What An OB-GYN Wants You To Know Before Getting A Birth Control Implant

Taking the pill every day at the exact same time poses a challenge for even the most organized among us. With new alternatives becoming available nearly every time you turn around, it appears that another viable option has burst onto the scene. Offering women a lower maintenance way to control their futures, the birth control implant may be the best choice for many. But, before you rush to the doctor's office, there are a few things you should know.

The List spoke with Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, OB-GYN and Senior Medical Director at Babyscripts, about birth control implants, what they do, and who should get them. "Currently, there is only one implant available — Nexplanon," she explains. "It is one of the long-acting, reversible contraception methods available to women — in addition to the IUD. Nexplanon is a matchstick sized flexible plastic rod that contains a progestin hormone which prevents ovulation."

Traditionally, these rods get placed within the patient's arm with a simple procedure that you can get done at your doctor's office. "Your health care provider will numb your skin in the area on your inner arm above your elbow," Dr. Demosthenes explains. "The implant will be placed with just a tiny bit of discomfort, but is then effective for three years — no remembering to take a pill!" But, how does it work? The implant releases hormones into your system that do a variety of things. The progestin hormone halts ovulation while thickening the cervical mucus and thinning the lining of the uterus.

Birth control implants work with your hormones

Essentially, the implant makes it extremely difficult to get pregnant. "The rate of women who have gotten pregnant while using Nexplanon is only 0.05%," says Dr. Demosthenes. "Compare this to the pregnancy rate in women using birth control pills — 0.3% with perfect use and 9% with typical use." Since progestin works as the main ingredient, it also means that the implant has little risk following its insertion. "Since it's a progestin only medication, there really are no risks to the hormone, although you might have some discomfort and bruising after the placement," she says. As far as when it's time to remove, you can simply head to the doctor's office and have them take it out.

Some of the side effects are similar to the ones that many experience when taking other kinds of hormonal birth control. "Most commonly these include skipping their period or having irregular bleeding. This isn't a sign that something is wrong — it's just a side effect, which many women tolerate and feel is worth it when considering the positives of this method of birth control."

You may experience acne, weight gain, breast pain, and digestive disturbances, she explains, but notes that these are rare. "Most women do not experience these side effects — and again, some women are not troubled enough by them to have their implant removed." If you're looking for a new birth control routine, the implant may be a viable option for you.