A Contraceptive Implant: What Is It and How Does It Work?

First there were oral contraceptives, then came intrauterine devices, and finally the contraceptive implant. The most contemporary birth control option is the contraceptive implant, a small piece of flexible plastic that is inserted under the skin of the inner, upper arm. The implant itself is only 4 centimeters long, roughly the size of a matchstick. Once inserted, the implant is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and offers 3 years of continuous birth control. The implant is ideal for women who do not plan on getting pregnant in the near future, or those who may not remember to take an oral contraceptive consistently.

Contraceptive Implant

The implant works by constantly releasing the hormone progestin into the body. Progestin is a hormone present in oral contraceptives. The steady release of progestin works to prevent the egg from reaching the ovaries and thus keeps sperm from reaching the egg. The implant is one of the most effective forms of birth control on the market. If implantation occurs within the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle, the implant is immediately effective. Implants that are inserted at any other point in the menstrual cycle require 7 days to take effect. Individuals in these cases are encouraged to use secondary contraceptive methods, such as condoms, during the 7 days following insertion.

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The contraceptive implant is known as either Nexplanon or Implanon, depending on where you live. The procedure can only be performed by a healthcare professional. Once you have found a qualified healthcare provider, you will need to schedule an appointment for a consultation. Your provider may be able to perform the implantation during your initial visit, but it is possible that you will be asked to schedule a follow up appointment. The insertion is considered a minor surgical procedure. Implantation requires the administration of a local anesthetic and a small incision.

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