Birth Control Implant

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on August 18, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Patricia Geraghty MSN, WHNP, FNP-BC on August 18, 2014

What Is a Contraceptive Implant?

A contraceptive implant is a type of hormonal birth control. It releases a hormone called progesterone into the body to prevent pregnancy. The implant itself is a very small plastic rod about the size of a matchstick. A doctor inserts it into the upper arm, right under the skin. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the typical use failure rate is 0.05 percent.

How Does a Contraceptive Implant Work?

The implant slowly releases the hormone progestin into the body. Progestin prevents pregnancy by blocking the release of eggs from the ovaries. It also thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering the uterus.

How Do I Use a Contraceptive Implant?

You must see your doctor to get an implant. After conducting a physical exam, they will insert the implant under the skin of your upper arm. It can stay in place for up to three years. Implant insertions take just a few minutes. They are done with topical anesthesia.  

After three years, the implant must be removed. At that time, another implant can be inserted. If you choose not to get a new implant, you must use another form of contraception to prevent pregnancy.

What Are the Benefits of the Contraceptive Implant?

One reason the birth control implant is so effective is that it is easy to use. Advantages include:

  • one of the highest levels of effectiveness of all contraceptives
  • no need to worry about birth control for three years
  • fertility returns as soon as the implant is removed
  • appropriateness for women who can’t use birth control that contains estrogen

What Are the Disadvantages of the Contraceptive Implant?

The contraceptive implant does have several disadvantages, including:

  • no protection against sexually transmitted infections
  • high up-front cost if not covered by insurance
  • insertion requires a doctor’s visit
  • device must be removed after three years

Most side effects subside within the first six months to one year of use. Although rare, the implants sometimes migrate from the initial site of implantation. This can make the implant difficult for the clinician to find and remove.

Serious side effects caused by the implant are rare.

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