With the rising awareness about sexual health, a majority of the general population is now realizing the importance of using contraceptives.
Birth control and birth control methods are not only a necessity for preventing unwanted pregnancies for sexually active individuals, but often times it is also essential for maintaining optimal health.
While women depended on a variety of questionable contraceptive methods in the olden days, advancements in medical science have contributed greatly towards making available a number of safe and appropriate birth control methods. These choices enable individuals to select the contraceptives that best suit their lifestyle, needs, and budget.
Today, birth control methods are divided roughly into five different types including:
- Hormonal methods
- Barrier methods
- Natural methods
- Emergency contraception
- Intrauterine Devices
- Permanent contraception
While the barrier methods primarily make use of devices such as a male or female condom or a vaginal sponge which prevent direct contact of the sperm with the egg, the hormonal method uses hormones similar to the ones naturally produced by a woman’s body to prevent the release of an egg so as to prevent fertilization following sexual intercourse.
Amongst others, one of the most popular hormonal birth control method is the Birth Control Implant.
Read ahead to find out everything you need to know about the birth control implant – what it is, how it works, and what you can expect with its long term use, along with the risks and side-effects associated with it.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Birth Control Implant?
- How Does the Birth Control Implant Work?
- How Effective Is the Birth Control Implant?
- How Long Does It Take for the Birth Control Implant to Work?
- The Birth Control Implant VS The IUD
- What Are the Benefits of Using Birth Control Implants?
- What Are the Disadvantages of Birth Control Implants?
- The Placement and Removal of the Birth Control Implant – What to Expect?
What Is the Birth Control Implant?
Similar to the birth control pill, the birth control implant is a hormonal contraceptive method that uses a small plastic device or ‘rod’ inserted directly beneath the skin of the user.
This device releases a hormone known as etonogestrel—quite similar to the progesterone naturally released by a woman’s body—in order to stop the release of the egg from the ovary, allowing the individual to safely engage in sexual activity without the fear of an unwanted conception.
The contraceptive device is commonly available in many parts of the world, usually under
different brand names; however, they function in much the same way.
Residents which opt for this method of contraception in the United States will be fit with the birth control implant called Nexplanon. Previously known as Implanon, Nexplanon is only available through a valid prescription from a medical health professional.
The implant birth control is classified as the long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). Entirely dependent on the user, the implant can be placed anywhere from 3 to 5 years.
With only a 0.5 percent failure rate recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the birth control implant is one of the most popular ‘fit-and-forget’ contraceptive methods available today.
How Does the Birth Control Implant Work?
The birth control implant is comprised of two very thin, flexible plastic rods the size of a common matchstick, usually about 3.5 to 4 cm long. A licensed medical professional, through a microscopic surgical procedure, places these rods directly beneath the skin, usually under the upper arm.
Once in place, the implant begins to steadily release the hormone called progestin directly into the blood stream. A type of progestational hormone, etonogestrel prevents the fertilization of an egg by a sperm during copulation in three ways, namely:
- By slowing down or suppressing the ovulation process, thus effectively preventing the release of the egg, making it unavailable to the sperm during/after sexual activity
- By thickening the cervical mucus lining of the uterus, preventing the sperm from reaching the egg, should it be released during or after intercourse.
- And by altering the endometrium (inner) lining of the uterus itself, thus preventing a fertilized egg from implanting and embedding itself in the uterine wall for growth.
How Effective Is the Birth Control Implant?
According to research, the birth control implant is highly effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies in over 99 percent of the cases.
However there are a number of deciding factors which influence the effectiveness of the birth control implant. These factors include a person’s overall medical health and history as well as the time of placement of the birth control implant during the menstrual cycle.
Though it is not explicitly determined yet, it is suspected that the effectiveness of the birth control implant is greatly influenced and even diminished in obese patients.
How Long Does It Take for the Birth Control Implant to Work?
For women who have the birth control implant placed within the first five days of their
menstrual cycle, they’ll find that the contraceptive device is immediately effective. However in cases where the implant is placed at any other point of the cycle, it is highly recommended that women use another form of contraception as a supplementary back up.
Once placed, the implant remains effective for up to three years minimum, negating the need for use of any other contraceptive device or method, especially in cases where preventing pregnancies is the only cause of concern.
After three years, the implant stops to work as effectively as you would want it to, thus increasing the chances of conception. In case a user still requires protection against unwanted pregnancy at the end of the three years, it is recommended that the birth control implant be removed and then replaced by a licensed medical health professional.
