Clinical Review

Overcoming LARC complications: 7 case challenges

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CHALLENGE 6: Pregnancy in an implant user

CASE 3-week implant user with positive pregnancy test

Your 21-year-old patient who received a contraceptive implant 3 weeks earlier now pre‑sents with nausea and abdominal cramping. Her last menstrual period was 6 weeks ago. She has regular cycles that are 28 days in length. Results of urine pregnancy testing are positive. Prior to using the implant, the patient inconsistently used condoms.

How should you counsel your patient?

The rate of pregnancy among implant users is very low; it is estimated at 5 pregnancies per 10,000 implant users per year.8 As in this case, apparent “failures” of the contraceptive implant actually may represent placements that occurred before a very early pregnancy was recognized. Similar to IUDs, the proportion of pregnancies that are ectopic among implant users compared to nonusers may be higher.

With a pregnancy that is ectopic or that is intrauterine and undesired, the device may be left in and use continued after the pregnancy has been terminated. Although the effectiveness of medication abortion with pre-existing contraceptive implant in situ is not well known, researchers have demonstrated that medication abortion initiated at the same time as contraceptive implant insertion does not influence success of the medication abortion.9

Related article:
2016 Update on contraception

For women with desired intrauterine pregnancies, remove the device as soon as feasible and counsel the woman that there is no known teratogenic risk associated with the contraceptive implant.

Read CHALLENGE 7: Nonpalpable contraceptive implant

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