Adverse Effects of Contraceptive Implants

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Many women are having their contraceptive implants removed because of severe and/or prolonged side effects. In our study of women with contraceptive implants, there was a maximum of 39 adverse effects experienced by one person, and an average of 13 side effects for the group. The implant is usually inserted beneath the skin of the arm after giving a local anesthetic. After being placed, the implant can be felt like a matchstick just under the skin.

The side effects of contraceptive implants are felt a few weeks to several months after insertion, although there was an incidence of an implant recipient whose blood pressure suddenly increased immediately after insertion, and remained high until the implant was removed.

The most common reasons for removal of the contraceptive implant are: persistent headache, erratic mood swings and dizziness. The adverse effects and their percent incidence among those whose implant was removed is summarized in the table below.

Table 1. Incidence of adverse effects of etonogestrel 68 mg implant compiled from a checklist accomplished by patients prior to implant removal.
Symptom Number Percent Incidence
N = 156
Headache 116 74%
Mood swings 112 72%
Dizziness 86 55%
Forgetfulness 86 55%
Weight loss 74 47%
Amenorrhea 73 47%
Alopecia 70 45%
Visual disturbance 67 43%
Change in libido 66 42%
Abnormal uterine bleeding 65 42%
Change in bleeding pattern 65 42%
Somnolence 64 41%
Nervousness 63 40%
Pain in extremity 62 40%
Pelvic pain 61 39%
Weight gain 60 38%
Insomnia 54 35%
Palpitation 54 35%
Fatigue 49 31%
Abdominal pain 47 30%
Sweating 47 30%
Nocturia 40 26%
Tremors 39 25%
Aggressive reaction 38 24%
Dry mouth 38 24%
Pruritus 38 24%
Bruising 37 24%
Impaired appetite 37 24%
Acne 36 23%
Confusion 35 22%
Nausea 31 20%
Genital pruritus 30 19%
Joint pain 29 19%
Bloating 27 17%
Breast pain 27 17%
Hot Flushes 26 17%
Vaginal dryness 25 16%
Depression 23 15%
Skin rash 23 15%
Constipation 20 13%
Dyspareunia 19 12%
Vomiting 19 12%
Diarrhea 17 11%
Muscle cramps 17 11%
Melasma 15 10%
UTI 13 8%
Perineal pain 10 6%
High blood pressure 9 6%
Edema 4 3%
Jaundice 4 3%
Vaginal discharge 4 3%
Euphoria 3 2%
Tinitus 3 2%
Stroke 1 1%
Updated January 4, 2017


The top 15 side effects and the percentage occurrence is shown in the chart below:

Top 15 side effects of contraceptive implants

Implant recipients say that they were not informed of possible adverse effects before the implant was inserted. The 3 most devastating of the possible side effects are: breast cancer, stroke and heart attack. Breast cancer may happen decades after the insertion.

The women with implants also claim that their request for removal of the implant was not granted by the facility where the implant was inserted. The recipients were reportedly told to return on another day for the removal of the implant, but were again told to come back when the scheduled day of removal came.

Women whose implants were removed in the clinic reported a dramatic improvement of their sense of well-being and obtained complete remission of the adverse effects.