Dr. MJ Bazos MD, Patient Handout
Norplant Birth Control: Questions and answers
What is Norplant?
Norplant is a form of birth control for women that lasts up to 5 years at a time. Six small capsules filled with the female hormone levonorgestrel are placed under the skin in the upper arm. A small amount of hormone is released at a steady rate into the body, preventing pregnancy. Levonorgestrel is a synthetic progestin (female hormone) used in many birth control pills. Norplant can be removed at any time if pregnancy is desired or another form of birth control is preferred.
Who can use Norplant?
Anyone who wants a long-lasting but not permanent method of birth control may use Norplant. However, women who may be pregnant should not use Norplant. Women who have abnormal vaginal bleeding or women who may be pregnant should not use Norplant until further examination by their doctor. Women with liver disease, breast cancer or blood clots (such as in the leg, lung or eye) should not use Norplant.
Unlike birth control pills that contain the hormone estrogen, Norplant can be used in older women, women who smoke and women who have high blood pressure.
How does Norplant work?
Norplant prevents ovulation (the release of an egg by an ovary). The mucus at the opening of the uterus (womb) also becomes thicker, preventing sperm from entering the uterus. In addition, the lining of the uterus becomes thinner, making it less receptive to implantation of an egg.
How effective is Norplant?
Norplant has been shown to be effective 99.95% of the time. It is a highly effective method of birth control.
How soon is Norplant effective?
Norplant is usually inserted within the first 7 days of the menstrual cycle, allowing Norplant to become effective within 24 hours.
Does insertion of Norplant cause pain?
Although there is some pain from the needle used to inject local anesthesia, the procedure itself is usually painless. Insertion of Norplant takes about 10 to 15 minutes, and removal takes about 20 to 40 minutes. An incision about 1/8 inch in length is required for insertion.
Can Norplant be seen in the arm?
Since Norplant is placed in the inner part of the upper arm, it is barely detectable. The capsules may look like small veins, and they may be felt below the surface of the skin.
What can I expect after Norplant is inserted?
After Norplant is inserted, the arm will appear bruised for about 7 to 10 days. However, your arm will not be very sore and you can resume regular activities. The bandage should be left on for 2 to 3 days, and the arm should be kept dry. Pain relievers like acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol) are usually all that is required for any discomfort. If there is any redness, swelling or drainage, call your doctor immediately.
What side effects may occur?
Most women will have irregular menstrual periods for several months. Periods may last longer than usual, and bleeding or spotting may occur between periods. Some women go several months without a period. Others may have a combination of these changes. However, these changes are not serious. Bleeding and spotting generally stop.
Less common effects include weight gain or weight loss, headaches, depression, acne, excessive hair growth or, occasionally, mild pain or itching at the site of the implant. Ovarian cysts may occur but usually do not require treatment.
Do I need special care after Norplant is inserted?
Three months after Norplant is inserted, you will need to see your doctor for a follow-up visit to have your blood pressure checked and to discuss any problems you may be having with menstrual periods. After that, a check-up once a year is necessary.
What if I want to become pregnant?
If you want to become pregnant, Norplant can be removed at any time. The ability to become pregnant returns quickly after Norplant has been removed. About half of women become pregnant within 3 months, and 86% are pregnant by 1 year after Norplant removal.
Can I breast-feed if I use Norplant?
If Norplant is inserted 6 weeks after delivery, it does not affect breast milk or the baby's growth.
Does Norplant protect against AIDS?
No. Norplant does not protect you against getting sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.