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Birth Control Hormones: The Implant

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Birth Control Hormones: The Implant

Overview

The implant is used to prevent pregnancy. It's a thin rod about the size of a matchstick that is inserted under the skin (subdermal) on the inside of your arm.

The implant releases the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. Progestin prevents pregnancy in these ways: It thickens the mucus in the cervix. This makes it hard for sperm to travel into the uterus. It also thins the lining of the uterus, which makes it harder for a fertilized egg to attach to the uterus. Progestin can sometimes stop the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation).

The implant prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years.footnote 1 Talk to your doctor about how long you can use it. Once it is put in, you don't have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.

The implant can only be inserted by your doctor or another trained health professional. It only takes a few minutes. This can also be done right after you give birth. Your doctor will remove the implant when it needs to be taken out.

Your doctor numbs the area and "injects" the implant under your skin. No cuts are made in your skin. To remove the implant, your doctor numbs the area, makes a small cut in the skin, and pulls the implant out.

How well does it work?

Implants are more than 99% effective for preventing pregnancy.footnote 1 That means that fewer than 1 out of 100 people who use the implant as directed will have an unplanned pregnancy.

Be sure to tell your doctor about any health problems you have or medicines you take. The doctor can help you choose the birth control method that is right for you.

What are the advantages of using the implant for birth control?

  • The implant is one of the most effective methods of birth control.
  • It prevents pregnancy for up to 5 years.footnote 1 Talk to your doctor about how long you can use it. You don't have to worry about birth control for this time.
  • It's safe to use while breastfeeding.
  • The implant doesn't contain estrogen. So you can use it if you don't want to take estrogen or can't take estrogen because you have certain health problems or concerns.
  • It may reduce heavy bleeding and cramping.
  • It's convenient. It is always providing birth control and cannot be seen. You don't need to remember to take a pill or get a shot. You don't have to interrupt sex to protect against pregnancy.

What are the disadvantages of using the implant for birth control?

  • The implant doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or HIV. A condom can be used to reduce your risk of getting an STI.
  • It may cause irregular periods, or you may have spotting between periods.
  • It may cause mood changes, less interest in sex, or weight gain.
  • You have to see a doctor to have an implant inserted and removed.

References

Citations

  1. Thaxton L, Lavelanet A (2019). Systematic review of efficacy with extending contraceptive implant duration. International Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics: The Official Organ of the International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, 144(1): 2–8. DOI: 10.1002/ijgo.12696. Accessed December 7, 2022.

Credits

Current as of: April 19, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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