Design of birth control implant

The birth control implant: Everything you need to know

Since 1998, implants have been a safe and effective form of birth control that requires little to no maintenance. The implant is a thin rod that’s inserted into your arm and lasts for several years.

How the implant works

The implant releases the hormone progestin on a consistent basis. Progestin helps to thicken your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. Progestin also thins your uterine lining and suppresses ovulation. 

How often you need to do something

Once your implant is inserted under the skin in your arm, it lasts up to five years, making it an easy long-term birth control option. Insertion takes only a few minutes and a local anesthetic is used so while you may feel pressure in that area during insertion, you shouldn’t feel pain. The implant can be removed by your provider at any time. 

Benefits and drawbacks

The implant is a great choice for those who may have a hard time taking a pill at the same time every day. Learn all about the pluses and minuses to determine if an implant is the right fit for you. 

Pros

  • Easy to use effectively since there isn’t a daily pill to take
  • No need to worry about birth control for five years
  • Can become pregnant as soon as the device is removed 
  • Great for those who can’t take birth control with estrogen
  • Doesn’t interrupt sex and doesn’t require partner participation
  • Slightly more effective at preventing pregnancy than the pill

Cons

  • Doesn’t protect against STIs 
  • Higher risk for ectopic pregnancy if you do get pregnant 
  • Higher upfront cost if uninsured (Most health plans are required to cover birth control without a copay)
  • Requires insertion and removal at doctor’s office every five years
  • Some possible side effects include increased risk for noncancerous ovarian cysts, changes in menstruation and sex drive, headaches, abdominal or back pain, nausea, weight gain, and breast tenderness, many side effects go away within a few months
  • More likely to cause weight gain than birth control pills and IUDs
  • Implant may move around after insertion, this is very rare

Effectiveness

The implant is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy and can be implanted at any time of your cycle. If you get the implant within the first five days of starting your period, it will be effective immediately. Otherwise, use backup birth control, like a condom, for seven days after insertion. 

Where and how to get it 

Your implant will need to be prescribed and inserted by a health care provider. Contact your health center or family planning clinic for more information. 

Average cost

The cost of inserting the implant, including medical visits, ranges from $0 to $1,400 but is usually covered by health insurance or a government health plan. After insertion, there’s no cost for the next few years until you need to replace your implant. Removal can cost up to $300 depending on your insurance.  

Who’s eligible

Like other forms of birth control, most healthy premenopausal women can get an implant. Talk with your healthcare provider, as the implant may not be a good fit for those with a history of blood clots, liver disease, certain types of cancer, and unexplained vaginal bleeding. Your health care provider should also ask about any allergies and current medications. 

Want to learn about other types of birth control? Check out these posts.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team


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