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Birth Control Hormones: The Implant

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Topic Overview

What is a birth control implant?

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 3 years. After it is put in, you don't have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.

The implant can only be inserted and removed by your doctor or another trained health professional. These procedures can be done in your doctor's office and only take a few minutes.

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?

The implant works very well. Fewer than 1 woman out of 100 has an unplanned pregnancy.footnote 1

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

What are the advantages of the implant?

  • The implant is one of the most effective methods of birth control.
  • It prevents pregnancy for up to 3 years. 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 can't 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 the implant?

  • The implant doesn't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as herpes or HIV/AIDS. If you aren't sure if your sex partner might have an STI, use a condom to protect against infection.
  • It may cause irregular periods, or you may have spotting between periods. You may also stop getting a period. Some women see having no period as an advantage.
  • 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. Trussell J, Guthrie KA (2011). Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 20th ed., pp. 45-74. Atlanta: Ardent Media.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rebecca Sue Uranga, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Current as ofMarch 16, 2017

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