Birth Control Implant at a Glance
- A matchstick-sized rod that is inserted in the arm to prevent pregnancy
- Safe, effective, and convenient
- Must be inserted by a health care provider
- Costs between $0 and $800 up front, but lasts up to three years
Is the Birth Control Implant Right for Me?
Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about the birth control implant. We hope you find the answers helpful.
What is the Birth Control Implant?
The birth control implant is a thin, flexible plastic implant about the size of a cardboard matchstick. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It protects against pregnancy for up to three years. The implant is available under the brand names Implanon and Nexplanon.
How Does the Implant Work?
Like several other methods of birth control, such as the birth control shot, the birth control implant releases a hormone — progestin. Hormones are chemicals made in our bodies. They control how different parts of our bodies work.
The progestin in the birth control implant works by
- keeping eggs from leaving the ovaries. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no egg to join with the sperm.
- making a woman's cervical mucus thicker. This keeps sperm from getting to the eggs.
How Effective is the Birth Control Implant?
Effectiveness is an important and common concern when choosing a birth control method. The birth control implant is very effective. Less than 1 out of 100 women a year will become pregnant using the implant. It lasts up to three years.
Certain medicines and supplements may make the birth control implant less effective. These include
- certain TB medicines
- certain medicines that are taken by mouth for yeast infections
- certain HIV medicines
- certain anti-seizure medicines
- certain mental disorder medicines
- herbals like St. John's wort
How Safe is the Birth Control Implant?
Most women can use the birth control implant safely. But all medications have some risks, so safety is a concern when choosing a birth control method. Talk with your health care provider about your health and whether the implant is likely to be safe for you. You should not use the implant if you are pregnant or have breast cancer.
There are many other methods of birth control that may be safe for you if you cannot use the birth control implant. Read about other methods to find one that may be right for you.
What Are the Benefits of the Birth Control Implant?
Using the birth control implant is safe, simple, and convenient. Women like the implant because
- The ability to become pregnant returns quickly when you stop using the implant.
- It can be used while breastfeeding.
- It can be used by women who cannot take estrogen.
- It gives continuous long-lasting birth control without sterilization.
- There is no medicine to take every day.
- Nothing needs to be put in place before vaginal intercourse.
What Are the Disadvantages of the Birth Control Implant?
Some women may have undesirable side effects while using the birth control implant. But many women adjust to it with few or no problems.
The implant cannot be used by women who have breast cancer.
Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect, especially in the first 6–12 months of use.
- For most women, periods become fewer and lighter. After one year, 1 out of 3 women who use the birth control implant will stop having periods completely.
- Some women have longer, heavier periods.
- Some women have increased spotting and light bleeding between periods.
These side effects are completely normal. Some woman may worry that they are pregnant if they do not have a regular period. But when the implant is used correctly, it is very effective. If you are concerned about a possible pregnancy, you can always take a pregnancy test.
Less common side effects of Implanon include
- change in sex drive
- discoloring or scarring of the skin over the implant
- rarely, an infection or pain in the arm
- pain at the insertion site
- sore breasts
- weight gain
Serious Side Effects of the Birth Control Implant
Many women have concerns about the possible risks of taking hormones in birth control. Serious problems do not occur often.
Serious problems usually have warning signs. Tell your health care provider immediately if
- You have bleeding, pus, or increasing redness, or pain at insertion site.
- You have a new lump in your breast.
- You have no period after having a period every month.
- yellowing of the skin or eyes
- You have unusually heavy or prolonged bleeding from your vagina.
- The implant comes out or you have concerns about its location.
How Is the Birth Control Implant Inserted and Removed?
After taking your medical history and giving you a physical exam, your health care provider will numb a small area of your arm with a painkiller. The birth control implant is inserted under the skin. Insertion takes only a few minutes.
After insertion, be sure to tell any health care provider you may see that you are using the birth control implant.
The implant is effective for three years after it is inserted. After that, it should be removed. Even though it stops working, it may interfere with your period.
The implant can be removed at any time. Your health care provider will numb the area with a painkiller and will usually make one small cut to remove the implant. Removal usually takes just a few minutes, but it generally takes longer than insertion. A new implant may be inserted at this time. Pregnancy can happen anytime after the implant is removed.
If you get the implant during the first five days of your period, you are protected against pregnancy immediately. Otherwise, you need to use some form of backup birth control — like a condom, female condom, diaphragm, sponge, or emergency contraception (morning after pill) — for the first week after getting the implant.
How Do I Get the Birth Control Implant? How Much Does the Implant Cost?
You need to see a health care provider to get the birth control implant. You can find a provider who has been specially trained in inserting and removing the implant by contacting your local Planned Parenthood health center or by finding a provider on the Implanon website.
The cost of the exam, the implant, and insertion ranges from $0–$800. Removal costs between $0 and $300. The total cost pays for pregnancy protection that can last for three years.
Planned Parenthood works to make health care accessible and affordable. Some health centers are able to charge according to income. Most accept health insurance. If you qualify, Medicaid or other state programs may lower your health care costs.
Call your local Planned Parenthood health center to get specific information on costs.
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins