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Is Implantable Birth Control Right for You?


By Mary Wascavage


The implant is a small, thin rod inserted under the skin in the upper part of your arm.

For some women, deciding what type of birth control to use is overwhelming. With many different methods and brands, it can be hard to decide what is best for you and your body.

One option is implantable birth control. It's a small, thin rod inserted under the skin in the upper part of your arm. It then releases hormones within your body that can prevent pregnancy for a few years. It can be a good and convenient option for women who do not want to think about taking their birth control, or use other forms of birth control.

“Implantable birth control is often recommended for women who do not plan to get pregnant for a few years and are looking for an effective and safe option,” says Rachael L. Polis, D.O., MPH, a pediatric and adolescent gynecologist and OB/GYN at Crozer Health. “It’s a ‘get-it-and-forget-it’ option.”

How Does Implantable Birth Control Work?

Nexplanon is the implantable birth control device available in the U.S. It is a small, thin, plastic rod about the size of a match. It contains etonogestrel – a synthetic form of the natural female sex hormone progesterone. This hormone can prevent pregnancy when released in your body.

“The implant is injected by a healthcare provider under the skin in your upper arm,” Polis says. “The hormones in the implant, once placed in a patient’s arm, prevent pregnancy by preventing sperm from reaching the egg by increasing the thickness of cervical mucus and keeping an egg from leaving the ovary, also known as ovulation.”

Once the implant is placed in your arm you cannot see it and it will last for up to three years. Unlike other forms of birth control, the implant is always working. After three years, your doctor will remove and/or replace the implant with a new one if you want to continue using it. The implant does not, however, prevent HIV or STDs. Using condoms with the implant is recommended to prevent these types of infections.

What Are the Benefits?

Along with being easy to use, there are other benefits to getting a birth control implant.

Along with not having to think about the implant after it is put in, it is highly effective, with a failure rate of only 0.05%. It is also a private way to use birth control as it is not noticeable once inserted into your arm. Should you decide you want to get pregnant while you’re on this type of birth control, you can start trying right after the implant is taken out.

Implantable birth control can also benefit women who experience pain during their periods. Studies show that women who used a birth control implant reported having less-painful periods.

Who Should Avoid it?

While this can be a good option for some women, it’s not for everyone. Before starting any type of birth control, talk to your healthcare provider about any possible risks or complications.

“Women who should not get this type of birth control are those who are pregnant, have breast cancer, or unexplained vaginal bleeding,” Polis says. “Also, women who have certain liver diseases generally should not use implants.”

If you’re considering the birth control implant or wondering if it’s right for you, talk to your women’s health provider. He or she can walk you through the benefits, risks and other options that may be right for you.

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