contraceptive
A birth control implant.
  • A 31-year-old woman's birth control implant was inserted into her upper arm but it moved and ended up in her left lung, according to a recent case study in BMJ Case Reports.
  • The woman said she had abnormal vaginal bleeding for three months, but experienced no other symptoms.
  • To remove the implant, doctors performed surgery and the woman didn't have any complications following the procedure.
  • This isn't the first time someone's birth control implant moved to a different area of their body than where it was originally placed, but the chances of this happening are still rare.
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A 31-year-old woman in Portugal had used the birth control implant as her contraceptive method for eight years straight, but her most recent implant, the Implanon NXT, somehow got into her lung. It was originally placed inside her upper arm.

According to a July 2019 study in BMJ Case Reports, the woman had abnormal vaginal bleeding for three months, so she decided to see a doctor who discovered the implant wasn't where it was supposed to be in her body.

Before that, she had two other birth control implants, which require replacement after multiple years of use. Her doctor placed the the first implant in 2010 and the third, which migrated to her lung, in 2017.

Birth control implants are thin rods about the size of a matchstick, according to Planned Parenthood. The contraceptive method works by slowly releasing the hormone progestin into the user's body, which thickens their cervical mucus to stop sperm from being able to swim to an egg and fertilise it.

To use the implant, a doctor inserts it under the skin on a person's upper arm and it can remain in place for up to five years. In this case, the woman had her first implant replaced after three years of use.

Doctors had trouble locating where the implant had moved to in her body

At the gynaecologist, doctors tried to locate the woman's implant in her bicep area where it was supposed to be placed, but they couldn't find it. After completing an ultrasound, they found the implant was not in her arm, but in her left lung where it had migrated.

Read more: 9 things that can make your birth control methods less effective

To remove the implant, doctors used a video-assisted surgery to locate the object and then they did surgery in her chest area to remove the implant. The woman was discharged from the hospital four days after surgery and had no complications, the doctors who treated her wrote in the case study.

This isn't the first time a birth control device has gotten lost inside someone

Although birth control implant migration is rare, a few other cases have been reported.

This phenomenon can happen if a doctor inserts the device too deep into a person's arm, according to the case study. Intense exercise could also result in an implant migration.

In May 2017, for example, doctors reported that a 37-year-old woman's implant had moved to her lung. Although they couldn't pinpoint exactly why this happened, they believe the implant was inserted too deep and entered her vein, travelled through her body, and eventually reached her lung.

"Complications with insertion and removal of subdermal contraceptive implant are rare in the hands of medical professionals familiar with the techniques and device, and these procedures should only be undertaken by those with relevant training," the May 2017 study authors wrote.

If you use implantable birth control and your periods are irregular or you experience abnormal bleeding, you should see your doctor right away.

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