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Norplant (Levonorgestrel) is a birth control method used by women – it is long-term reversible contraception used to prevent pregnancy in women. It was first introduced in 1990. Norplant is a

How to use

A set of six specially designed capsules (six match-sized capsules) are surgically inserted by your doctor or health provider (family doctor, trained midwife) just under the skin in the upper arm. The procedure takes about 10-15 minutes. Once the capsules have been inserted under the skin, no additional steps are needed to prevent pregnancy. Norplant becomes effective within 24 hours of implantation – protection begins 24 hours after Norplant has been inserted if done during the first 7 days of the menstrual cycle.

The Norplant capsules contain a hormone called “progestin”. The medication is slowly released into the body over a five year period and prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years.

The capsules may be replaced after 5 years if continued contraception is desired. The capsules may also be removed at any time by health professionals. Fertility is restored within 5-14 days after Norplant is removed. This method is effective in 99% cases.

Physical exam including breast exam, pelvic exam and Pap test should be done prior to starting Norplant and should be repeated annually. The removal of implants is more costly, more time consuming and can cause scarring.


Contraceptive effect

While you have the implants, progestin is slowly released into your body. The progestin works to thicken your cervical mucus thereby creating a barrier for sperm. It may also suppress your ovulation as well as thin the lining of your uterus, which will hinder the implantation of a fertilized egg.

Contra-indications and precautions

If you decided to use Norplant for contraception, you should tell your doctor detailed medical history, especially if you have liver disease, diabetes, seizure disorder, kidney disease, heart trouble, eye disorders, asthma, a history of depression or migraines, history of blood clots, any miscarriages and/or breast cancer, any allergies you have.

Norplant should not be used during pregnancy. If you become pregnant or think you may be pregnant, inform your doctor immediately. Norplant is excreted into breast milk and you should consult your doctor before starting breastfeeding.

Side effects

Norplant can cause several side effects including:


  • Irregular menstrual periods,
  • Absence of periods (amenorrhea),
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding,
  • Light irregular periods or brown discharge and/or brown spotting,
  • Ovarian cysts,
  • Stomach upset and/or stomach cramps,
  • Headaches,
  • Nervousness,
  • Nausea,
  • Depression,
  • Anxiety,
  • Dizziness,
  • Acne,
  • Changes in appetite,
  • Weight gain,
  • Excessive sweating,
  • Excessive growth of facial and body hair (hirsutism),
  • Irritation at the insertion site.

Irregular menstrual periods and/or irregular spotting and/or brown discharge are most common side effects and occur most often during the first year after Norplant has been inserted.

Teenagers, women who are overweight as well as women who have hard capsules rather than soft ones are more likely to have Norplant fail for them.

Use of Norplant also increases a woman’s risk of ectopic pregnancy, a condition which requires immediate medical attention as it can be fatal if not properly treated.

NORPLANT interactions

Norplant can alter the effects of other medications. If you need to use any additional medication, your doctor should be informed about Norplant inserted. Sometimes Norplant can alter the results of certain laboratory tests. Remind your doctor you are taking this medication if you are scheduled for any lab tests. Do not start or stop any medicine without doctor or pharmacist approval.

Norplant does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). To protect yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, use a male condom each time you and your partner have sex.

Norplant is no longer available for use in the United States due to the severity of side effects experienced by some women. It was voluntarily removed from the market in July 2002.


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