Authored by Revere Health

Birth Control Spotlight: The Implant

January 18, 2019 | OB/GYN

Although hormonal birth control is associated with some risks, there are a lot of potential benefits. Not only is it highly effective at preventing pregnancy but it can also make periods lighter and less painful.

The pill is one option for hormonal birth control, but if you find yourself regularly missing doses, you may want to consider another option—the pill is most effective when taken daily. The birth control implant is more consistent, dependable and less vulnerable to human error. There is currently one brand of birth control implant available in the United States: Nexplanon.

How It Works

You can only receive a birth control implant from your doctor, but despite the name, the implant does not require surgery. The implantation procedure is relatively quick and easy. Your doctor uses a needle to insert a plastic rod about the size of a matchstick under the skin of your upper arm. The insertion procedure takes only a matter of minutes, and your doctor can perform the procedure in his or her office.

The implant is immediately effective against pregnancy if you receive it during the first five days of your period, although you’ll want to use a backup form of birth control for seven days after implantation if you receive it at any other point during your menstrual cycle. You should not be able to see the device under your skin, although if you press with your fingers over the insertion area, you will probably be able to feel it.

The implant contains a hormone called etonogestrel, which prevents conception by:

  • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to prevent sperm from entering the uterus
  • Preventing your ovaries from producing an egg, so that even if sperm cells make it into your uterus, they won’t find anything to fertilize

The implant releases hormones into your body continuously for a period of up to three years. After that time, you should have the device removed and replaced, or you can ask your doctor to remove it earlier for any reason. Only your doctor should attempt removal, but the procedure is relatively simple. It involves making a small cut over the tip of the implant, after numbing your skin first, then simply pulling it out. Before removal can occur, however, your doctor must locate the implant. An x-ray may help find the implant’s position if the doctor cannot feel it with his or her fingers. Once your doctor locates the implant, it may take up to 20 minutes to remove it, although it often takes only a fraction of that amount of time.

Side Effects

There are advantages and disadvantages with every form of birth control, and the implant is no exception. As with all forms of hormonal birth control, Nexplanon increases your risk of developing blood clots in your legs, which can cause respiratory distress and potentially lead to death if the clots travel to your lungs. Other side effects include the following:

  • Breast pain
  • Headache
  • Insertion site infection
  • Nausea
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Weight gain


In addition, not every woman can use birth control implants. Talk to your doctor to find out if you are a candidate.


The obstetricians/gynecologists, nurse practitioners and certified nurse midwives at Revere Health OB/GYN provide a full range of healthcare services to women throughout all stages of their lives, including puberty, child-bearing years, menopause and beyond.



“Birth Control Implant.” Healthline.

“Birth Control Implants: Are They Right for Me?” WebMD.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.