Different forms of birth control typically are associated with some kind of drawback. Condoms need to always be purchased and put on before sex, and diaphragms and cervical caps can become dislodged and make sex uncomfortable. Spermicide can cause vaginal irritation, and other forms of hormonal contraceptives like the pill or patch must be used regularly to be effective. Hypothetically, these issues aren’t enough to warrant too much consideration. However, the stressful distractions of the day or being caught up in the heat of an intimate moment can make using birth control occasionally difficult. Fortunately, there is a long-term, highly effective and reversible option for women who want to control their bodies and enjoy their sex lives: a contraceptive implant.
What Is a Contraceptive Implant?
Though many brands exist, all contraceptive implants employ the same strategy to prevent pregnancy. A contraceptive implant is a small flexible, plastic rod which is inserted beneath the skin under the arm. Being similar to IUD, this device releases a low, consistent dose of the hormone progestin which thickens the cervix’s mucus lining while also thinning the lining of the uterus.
By increasing the mucus around the cervix, sperm has a difficult time reaching an egg to fertilize. Even if fertilization does occur, the zygote cannot implant on the uterine wall. Further, although not needed to prevent pregnancy, the hormones released by the implant may also prevent ovulation entirely.
Contraceptive Implant Advantages
The most notable advantage of a contraceptive implant is that, once it’s been inserted, you no longer have to worry about birth control for five years. It will take several days – five if you’re menstruating, seven if you’re not – to begin working, but after that, there’s no need to worry about becoming pregnant for another five years. No need to worry about filling a prescription or apply a contraceptive product before sex.
The problem many women have with certain forms of birth control is that they may be difficult to manage and might ruin the intimacy. For example, it is not uncommon for some men to report that a poorly placed vaginal ring or cervical cap makes sex uncomfortable. Further, some women say a diaphragm and spermicide irritates their genitalia, both during and after intercourse.
However, with a contraceptive implant, none of this is a problem. Since the device is so small and inserted under the arm, it won’t make being intimate uncomfortable or awkward at all. While it’s not impossible, implant insertion is an in and out procedure which is mostly painless and generally isn’t associated with any major complications.
If you do want to get pregnant, though, removal is just as quick and (mostly) painless, and fertility should reoccur within less than a month at the least and as much as six months at the most. Plus, this device is safe to use while breastfeeding.
Implants also provide many other unique health and wellness benefits some contraceptives don’t. For example, some women with an implant bleed less when on their period or in some cases stop menstruating altogether. Since this method works by thickening cervical mucus, the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease is also mitigated. The risk of developing endometrial cancers might be reduced and some women even report improvements in acne, too.
Finally, just like other hormonal forms of birth control, implants are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Contraceptive Implant Disadvantages
As previously mentioned, getting an implant put in generally has no complications or severe pain. However, a minority (5%) experience some lingering pain near the insertion site, bruising, infection, and scarring. Fifteen percent of women who use this method report significant weight gain (three pounds over a year) and the same percentage also have reported vaginal dryness.
Very rarely, complications from insertion may occur such as migration of the device to other parts of the body, allergic reactions, formation of ovarian cysts and the development of hypertension. For this reason, about 3% of women with an implant have theirs removed.
Side effects which may occur include dizziness, back pain, mood swings and nausea. The most common side effects are occasional headaches which occur in 25% of women who have an implant.
Keep in mind, just like other hormonal contraceptives, an implant only protects you from pregnancy, not sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). For this reason, we recommend that you use condoms or know the status of your partner.
Who Should and Shouldn’t Use Birth Control Implants?
While this device doesn’t pose any serious health concern in most women, some individuals may want to consider a different form of birth control if they’re in specific circumstances.
For example, some women may be allergic to the components in a contraceptive implant. Women who have had liver disease or liver cancer or either have had or possess a high likelihood of developing breast cancer shouldn’t use a contraceptive implant. Someone who has had blood clots, heart disease, a stroke or heart attack also shouldn’t use an implant.
Obviously, women who want to become pregnant should have the implant removed and can expect to get pregnant in about six months after having the device removed. If you find it difficult to get pregnant after this time, consult your physician.
Furthermore, women who suffer from depression, diabetes, epilepsy or are overweight should weigh their options before getting an implant. Lastly, women who experience abnormal genital bleeding from an unidentified infection or other affliction should consult a physician before getting an implant.
Keep in mind, these concerns only apply to a minority of individuals and most healthy women can take full advantage of contraceptive implants. As previously mentioned, implants can be a bit more expensive compared to other forms of birth control, since the device and surgical procedure can cost well over $1,000.
However, between private and public financial assistance or healthcare provisions, the cost of birth control implants can be significantly reduced. In fact, some jurisdictions provide implants for free.