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What is the birth control implant (Nexplanon)?

The birth control implant is a flexible, plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that is inserted just under the skin in the inner upper arm. It releases progestin into the body. The implant is approved for up to 3 years of use.  The brand name is Nexplanon, and was previously known as Implanon.

Nexplanon (etonorgestrel)

How does the birth control implant work?

The progestin (etonorgestrel) in the implant prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. The progestin in the implant also thickens the mucus of the cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to enter the uterus and reach the egg. Progestin also thins the lining of the uterus.

What are the benefits of the birth control implant?

The implant has the following benefits:

  • It is easy to use. Once it is in place, you do not have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.
  • No one can tell that you are using birth control. The implant cannot be seen under the skin (but it can be felt).
  • It can be inserted immediately after a miscarriage or childbirth, and while breastfeeding.
  • It does not interfere with sex or daily activities.
  • Almost all women are able to use the implant. There are few medical conditions that prevent its use.
  • It reduces pain during your menstrual period.
  • If you wish to get pregnant or if you want to stop using it, you can simply have the implant removed.

How is the birth control implant inserted?

An ob-gyn or other health care professional will insert the implant into your arm. He or she will numb a small area on the inside of your upper arm with a local pain medicine. The implant is placed under the skin with a special inserter. The procedure takes only a few minutes.

How is the birth control implant removed?

When you are ready to stop using the implant, an ob-gyn or other health care professional must remove it. A small area on your upper arm is numbed with a local anesthetic. One small incision is made. The implant is removed through the small incision. The procedure usually takes only a few minutes.

What are possible side effects of using the birth control implant?

Like IUDs, the implant can cause changes in menstrual bleeding. The most common change is unpredictable bleeding. Menstrual periods may be less frequent and may stop completely. But in some women, periods are more frequent and last longer. Other side effects may include digestive difficulties, headaches, breast pain, weight gain, and acne.

What are possible risks of using the birth control implant?

Possible risks with use of the implant include the following:

  • Problems with insertion or removal of the implant. These problems are rare.
  • Although rare, if a woman gets pregnant while the implant is inserted, there is a slightly increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. The implant should be removed if pregnancy occurs.

Information provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

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