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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Combined oral contraceptive treatment for bleeding complaints with the etonogestrel contraceptive implant: a randomised controlled trial

  • Author(s): Hou, MY
  • McNicholas, C
  • Creinin, MD
  • et al.

© 2016 The European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health. Objective: Estimate symptom improvement rate of women with bleeding complaints using the etonogestrel contraceptive implant when started on continuous combined oral contraceptives (COC). Methods: We conducted a double-blinded randomised controlled trial of women reporting troublesome bleeding related to their etonogestrel contraceptive implant and desiring intervention. Participants received continuous COCs or placebo for four weeks to evaluate self-reported bleeding improvement at four weeks. Participants could continue study treatment or prescribed COCs for another eight weeks if desired. We planned to enroll 130 participants between two sites (80% power to detect a 20% effect size at a 0.05 significance level, with 10% loss to follow up). Results: We closed the study after enrolling 26 participants due to recruitment futility. All women on COCs and 75% of placebo users reported bleeding improvement at four weeks (p = 0.09), with 92% and 42%, respectively, reporting significant improvement (p = 0.03). The median number of days until bleeding stopped for at least four days in COC and placebo users was 1 day (range 1–9) and 4.5 days (range 1–28), respectively (p = 0.63). Eight (75%) COC and five (42%) placebo users opted to continue study treatment (p = 0.41). Despite bleeding improvement, women who desired implant removal at enrollment were more likely to re-request removal than those who initially considered other interventions (3 of 5 [60%] vs 1 of 17 [6%], p = 0.03). Conclusion: Although women who have troublesome bleeding while using the contraceptive implant may experience improvement with no treatment over 4 weeks, women using COCs are more likely to report significant improvement. registration number: NCT01963403.

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