Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Nexplanon Bad For You?

Also Known As: Etonogestrel implant



Short answer

Nexplanon, a progestin-only contraceptive implant, is a safe and effective form of long-term birth control for many women. Common side effects include menstrual changes, bruising at the insertion site, and potential weight gain or emotional changes. The risk of serious complications like blood clots is low. Removal is straightforward, and fertility usually returns quickly afterward. Mental health effects vary; ongoing dialogue with healthcare providers is advised.



Long answer

Understanding Nexplanon: Uses and Mechanism of Action

Nexplanon is a small, flexible arm implant that serves as a long-term birth control method. It is a type of contraceptive known as a subdermal progestin implant. Before delving into its safety profile, let's first understand its intended use and how it works within the body.

Primary Use:

  • Contraception: Nexplanon is designed to prevent pregnancy. It is over 99% effective, making it one of the most reliable forms of reversible birth control currently available. The implant is suitable for use by most women of reproductive age, offering continuous contraception for up to three years.

Mechanism of Action:

  • Progestin Release: Nexplanon releases etonogestrel, a type of progestin hormone. This steady release into the bloodstream maintains adequate hormone levels to prevent pregnancy.
  • Ovulation Inhibition: The primary way that Nexplanon prevents pregnancy is by inhibiting ovulation. When ovulation does not occur, there is no egg available for fertilization by sperm.
  • Changes in Cervical Mucus: Nexplanon also causes thickening of the cervical mucus. This makes it more difficult for sperm to enter the uterus, providing an additional barrier against pregnancy.
  • Endometrial Alteration: The presence of etonogestrel may lead to changes in the lining of the uterus (endometrium), which reduces the likelihood of implantation should fertilization of an egg occur.

Manufacturers and healthcare providers typically recommend Nexplanon as a set-and-forget form of contraception that does not require daily adherence like oral contraceptives. The insertion process is quick, and once in place, it requires little to no maintenance.

When evaluating a drug's mechanism of action, it is critical to refer to clinical research to ensure a comprehensive understanding. According to a study published in Contraception, the effectiveness and consistent release rate of Nexplanon are supported by extensive clinical trials. This research positions Nexplanon as a highly reliable contraceptive when inserted correctly and within the appropriate timeframe (Reference: "Efficacy, safety, and tolerability of Implanon: a review of the literature," Contraception, 2006).

Furthermore, insights from expert opinions, such as those from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), endorse the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives like Nexplanon. They advocate for these options due to their high effectiveness and satisfaction rates among users, as highlighted in ACOG's practice bulletin on long-acting reversible contraception (ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 186, October 2017).

Understanding the uses and mechanisms by which Nexplanon operates is key for individuals considering this birth control method. It paves the way for informed decision-making, balancing benefits with potential risks.

Short-Term Side Effects and Complications

When considering any form of contraception, it's crucial to be aware of the potential short-term side effects and complications that may arise, especially with an implantable device like Nexplanon. The following details are based on clinical data and the experiences of healthcare professionals and patients who have used this contraceptive method.

Common Short-Term Side Effects

Many women experience immediate side effects following the insertion of Nexplanon. These typically include:

  • Injection Site Reactions: Redness, bruising, pain, itching, or swelling at the site where Nexplanon was inserted are commonly reported.
  • Bleeding Irregularities: Changes in menstrual bleeding patterns are expected. This may range from longer or shorter bleeding episodes, increased or decreased frequency of bleeding, or complete cessation of periods.
  • Headaches: Some women report experiencing headaches after Nexplanon insertion.
  • Weight Gain: Although controversial, some individuals report modest weight gain after receiving Nexplanon.
  • Emotional Changes: Mood swings, anxiety, and depression may occur, although it is often difficult to establish a direct causative relationship.
  • Acne: Changes in skin condition, such as the development or worsening of acne, have been reported.
  • Breast Tenderness: Breast pain or tenderness is a potential short-term side effect.

