Birth Control Implants: Are They Right for Me?

Birth control implants are devices that go under a woman's skin. They release a hormone that prevents pregnancy.

Two similar implants available in the U.S. are Implanon and Nexplanon, which is gradually replacing Implanon.

Each implant is a plastic rod about the size of a matchstick. The rods contain a form of the hormone progesterone called etonogestrel.

What to Expect at the Doctor's Office

Your doctor or another health care provider will inject medicine to numb your skin on your upper arm, where you'll get the implant. That may sting a bit.

Then they'll use a device that pushes the rod through a needle. That won’t hurt. It feels like a little bit of tugging. The insertion process may take less than a minute.

Afterward, you should be able to feel the implant under your skin, but not see it.

How Long Does It Work?

You can use a birth control implant for up to 3 years. Then you need to get it replaced.

Removing it can take only a few minutes or 20 minutes, depending on how much scar tissue has formed. Your health care provider numbs your skin and makes a tiny cut near the tip of the implant, then pulls it out.

Implanon vs. Nexplanon

The implant maker, Merck, is phasing out Implanon and replacing it with Nexplanon.

The two implants are nearly identical, but the insertion device for Nexplanon is simpler and avoids placing the implant too deep under your skin.

Also, the Nexplanon rod was designed to be located using X-rays. If you doctor can't feel it under the skin, the X-ray can show if it's in the right place.

Continued

What Are the Benefits?

As with any type of birth control method, implants have both pros and cons.

Advantages include:

Effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 women using an implant will become pregnant each year.

Easy to use. Unlike some other birth control options -- such as condoms, patches, shots, rings, and pills -- the implant works no matter what. You don't have to worry about using it incorrectly or remembering to replace or take it often.

Fast reversal. If you want to get pregnant, you can get started on that right after you get the implant taken out.

Less painful periods. In studies of women using implants, painful periods got better.

What Are the Drawbacks?

Potential disadvantages of birth control implants include:

Cost. You may have to pay about $600 or more for an exam and the implant, and $100 or more to have it removed.

No protection against STD s. Unlike some other forms of birth control, such as condoms, birth control implants won't prevent HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases. Use a condom for that.

What Are the Risks of Birth Control Implants?

Possible side effects include problems from the insertion procedure, such as:

  • Pain
  • Bruising or swelling
  • Redness
  • Infection
  • Scarring

With Implanon, there’s a chance that it may be harder to remove if it was placed too deep. Nexplanon’s newer insertion device is designed to lower this risk.

Other possible side effects include:

Can Any Woman Use This Method of Birth Control?

Some women shouldn't use birth control implants, including women who may already be pregnant and those with:

Use with caution if you have:

Also, it’s not clear if the implants are as effective if you're obese.

Some medications can make birth control implants less effective. Ask your doctor about that.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD, FACOG on August 25, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

DRUGDEX Evaluations: "Etonogestrel."

Isley, M. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, December 2010.

Mommers, E. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, November 2012.

Planned Parenthood: "Birth Control Implant (Implanon and Nexplanon)."

MDConsult Drug Monograph -- Etonogestrel

Espey, E. Obstetrics & Gynecology, March 2011.

© 2015 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination