Implanon is one of the lesser-known forms of post-Pill contraception. A hormonal birth control implant, Implanon is inserted under the skin in your upper arm. It’s incredibly effective—and can last for three years. Interested? Sketched out (there’s something kind of irrationally frightening to me about implantable birth control)? Read on for more info on how Implanon works and why more women should consider this long-term birth control option.
How does Implanon work?
The matchstick-size, flexible Implanon rod is inserted under the skin in your upper arm at a doctor’s office. It continually releases a low dose of the ovulation-suppressing hormone progestin into your body, for up to three years. You can remove it at any time and (unlike with the Depo-Provera shot) fertility quickly returns after it’s removed (for most users, within six weeks).
While Implanon’s primary way of preventing pregnancy is by inhibiting ovulation, it also thickens the cervical mucus, making it harder for sperm to enter the uterus.
Is it safe?
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says yes. Last June, the organization (the leading group of women’s health care physicians) released an official statement saying implants and IUDs were “safe for use by almost all reproductive-age women.”
Like most hormonal birth control, Implanon has been associated with an increased risk of blood clots and ovarian cysts. “It is unknown if the risk of blood clots with Implanon is different than with birth control pills,” a fact sheet for the implant states. The risk of blood clots is greater in smokers and women over 35.
Is it effective?
With a failure rate of .05%, Implanon is the most effective method of reversible contraception available, according to ACOG. That rate is the same for ‘typical use’ and ‘perfect use’—I guess it’s hard to muck up using something that’s automatic and implanted under your skin. Certain medications and supplements, however, may make Implanon less effective, according to Planned Parenthood; these include the antibiotic rifampin (other antibiotics have no effect), St. John’s wort and certain yeast infection, HIV and anti-seizure medications.
What are some other benefits?
You don’t have to take a daily pill! Once the Implanon rod is inserted, you can go about your sexual business for three years without worrying about pregnancy. It’s also estrogen free, which some women need or prefer.
What are the side effect risks?
The most common side effect reported by Implanon users is irregular bleeding; about one in 10 women stop using Implanon because of bleeding problems (including more, less and no bleeding). Irregular bleeding is most common in the first 6-12 months of use. Planned Parenthood notes that for many women, the bleeding is lighter, and one in three women who use Implanon will stop having periods completely.
Other side effects include: Headaches, vaginitis, weight gain, acne, change in sex drive, nausea, dizziness, mood swings, depression and breast, back and abdominal pain.
How much does it cost?
The upfront cost for Implanon can be steep: At Planned Parenthood, the cost of the exam, the Implanon rod, and insertion ranges from $400–$800 for a woman without health insurance; removal costs between $100 and $300.
Implanon is also covered by many health insurance plans (though some do not cover it; check your individual benefits). Sometimes it is covered as a medical benefit and sometimes as a pharmacy benefit.
Are there birth control implants other than Implanon?
Implanon is currently the only implantable contraceptive available in the American market.