Potential Complications

While less common, there are some potential complications associated with Nexplanon that require prompt medical attention:

  • Improper Insertion: If Nexplanon is not inserted correctly, it could lead to nerve damage or migration of the implant.
  • Infection: Anytime the skin barrier is breached, there is a risk of infection. Signs of infection include persistent redness, swelling, warmth, or discharge from the insertion site.
  • Vascular Injury: Rarely, the insertion of Nexplanon may injure nearby blood vessels.
  • Device Breakage: On very rare occasions, the device may break or bend while in the arm, which could complicate its removal.

It is important to note that the likelihood and severity of side effects can vary greatly among individuals. For example, a study published in Contraception revealed that bleeding changes were the most commonly cited reason for implant removal, indicating the variable tolerance for this particular side effect. Meanwhile, another study in the same journal highlighted that while weight gain is a reported side effect, the average change in body weight after one year of Nexplanon use was less than 1 kg, suggesting that other factors may also play significant roles.

Each woman's experience with Nexplanon can differ greatly, and while some may experience minimal side effects, others might encounter more disruptive issues. It's essential to discuss these potential short-term side effects and complications with a healthcare provider before choosing Nexplanon to ensure that it aligns with your health needs and lifestyle. Moreover, prompt consultation with a medical professional is advised if any side effect escalates or if you experience symptoms suggestive of a more serious complication.

Long-Term Implications of Nexplanon on Hormonal Health

When assessing the long-term implications of Nexplanon on hormonal health, it's important to understand that Nexplanon is a type of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). The implant releases a synthetic progestin called etonogestrel into the body, which can have various effects on hormonal balance and reproductive function. The impact of Nexplanon on hormonal health over extended periods of use must be carefully considered.

Alteration of the Menstrual Cycle: One of the most notable effects of Nexplanon is its potential to alter menstrual cycles. The progestin released by the implant can cause changes in the frequency, duration, and volume of menstrual bleeding. Some individuals may experience:

  • Irregular periods or spotting
  • Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
  • Lighter periods or heavier bleedings

While these changes are typically not harmful, they can be concerning for some users. It's essential to monitor any significant alterations in your menstrual cycle and discuss them with a healthcare provider.

Impact on Ovulation: Nexplanon works primarily by inhibiting ovulation. Over time, prolonged suppression of ovulation can lead to a thinning of the endometrial lining, which is generally reversible once the implant is removed. Studies suggest that most individuals regain their fertility shortly after discontinuation of the implant, indicating that the effects on ovulation are largely temporary.

Hormonal Imbalances and Side Effects: Synthetic hormones can cause a range of side effects that might signal hormonal imbalances, including:

  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Mood swings or changes in emotional well-being
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Acne or other skin changes
  • Breast tenderness

Users should be aware of these potential side effects and seek medical advice if they become troublesome or persistent. Continuous monitoring and consultations with healthcare providers are recommended to ensure these side effects do not evolve into serious hormonal health concerns.

Effect on Bone Density: Concerns have been raised about the potential impact of hormonal contraceptives on bone health, particularly with regards to bone density. However, evidence regarding the effect of Nexplanon on bone mineral density (BMD) is mixed. A study conducted by the manufacturer of Nexplanon indicated no significant effect on BMD over a three-year period, but this remains an area where more long-term research is needed to draw definitive conclusions.

Consideration of Underlying Health Conditions: For individuals with pre-existing hormonal health issues, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or endometriosis, the implant may influence the course of these conditions. The decision to use Nexplanon should involve a detailed discussion about personal medical history and potential implications for hormonal health.

Ultimately, the long-term implications of Nexplanon on hormonal health are multifaceted and can vary greatly among individuals. If you are considering or currently using Nexplanon, it is crucial to maintain an ongoing dialogue with your healthcare provider and report any significant changes in your health. This proactive approach ensures that any hormonal changes are managed appropriately and that the benefits of the implant continue to outweigh any risks.

Nexplanon's Impact on Menstrual Cycle and Fertility

Understanding the influence of Nexplanon, a subdermal contraceptive implant, on menstrual cycles and fertility is paramount for those considering this birth control method. Nexplanon contains etonogestrel, a progestin hormone that primarily works by preventing ovulation and thickening cervical mucus. However, its use can lead to several changes in menstrual patterns.

