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Contraceptive Implant

The contraceptive implant is the most effective reversible contraception available.

The contraceptive implant is one small, thin, soft vinyl rod about the same length as a matchstick. The contraceptive implant contains the progestin hormone etonogestrel which prevents the release of an egg from the woman’s ovary.  This hormone causes thickening of the natural mucus of the cervix and so closes the cervix making it difficult for sperm to pass. These actions prevent an egg from being fertilized by a sperm and prevent pregnancy.  There may be other ways that this hormone works to prevent pregnancy that are not listed here.

The hormonal implant must be placed into the woman’s upper arm by a health care provider. A numbing shot is given and then the implant is inserted. This takes less than one minute. Once inserted, the contraceptive implant remains in place and works for 3 years. Removal takes a couple of minutes and a new implant may be provided at the same time.

The contraceptive implant is very safe for nearly all women.   Serious side effects are very rare. The most common change women noticed when using this birth control method is irregular spotting or not having a menstrual period.

Advantages of contraceptive implants include:

  • It is the most effective reversible birth control method there is.
  • Very convenient for once the implant is in place.
  • Insertion and removal is quick and easy.
  • One rod provides contraception for 3 years.
  • It is very discreet and private.
  • It is safe for women who smoker and are older than age 35.
  • It is safe for women who cannot use estrogen.
  • It may reduce menstrual problems for some.
  • It may be inserted at any time during the menstrual cycle, but a back up method recommended unless inserted during menstrual cycle.
  • Once the implant is removed most women quickly return to fertility. Women, who wish to breastfeed following birth of a baby, may get an implant beginning 6 weeks after breastfeeding is started.

Possible disadvantages and side effects include:

  • There is no protection against sexually transmitted infections.
  • Irregular spotting, bleeding, or no period are all possible issues for some women.
  • Women can only get the implant from a health care professional.
  • Women with deep vein thrombosis or blood clots need to avoid this method.
  • Women who have breast cancer or a history of breast cancer need to avoid this method.
  • Women with severe liver disease need to avoid this method.

Possible health risks include:

  • Insertion problems, such as infection, are very rare, but possible.
  • There is possible interaction with some medicines so this should be discussed with your doctor.
  • Over a 2 year time period some women gained less than 5 pounds. 
  • Blood clots are a possible problem, however the risk may be less than with regular birth control pills containing estrogen.

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