Birth control implants are a form of slow-release hormonal contraception. The contraceptive implant is a four-centimeter-long soft plastic stick that is inserted under the skin in the woman’s upper arm. The implant releases progestin, a synthetic steroid hormone with progesterone-like properties, in small amounts at regular intervals (1). It helps in the prevention of pregnancy (2 ).
However, are these implants safe? Is the insertion procedure painful? Read this post to know all about birth-control implants.
How Does The Implant Work?
The birth control implant is a tiny, thin rod of the size of a matchstick. It is available as the trade name of Nexplanon. It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestin, and it helps avoid unexpected pregnancy. The hormones responsible for birth control act in the following ways to prevent pregnancy (3).
- Progestin thickens the mucus on the cervix. It prevents the sperm from reaching the egg, preventing pregnancy.
- Progestin prevents ovulation. When there are no eggs to fertilize, pregnancy does not happen.
How Effective Is A Birth Control Implant?
The implant is one of the best contraceptive methods. It is more than 99% effective, and less than one percent of women who get these implants inserted get pregnant each year.
However, this implant cannot help in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. A male latex condom is the most effective way of preventing STDs, including HIV (4).
Insertion Procedure For The Implant
The doctor will ask for a detailed medical history to confirm if you are a suitable candidate to receive the birth control implant. The insertion procedure is pretty quick and does not hurt as the arm is numbed with local anesthesia before the procedure. Once the arm is numb, the doctor uses a special inserter tool to slide the implant under the skin. The procedure does not take more than a few minutes.
You may feel the pinch or sting when you are given the shot that numbs the skin. Once the skin is numb, you do not feel the process of the implant being inserted. Once the effect of local anesthesia wears off, you may feel a mild ache around where the implant was inserted, but the pain subsides quickly.
There might be localized soreness or swelling around the implant, or the surrounding skin may appear bruised for a couple of weeks after the implant is inserted. The doctor will guide you about the steps to take care of the skin around the implant.
Benefits Of A Birth Control Implant
The following are the benefits of a birth control implant (5).
- They are a safe and convenient way of avoiding unintended pregnancy for up to five years.
- They are the “get-it-forget-it” mode of birth control. You do not forget to use it or do not use it incorrectly.
- They are discreet, and no one can know that you have them since they are not prominent over the skin.
- It is zero maintenance — you do not need to do anything about them until they reach their expiration date.
- The implant also helps in reducing the intensity of period cramps. They also help in reducing menstrual flow. About one in three women stop getting their periods at all after a year of having an implant placed.
- Some other birth control methods use both estrogen and progesterone to help in birth control. However, some women with certain health conditions cannot use birth control methods that contain estrogen. Nexplanon is estrogen-free, and hence more women can use it.
- Nexplanon does not affect your fertility. It is reversible, and you can get it removed whenever you want to get pregnant. Moreover, it is possible to get pregnant as soon as you get your implant out of the body.
You can read about other methods of contraception here.
What Are The Drawbacks Of The Implant?
A woman’s vaginal bleeding pattern changes after the contraceptive implant has been inserted. While some women experience frequent or irregular bleeding, about 20% of women have no menstrual bleeding at all. However, it is important to know that it is not harmful to the body. Frequent or prolonged bleeding might get better with time. The doctor might prescribe some medicines for you to help with the bleeding problems (2).
Birth control implants may be effective at avoiding unwanted pregnancy, but they do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Male latex condoms are most effective at avoiding STDs (6).
What Are The Side Effects Of Birth Control Implants?
Some women complain of the following side effects (2).
- Skin changes
- Sore or tender breasts
- Mood swings
The following are less common side effects of birth control implants (7).
- Change in appetite
- Change in libido
- Ovarian cysts
- Hair loss
The birth control implants are not shown to cause weight gain. However, most often, these side effects settle with time as the body gets adjusted to the implant. If you notice these symptoms lasting longer than usual, you must bring them to your doctor’s notice, and they might suggest you shift to some other mode of birth control.
Birth Control Implant Removal
The nurse or doctor will remove the birth control implant after five years or whenever the woman wants to stop using it. The removal is usually fast and easy. If you have had the implant for five years and still do not want to get pregnant, you can have a new implant inserted after five years.
The process of removing the implant is a little longer than inserting it. The doctor will use an anesthetic to numb the skin around the implant. They make a small incision to retrieve the implant. Once the anesthesia begins to work, the process of putting the implant in or retrieving it doesn’t hurt. If you wish another implant to be placed, it can be done in the same appointment when you go for the implant removal (8).
Birth control implants are one of the most efficient long-acting reversible contraception. It is preferred by women as it is an easy-to-use reversible contraception method. The lower probability of side effects makes birth control implants a good choice for several women. You can contact your healthcare provider to check if you are a suitable candidate for birth control implants.
- Steroid Hormones and Their Action in Women’s Brains: The Importance of Hormonal Balance.
- Contraception – implants.
- Birth Control Implant.
- How effective is the birth control implant?.
- What are the benefits of using the birth control implant?.
- What are the disadvantages of birth control implants?.
- What happens when the birth control implant is removed?.