1. Changes in Menstrual Bleeding Patterns:

  • Irregular Periods: Users may experience alterations in their menstrual cycle, leading to irregular periods which can be unpredictable in timing and flow. According to the product label information, the most common side effect of Nexplanon is a change in menstrual bleeding patterns.
  • Amenorrhea: Some individuals may cease to have periods altogether while on Nexplanon, a condition known as amenorrhea.
  • Spotting: Intermittent light bleeding or spotting can occur, especially within the first few months after insertion.
  • Prolonged Bleeding: There are reported cases of prolonged or heavier bleeding, although less common.

2. Reversible Effect on Fertility:

  • Fertility After Removal: Nexplanon is reversible, and normal fertility is typically restored soon after the removal of the implant. A study in "Contraception" found that after discontinuation of the implant, the return to fertility is fairly prompt, with the majority of women ovulating within the first month post-removal.
  • Long-Term Fertility: There is no evidence to suggest long-term negative effects on fertility after the implant is discontinued. Research indicates that the temporary changes to menstrual cycles do not lead to a decrease in long-term fertility.

While the menstrual irregularities may be inconvenient, they are generally not harmful. However, it's important to consider individual tolerance and preference regarding these changes. It is essential for users to consult with healthcare providers to discuss potential side effects and to determine the appropriateness of Nexplanon for their personal reproductive health needs.

In summary, Nexplanon's impact on the menstrual cycle varies among individuals, with some experiencing significant changes while others may not notice much difference. Healthcare professionals can provide guidance based on individual health profiles and contraceptive goals. Additionally, it's crucial for those considering Nexplanon to understand that while the implant may cause temporary alteration of menstrual cycles, it does not harm long-term fertility upon its removal.

References to reputable sources and healthcare providers strengthen the understanding of Nexplanon's role in menstrual cycle alterations and its implications for fertility. It's advised that patients review the most up-to-date research and consult with their healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Association Between Nexplanon and Risk of Blood Clots

When exploring the safety of hormonal contraceptives like Nexplanon, a key concern that arises is the potential association with an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), commonly known as blood clots. VTE can lead to serious health problems such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), conditions that are potentially life-threatening if not properly diagnosed and treated.

Nexplanon is an etonogestrel implant, which is a type of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC). It is a small, flexible rod inserted under the skin of a woman's upper arm, slowly releasing the hormone etonogestrel into her body over a period of three years. Unlike some other hormonal contraceptives that contain a combination of estrogen and progestin, Nexplanon releases a synthetic form of the hormone progestin only.

Estrogen has been associated with an increased risk of blood clots in high doses found in certain combined oral contraceptives. Since Nexplanon does not contain estrogen, it is often presented as a safer alternative for women concerned about the risk of VTE. However, emerging research provides a more nuanced understanding of how progestin-only contraceptives, like Nexplanon, also play into this risk.

  • According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, progestin-only contraceptives do not carry the same level of risk for blood clots as combined hormonal contraceptives. However, this does not mean the risk is non-existent. The study found that while the risk is lower, it is still slightly elevated compared to non-users of hormonal contraception. (Source: BMJ 2012;345:e4944)
  • Another study from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that certain types of progestins may have varying effects on the risk of developing VTE. This research highlights the complexity of factors contributing to blood clot risk, including the type of progestin and the method of delivery (e.g., implant, intrauterine device, or pill). (Source: NEJM 2012; 366:2257-2266)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified certain contraceptives with regard to their suitability for use in women with various medical conditions, including the risk of VTE. Nexplanon falls into a category where the advantages generally outweigh the potential risks, making it a viable option for many women. (Source: WHO Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, 5th edition, 2015)

It is also important to note that the background risk of VTE in women of reproductive age who are not using hormonal contraception and who are not pregnant is relatively low, ranging from about 1 to 5 per 10,000 women-years. The risk can be higher in certain groups, such as women with a personal or family history of blood clots, women with thrombophilia, or women who are obese.