The Birth Control Implant VS The IUD
The birth control implant is not the only long-term reversible contraceptive method readily available in the market today. Other options include:
- Copper Intra Uterine Device (IUD)
- Birth Control Shot
- Hormonal IUD
When compared to the Intrauterine device, the only major difference that exists is in the time duration for which the contraception is effective.
While a birth control implant is only effective and valid for use for up to three years, the Copper IUD device can easily last for as long as 10 years, without the need for removal or replacement.
The failure rates of both the contraceptive devices are quite similar, with both of them being over 99 percent effective. While the failure rate for the implant is 0.5 percent only, it is 0.8 percent for the Copper IUD. Other than that, both of these require a visit to a licensed medical professional for insertion and removal, and can be covered under a person’s health insurance if need be.
What Are the Benefits of Using Birth Control Implants?
Given their safety and high level of effectiveness, the birth control implants are quite a
popular contraceptive method. However, that is not the only benefit that this small device offers a user.
Amongst others, some of the more common benefits of using a birth control implant include but are not limited to the following:
- Ease of Use
- Quick Reversal of Effects
- Convenience and Privacy
- Single Hormone Use
- Improves Menstrual Cycles
Ease of Use
A medical professional under a local anesthetic places a birth control implant directly beneath the skin of the upper arm of a user. The procedure is quick and easy, without any extra effort or discomfort for the user. Given the fact that the implants are small and flexible, there is no aftercare required once placed.
Quick Reversal of Effects
Unlike other contraceptive methods, the reversal of effects is very fast with the implant birth control. There is no delay or difficulty in conceiving with the use of an implant – it does not affect an individual’s fertility, at all.
In fact, a long-term user can easily get pregnant immediately after having their implant removed.
Convenience and Privacy
Since the birth control implant is placed beneath the skin insider the inner upper arm, it’s barely visible, making it very convenient and private. The implant completely eliminates the need for you to make endless trips to the pharmacy for the pill, condom or ring, nor do you have to think twice about protection before intercourse. Unless explicitly told, it is highly unlikely for anyone to suspect your use of a contraceptive method.
Single Hormone Use
A majority of the hormone based contraceptive methods use a combination of both estrogen and progesterone to help prevent unwanted pregnancies. However, there is a vast number of people who cannot use birth control methods which contain both the hormones because of health conditions adversely affected by the increased levels of estrogen.
Since birth control implant Nexplanon uses progesterone only, a greater number of people are able to take advantage of its effectiveness.
Improves Menstrual Cycles
Because the birth control implant manages and alters the hormone levels in the body, it helps manipulate the menstrual cycle as well for a majority of women. According to research, a great number of women note marked improvement in their period cramps and blood flow. Furthermore, it has been found that 1 in every 3 women stops getting their periods after a year of continual use of the birth control implant.
What Are the Disadvantages of Birth Control Implants?
Apart from the natural contraceptive methods, all types of birth control have some disadvantages and negative effects of use along with associated risks and contraindications. The same applies for birth control implants.
While there are quite a few adverse effects of using a birth control implant, it is important to know that this form of birth control and its associated side effects vary from person to person. Not everyone will experience all of the side effects with the same intensity as another.
That said, here are the most common negative effects of using birth control implants.
- Shorter or longer period cycle
- Lack of bleeding during the menstrual cycle
- Fluctuation of duration of the period cycle itself as well as the time between two subsequent cycles
- Weight gain
- Headaches or migraines
- Frequent mood swings
- Depression and anxiety
- Increased acne
- Vaginitis or the abnormal inflammation of the vaginal walls
- Increased breast tenderness
- Rare acute breast pain
- Increased incidence of viral infections such as the flu or flu-like symptoms
- Increasingly painful periods
- Lower back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain and bruising at the site of implant insertion
Apart from the common side effects, there are also certain risks associated with use of birth control implants.
The commonly associated risks include:
- High risk of sexually transmitted diseases
- High chances of ectopic pregnancy once conceived
- Increased incidences of ovarian cysts
- Risk of implant breaking or bending
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Heart attack
- Total or partial blindness
- Pulmonary embolism
- High blood pressure
- Cancerous or non-cancerous tumors
- Gallbladder concerns
In some extreme circumstances, the use of a birth control implant is completely contraindicated and inadvisable. Common contraindications include:
- In patients with history of high blood pressure
- History of depression or generalized anxiety
- History of high cholesterol or heart trouble
- History of headaches and migraines
- History of liver disease or liver tumors
- History of blood clots
- Pregnant patients
- In patients allergic to anesthetics
Signs Indicating the Need for Immediate Medical Help
There are certain signs and symptoms, which indicate that the birth control implant is not as safe as it should be. If noticed, you should contact your medical health provider in case of:
- Consistent and prolonged pain in extremities especially lower leg
- Uncontrollably heavy menstrual bleeding following implant insertion
- Severe chest heaviness or chest pain
- Shortness of breath, cough with traces of blood
- Severe headaches with sharp shooting pains
- Unusually increased lethargy
- Deep depression and feelings of loneliness or sadness
- Partial blindness or inability to see properly
- Trouble speaking or holding a conversation
- Sudden weakness of the extremities followed by numbness
- Lumps in the breast.
