Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Control: Questions and answers
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
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
Norplant is usually inserted within the first 7
days of the menstrual cycle, allowing Norplant to become effective within 24
Does insertion of Norplant cause
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
Can Norplant be seen in the
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
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
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
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
If Norplant is inserted 6 weeks after delivery,
it does not affect breast milk or the baby's growth.
Does Norplant protect against
No. Norplant does not protect you against
getting sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.