In summary, the current body of scientific literature indicates that while the risk of blood clots with Nexplanon is lower compared to combined hormonal contraceptives, it is not completely risk-free. Individuals considering Nexplanon should discuss their personal health history, risk factors, and concerns with their healthcare provider to make an informed decision about their contraceptive options.

It is crucial for healthcare providers to assess individual risk factors for VTE before recommending any hormonal contraceptive, including Nexplanon. These factors include but are not limited to age, personal or family history of VTE, obesity, smoking status, and other medical conditions that may increase the risk of clotting.

Mental Health Considerations While Using Nexplanon

Nexplanon, the etonogestrel implant, is a long-term, reversible contraceptive that is inserted subdermally and can provide up to three years of birth control. As with many hormonal contraceptives, the potential impact on mental health is a significant consideration for current and prospective users. Understanding how Nexplanon may influence mental health involves examining clinical studies, patient-reported outcomes, and expert opinions.

It is important to acknowledge that the relationship between hormonal contraceptives and mental health is complex and varies from individual to individual. Hormonal fluctuations can affect neurotransmitter levels and stress responses, thereby potentially influencing mood and emotional well-being.

  • Depression and Mood Changes: Some studies and user reports have noted a correlation between the use of hormonal contraceptives, including Nexplanon, and the development of depressive symptoms. According to a large cohort study published in JAMA Psychiatry, the use of hormonal contraception was associated with subsequent use of antidepressants and a first diagnosis of depression, particularly among adolescents.1 However, this study does not establish a direct causal relationship, and further research is necessary to understand the individual susceptibilities.
  • Anxiety: There is also anecdotal evidence that some users experience heightened anxiety after Nexplanon insertion, although scientific literature on this specific relationship is limited. Healthcare professionals should monitor patients with pre-existing anxiety disorders for any exacerbations following the start of Nexplanon use.
  • Irritability and Emotional Instability: Fluctuations in hormone levels may lead to increased irritability or emotional instability in some users. While this is not a universal experience, it is a potential side effect that should be openly discussed with a healthcare provider.

It is vital for individuals considering Nexplanon to discuss their mental health history with their healthcare provider. This conversation should include any previous experiences with hormonal contraceptives, if applicable, and any pre-existing mental health conditions. Providers should adopt a shared decision-making approach, weighing the benefits of highly effective contraception against the potential risks to mental health.

Mental health considerations should not be the sole factor in making a decision about Nexplanon use, but they are an important component of a well-rounded risk-benefit analysis. If mental health symptoms arise after Nexplanon insertion, users are advised to contact their healthcare provider. In some cases, the implant may be removed and alternative forms of contraception recommended.

Patient monitoring and support should continue throughout the duration of Nexplanon use, as mental health symptoms can develop or change over time. An open dialogue between patient and provider can significantly enhance the safety and efficacy of the treatment.

In conclusion, while there is evidence to suggest possible associations between Nexplanon use and changes in mental health, more definitive research is needed. Users and healthcare providers should remain vigilant about mental health symptoms and work collaboratively to address them.

1. Skovlund, C. W., Mørch, L. S., Kessing, L. V., & Lidegaard, Ø. (2016). Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression. JAMA Psychiatry, 73(11), 1154–1162. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387

Nexplanon Removal and Transitioning Off the Implant

For individuals considering the removal of the Nexplanon implant, or for those nearing the end of its three-year efficacy period, understanding the process of removal and the body's transition off the implant is paramount. Nexplanon is a progestin-only contraceptive implant that is designed to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. While it is safe for long-term use and approved by the FDA, there may be instances where removal is necessary or desired before the three-year mark.

Reasons for Nexplanon Removal

  • Desire to become pregnant
  • Side effects such as irregular bleeding, mood changes, or weight gain
  • Personal preference for another form of contraception
  • End of the implant's effective lifespan

The Removal Procedure

Removal of the Nexplanon implant is a relatively simple procedure that should be performed by a trained healthcare professional. It usually involves:

  1. Application of a local anesthetic to the area around the implant.
  2. Making a small incision where the implant is located.
  3. Gently pushing the implant towards the incision for removal.
  4. Closure of the incision site, often with steri-strips or sutures if needed.

