as a long-lasting, yet reversible contraceptive. Nexaplon has made itself even easier to use long-term, by containing a small amount of barium sulphate, thus making it detectable in X-rays. Both are inserted with an applicator that places the rod “into the subdermal tissue on the inner side of the arm between the biceps and triceps muscles.” The birth control is effective for three years before it needs to be replaced; however, it can be removed at any point if one is having negative side-effects or wants to become pregnant. On average, most women’s fertility returns to a normal cycle within six weeks.
Plus, the Implanon has a fantastic failure rate, and by fantastic, I mean .05%. This number places the Implanon with a failure rate that is better than both tubal sterilization (0.5%) and IUDs (0.2-0.8%). Which brings us to your question, fellow Implanon user. Is it safe to have unprotected sex (barrier-free, I can presume) when you are on Implanon? The answer is yes, and also slightly no. Now here is why.
Implanon, like most hormonal birth controls, is meant to go along with your cycle, which means, you most likely get it inserted within the first five days of your period. Normally, this means that you are protected from pregnancy immediately, however, like all things in life, there is always a small failure rate, so if you want to be on the super safe side, you can use a back up method for the first week. However, given Implanon’s regular failure rate, when used properly, you can have barrier free sex, and more than likely be fine while protecting against pregnancy. Now, if you have the Implanon inserted after or before those five days, you will absolutely need to use a back up barrier method to protect from pregnancy, while the Implanon gets in sync with your cycle. Typically, it is recommended that you use a back-up barrier method for at least one week, two if you want to be on the super, duper, uber, safe side. Uber, super, duper.
Now my darling, I’m not sure where you are at with your Implanon device. There is the chance you have actually had it longer than the initial implantation period and are just asking if you can generally have barrier-free sex while on Implanon. The answer to this is yes! If you are in the type of relationship where you and your partner are able to use only hormonal birth control, than Mazel Tov, my love. Like all things, hormonal birth control only protects against pregnancy. If you want to avoid those stickier little things, like STIs and HIV, always go the route of barrier method. These, my dear, are the rules of the road.
Now that we have discussed the good parts of Implanon, let’s curve over into the not so good. Like all things, it does have its other side effects — like getting lost in bodies. The Week reports that:
There have been some cases in which the implant never got released from the pre-loaded applicator, so the women thought they had birth-control protection, but didn’t. In other cases, doctors have put implants in too deep in the patient’s arm for it to do much good. There have also been cases in which Implanon implants have come loose from the fat that is meant to keep them in place, and migrated to other spots in the body.
Now, before all the fact checkers get up on my behind, please know that these numbers? Are low. Like maybe a bit too low to be doing an all-exclusive story on it, as if it were affecting everyone who got the Implanon. But, it does represent a possibility — an extreme one, but again, a possibility. Knowing all possibilities when you choose birth control should go without question when considering what you want to do to your body — even if it is unlikely to happen, it’s still good to know that it can. Now, what you will most likely experience? Weight gain, nausea, pain and bruising at the insertion site, etc. Everyone reacts differently to hormonal birth control, and what may be a lifesaver for one, can end up nearly killing another. The best you can do is try, try, try again, and see which birth control works best for you and your needs.
But until then, happy period sex my darling! May your bloody days be filled with only the best of the pregnancy-free sexual variety.