The Placement and Removal of the Birth Control Implant – What to Expect?
A birth control implant is readily available at health care facilities around the country. There are no age limits for getting this particular type of contraceptive, all it needs is a thorough systemic health evaluation from your medical health provider before you can get the implant placed.
How Much Does The Birth Control Implant Cost
While the implant can cost any where from $600 to $1300 it is often covered under the
major healthcare insurance plans, largely due to the Affordable Care Act. The removal of the birth control implant can be done at any point in time during the course of the three years.
Much like the placement, the removal of the implant device can also cost a substantial amount – approximately $300 or more depending on your medical health provider. However, this cost too is often times covered under health insurance.
The Implant Placement Procedure
The birth control implant procedure is often a two-appointment process.
The first appointment with the medical health professional takes you through a thorough evaluation of your systemic health in order to deem you fit for placement of the implant. It is during this meeting that the doctor or the nurse determines the perfect timing for the implant placement, taking into consideration your current menstrual cycle, as well as previous birth control method of choice.
Once your medical health provider considers you healthy enough to receive the implant, you are given an appointment for the surgical placement of the implant.
One of the most common concerns with regards to this type of contraceptive is whether the placement of the birth control implant hurts or not.
The actual procedure itself takes no longer than two minutes. During your placement appointment, you are asked to lie back with your arm bent at the elbow to receive the implant.
The medical health professional locates a grove in your inner arm that lies between your triceps and biceps muscles in the upper arm. Once located, the area is sufficiently anesthetized and the birth control implant is then inserted inside using a special applicator.
After placement, the health care provider may or may not take an X-ray to mark the exact placement of the implant. After that the implant area is bandaged with applied pressure to minimize any bruising.
The Removal of the Birth Control Implant
The birth control implant remains effective in preventing unwanted pregnancies for up to three years after placement. However, it can be removed at any given time depending on the patient’s needs and requirements.
In case you wish to continue using long-term contraception even after three years, it is advisable that you visit your medical health provider for removal and subsequent replacement of the birth control implant in order to enjoy continual protection against unwanted conception.
The removal procedure of the implant device is quite similar to that of the placement,
though there may be slightly more bruising or possible scarring following the removal as compared to the insertion.
During your scheduled appointment for removal of the device, the nurse or doctor will prepare your arm with the implant by placing it at a bent angle to expose the inner upper arm area. Once the area is exposed and the implant correctly located, the nurse will anesthetize the area using a local injectable anesthetic.
Once the area is numb, the medical health professional will make a small incision in the skin and push on the other end of the implant towards the incision area until it is visible from the cut.
When the implant appears at the incision site, it can be grasped from the edge via surgical forceps and safely removed from the body. The incision is then closed using either a pressure bandage or a small stitch depending on the size of the incision.
The entire process usually lasts less than 5 minutes, overall.
For people who wish to have a new birth control implant placed, it can be done so in the same appointment as the removal of the old one.
Most people experience increased bruising, swelling, and pain at the removal site than they do during the insertion. In some cases a user may also experience mild infection and scarring on the insertion/removal site.
The birth control implant is one of the most effective contraceptive methods used today. However, it is not suited to everyone. As such, for people willing to invest in this form of birth control, it is highly recommended that they visit credible healthcare service providers for a thorough evaluation prior to the placement of the implant device.
Furthermore, while one of the major advantages of using this device is the long-term effectiveness, it is inadvisable to completely forget about the implant. For long-term users it is suggested that you monitor the changes experienced in your sexual and systemic health proceeding the insertion of the implant.
In case the implant is not placed where it should be, or it cannot be felt in place once inserted, it is important to know that there are high chances of the implant failing and thus it requires supplementary contraceptive support to prevent from conceiving during copulation.
For users opting for this particular form of birth control, it is highly recommended that you keep in regular contact with your health care provider to ensure the effectiveness of your contraceptive device as well as your overall health and safety.
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