By Laura Beil
Christen Childs woke up on September 12, 2009, in the pitch dark of early morning with what she thought was a pulled muscle in her leg. She reached down to massage the cramp, trying to fathom how her left calf could be so achingly sore when she hadn't made it to the gym in weeks. This was a Saturday — by Monday, her leg was swollen and hot, and when she tried to stand, jolts of pain shot up to her spine. She consulted her brother-in-law, a doctor, and he told her to go to the ER immediately...
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
After numbing your skin, a health care provider inserts the rod under the skin of your upper arm, using a device that pushes the rod through a needle.
The insertion process may take less than a minute. Afterward, you should be able to feel but not see the implant under your skin.
You can use a birth control implant for up to three years. Then it needs to be replaced.
Removing it is generally easy. It may take only a few minutes. Your health care provider numbs your skin and makes a tiny incision near the tip of the implant, then pulls it out.
Implanon vs. Nexplanon
Implanon is being phased out by the manufacturer. In December 2012 the maker stopped the distribution of Implanon. When the supply runs out, only Nexplanon -- the new-generation implant -- will be available.
The insertion device for Nexplanon is simplified and avoids deep placement of the implant.
Also, the Nexplanon rod was designed to be located using X-rays. That way your doctor can check to see if it's been placed correctly under your skin.
Effective. Fewer than one in 1,000 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 does not rely on you to work effectively. You don't have to worry about using it incorrectly or remembering to replace or take frequently.
Fast reversal. You will be able to get pregnant immediately after the implant is removed, which is a benefit if you want to become pregnant.
Less painful periods. In studies of women using implants, painful periods were significantly improved.
Drawbacks of Birth Control Implants
Potential drawbacks 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.
Lack of STD prevention. Unlike some other forms of birth control, such as condoms, birth control implants won't prevent HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
Risks of Birth Control Implants
Side effects. Possible side effects include problems from the insertion procedure, including:
Also, the health care provider may not insert the device in the proper spot. For example, it may be placed too deeply under the skin. This can lead to numbness and difficulty later on in removing the implant. The newer insertion device used with Nexplanon lowers this risk.