The birth control implant is one of the newest forms of contraception, having just entered the market in 2006. It is growing in popularity because of its high level of effectiveness and long-term convenience.

What Is It?

A birth control implant is a type of hormonal birth control, meaning it releases hormones into the body that prevent pregnancy. The implant itself is a very small plastic rod (about the size of a matchstick) that is inserted by a medical professional into the upper arm right under the skin.

How Does It Work?

The birth control implant slowly releases the hormone progestin into the body. Progestin prevents pregnancy by blocking the maturation of eggs in the ovaries, while also thickening mucus at the entrance to the cervix to prevent sperm from entering.

How Do I Use It?

You must see your healthcare provider to use a birth control implant. After conducting a physical exam, the doctor will insert the implant under the skin, where it can stay for up to three years. Implant insertions take just a few minutes and can be done with topical anesthesia.  

Effectiveness

The birth control implant is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancies. This means that less than one out of every 100 women using a birth control implant will become pregnant.

Benefits

One reason the birth control implant is so effective is how easy it is to use. After implantation, you don’t have to worry about birth control every day or every time you have sex. The only maintenance required is to remove the implant after three years and insert a new one. If you decide you want to get pregnant, the birth control implant can be removed at any time without affecting your chances at pregnancy. It is also a good option for women who are breastfeeding or can’t take estrogen.

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage of the birth control implant is that it does not protect against sexually transmitted disease like other barrier methods of contraception. The implant also requires a doctor visit, medical exam, and prescription, which can add up in cost. The insertion itself can cost more than $400, but is covered by many insurance plans. 

The most common side effect of the birth control implant is irregular bleeding, but some women experience a change in sex drive, nausea, sore breasts, and pain or scaring around the implant site. Most side effects subside within the first six months to a year of use. Although rare, the implants sometimes migrate from the initial site of implantation and are subsequently difficult for the clinician to find to remove.