Complications are infrequent, but may include infection, scarring, or difficulties in locating the implant if it has moved from its original position. If the implant is not visible or palpable, imaging techniques such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be necessary.

After Removal - What to Expect

Following the removal of Nexplanon, normal fertility typically resumes relatively quickly. Studies have shown that the median time to ovulation is 25 days after removal, with 90% of women ovulating within the first 3-4 weeks post-removal. Hormones from the implant leave the body within a week, and while some may experience immediate return of regular menstrual cycles, others may experience irregular cycles for a few months as the body readjusts.

It is also key to highlight that after removal, the contraceptive effects of Nexplanon cease immediately, therefore it is essential to consider alternative contraception methods if pregnancy is not desired. In cases where unwanted symptoms prompted removal, improvement may vary and patients should be in communication with their healthcare providers to manage the transition.

Transitioning to Another Form of Contraception

If wishing to avoid pregnancy post-removal, transitioning to another form of contraception should be discussed with a healthcare provider. Here are standard options to consider:

  • Starting another hormonal contraceptive (birth control pills, patch, or vaginal ring) typically the day of removal
  • Transitioning to a non-hormonal method, such as copper IUDs or condoms
  • Receiving a new Nexplanon implant during the removal appointment if continuation of the same method is desired

Careful planning and consultation with a healthcare provider can ensure a smooth transition that aligns with the patient's health goals and lifestyle choices.

Monitoring Your Health

After removal, individuals should monitor their health and report any concerns to their healthcare provider. Potential signs to watch for include:

  • Unexpected bleeding patterns
  • Signs of infection at the removal site
  • Any unexpected side effects from transitioning to a new contraceptive

Managing expectations for the body's return to its baseline state is crucial, as is maintaining an open dialogue with one's healthcare provider during the transition period.

Note that this information is general in nature and individual experiences with Nexplanon removal and transitioning off the implant may vary. Consultation with a healthcare professional who understands an individual's specific health history is vital for personalized advice and care.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, if you experience side effects from Nexplanon and prefer a non-hormonal option, you can consider methods such as copper intrauterine devices (IUDs), condoms, diaphragms, or fertility awareness-based methods. Each method has its own benefits and limitations, so it's important to discuss these options with a healthcare provider to find the best fit for your lifestyle and health needs.

Studies show that normal fertility typically resumes relatively quickly after the removal of Nexplanon, with the majority of women ovulating within the first month. The temporary changes to menstrual cycles and ovulation brought on by Nexplanon are generally reversible, indicating no long-term negative effects on fertility.

The decision to use Nexplanon should involve a discussion about personal medical history, as hormonal changes can potentially influence conditions like PCOS or endometriosis. While some patients may experience an improvement in symptoms, others may see a worsening. Close consultation with a healthcare provider is important to monitor and manage these conditions during Nexplanon use.

No, it is not necessary to take a break from Nexplanon for hormonal health reasons. Nexplanon can be used continuously for up to three years per insertion. If there are no adverse effects and the individual wishes to continue using this form of contraception, a new implant can be inserted after the removal of the old one.

Ask a question about Nexplanon and our team will publish the answer as soon as possible.

Possible short-term side effects

  • injection site reactions
  • bleeding irregularities
  • headaches
  • weight gain
  • emotional changes
  • acne
  • breast tenderness
  • infection
  • vascular injury
  • device breakage

Possible long-term side effects

  • alteration of menstrual cycle
  • hormonal imbalances
  • mood swings
  • headaches or migraines
  • weight changes
  • skin conditions
  • potential impact on bone density

Possible withdrawal symptoms

  • irregular menstrual cycle
  • changes in fertility
  • unexpected bleeding
  • return of any pre-existing conditions managed by nexplanon

Ingredients to be aware of

  • etonogestrel


  • effective contraception
  • low maintenance
  • reversible effect on fertility
  • no need for daily adherence

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 01-23-2024

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 01-23-2024

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