How a bad reaction to the contraceptive implant ruined my career

Two years ago aspiring actress Francesca Mann, 19, from Islington, had an allergic reaction to the contraceptive implant resulting in life changing consequences. Her arm was left severely bruised and damaged. Her face swelled up and she developed hormonal and cystic acne.  

I was 17 when I had the contraceptive implant. I was going to sixth form and auditioning for drama school: how I looked was important for my career. I went along with my best friend to support her and I ended up getting the implant myself. I had been in a relationship for a year and the doctor convinced me to have one fitted too. I asked the doctor about the side effects as I was worried about getting spots, and he said that he had never heard of anyone getting acne from an implant before.

On the day of the procedure he injected me in the wrong place which was a disaster. The anaesthetic did not work and there were problems from the start. There was blood shooting out of my arm on to the bed. He said, “Oh sorry, that will give you a really nasty bruise,” to which I replied: “Oh it’s fine”. The bruise came up within hours it was huge and looked like a tiger scratch. Three days later, my eye swelled and the whole right side of my face- on the same side as the implant. I looked hideous and felt even worse.

I couldn’t go to college for three days and when i finally  went back I had to wear sunglasses. I started to get hairs on one side of my face and my body puffed out as I began to suffer from water retention. I felt fat and unattractive, I developed anxiety and felt depressed. My arm looked deformed and I lost some movement. The doctors would not let me take out the implant for six months as they wanted to let it settle.

A month later I suddenly developed boils on my face. I had hormonal and cystic acne which was caused from a reaction to the implant.

Things got really tough for me, and I had to pull out of commitments. My skin began to get worse. I had just started working with the beauty department in Marks & Spencer. This became a big problem, as I no longer felt like I could discuss people’s skin with them as mine looked so awful, and so eventually I had to leave.


I became self-conscious about my face. By this time I had started my degree in theatre, but some days I didn’t even want to go into university; what happened to me changed my ambition and I no longer wanted to act. I thought, “I don’t  want people looking at my face all day.” Now I am going to do a course so I can teach acting instead.

Nine months later, I finally got referred to the dermatologist and then I found out what was causing the acne. I was put on medication but the acne got worse then I became a vegetarian.  The acne started to go away and I believe the vegetarianism has helped. On the last visit to my dermatologist, he said that he has never seen such a bad case of acne disappear so quickly, which I believe is down to changing my diet. My dermatologist has recently confirmed that this will be my last month on medication.

I have never had an actual explanation as to why this happened to me, but from what I gather, there was too high a level of a certain type of hormone.

Looking back the experience has taught me a lot about myself and about the effects of what we put into our bodies. I am not angry, I feel a lot better about myself now, I feel more confident and happy. This experience has changed in the way I look at others too – I would never judge someone just by looking at them.

As told to Amanda Lennon
Photo credits: Francesca Mann