Using birth control is an easy-peasy way to prevent unplanned pregnancy, but choosing a birth control method might seem a little complicated. If you’re interested in starting birth control or you’re looking to switch up your current birth control method, you may feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options out there.
There are pills, injections, IUDs, implants … wait, what? Implants?
Yup, birth control implants are a thing, and they might just become your new birth control BFF.
In this article, we’re giving you all the deets about birth control implants so you can decide whether they’re the right option to help you stay safe and pregnancy-free.
A birth control implant is a long-term birth control device that’s placed just under the skin on the inside of your nondominant upper arm.
While they’re not as popular as other birth control methods, such as the pill, birth control implants have been used to prevent pregnancy for more than 15 years. A birth control implant with the brand name Implanon was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 but was replaced with an implant called Nexplanon in 2010.
Nexplanon is easier to insert than Implanon and is designed to be visible on diagnostic imaging tests such as X-rays.
The current birth control implant (brand name Nexplanon) works by releasing a continuous low dose of progestin into your body. Progestin is a form of the naturally occurring sex hormone progesterone.
The hormone prevents pregnancy by thickening mucus in your cervix, thinning the lining of your uterus, and stopping the release of eggs from your ovaries — all of which make it harder for you to become pregnant.
Unlike with other birth control methods, such as pills, you can’t forget to take the implant or use it incorrectly. Once a healthcare professional inserts your birth control implant, you’re protected for up to 3 years.
However, while birth control implants help prevent pregnancy, they don’t prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So, even if you have a birth control implant, it’s important to protect yourself from STIs by getting tested regularly and using condoms or another barrier method when you’re getting down.
The insertion process for the implant is super simple and takes just a few minutes.
A healthcare professional will give you an injection to numb your arm and then use a special device to insert the implant just under the skin on the inside of your nondominant upper arm.
Nexplanon is a tiny plastic rod — just 1.6 inches long and 0.125 inches in diameter, which is about the same size as a matchstick. Because it’s so small, it’s not noticeable, but you should be able to feel it under your skin when touching your arm.
You shouldn’t feel any pain when the implant is inserted, but you may feel sore around the insertion area after the numbing agent has worn off.
It’s recommended that you schedule your implant insertion to take place within the first 5 days of your period. If you follow this recommendation, you’ll be protected right after insertion. If you have the implant inserted at any other time, you’ll need to use a backup form of birth control during sex for 7 days after insertion.
The implant can last up to 3 years, but you can have it removed at any time. When you’re ready to have it taken out, a healthcare professional will numb your arm before making a small incision in your skin and removing the implant.
As with the insertion, you shouldn’t feel any pain during removal, but you may feel a bit of discomfort from the incision after the numbing agent wears off.
If you want to continue using the implant, a healthcare professional can insert a new one after removing your old one.
Birth control implants are one of the most effective forms of birth control available.
The birth control implant is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that fewer than 1 in 100 implant users become pregnant each year.
For comparison, hormonal birth control pills are 93% effective with typical use and 99% effective with perfect use. The main issue that influences the effectiveness of birth control pills is human error, meaning that most people aren’t 100% perfect when it comes to taking a pill every single day.
One of the reasons the implant is so effective is that once it’s inserted, you’re done. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to take a pill or taking a pill at the wrong time. This is why it’s often called a “set it and forget it” birth control method.
As with any other birth control method, there are a few pros and cons to consider when deciding whether a birth control implant is the right choice for you.
- It’s implanted in your arm, so you can’t forget to take it or use it incorrectly.
- It’s 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
- It’s so small that you usually can’t see it under your skin.
- Most health insurance plans should cover it.
- It can help lighten periods and may help reduce period cramps.
- Because it contains only progestin, it’s a safe choice for people who can’t tolerate estrogen-containing birth control.
- It can be removed at any time and won’t affect your ability to get pregnant in the future.
- A healthcare professional must insert and remove it.
- It may cause side effects like mood swings, weight gain, headaches, and mood changes.
- You may experience irregular bleeding, especially during the first 6–12 months after insertion.
- It doesn’t prevent STI transmission.
The birth control implant is a good option if you don’t want to worry about taking a pill every day or if you can’t tolerate estrogen-containing birth control methods.
Plus, unlike IUD insertion — which can be painful and cause cramping — getting an implant inserted is no big deal and usually painless.
If you’re interested in getting a birth control implant, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with a healthcare professional. They can go over the types of birth control that are appropriate for your specific health needs and help you choose the right type based on your preferences.
The birth control implant is a tiny plastic rod that’s placed just under the skin on the inside of your upper arm.
The insertion and removal processes are super simple and relatively painless. And it’s more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Once inserted, the implant prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years. But you can get it removed at any time if you want to change up your birth control method or try to get pregnant.
If you’re interested in learning more about the birth control implant and whether it’s the right choice for you, talk with a healthcare professional. They can answer any questions you have about the implant to help you find the best option that fits your lifestyle and health needs.