Consumers have so many birth control options today that it can be so difficult to navigate it all. That’s why Nurx is making a series called “Birth Control FAQs,” where the goal is to empower consumers by answering the most frequently asked questions for each type of birth control out there. Whether you’ve always wondered how implants work or what the most common side effects of “the pill” are, Nurx is here for you. While Nurx doesn’t offer implants, we do offer the birth control pill, and many different kinds of it. We would love to talk to you about which pill will work best for you, and your first pack is only $5.
The implant, brand name Nexplanon, is a simple, safe, discreet, effective and long-time yet reversible option for women who would like to prevent pregnancy. Implants are small matchstick size rods that are placed under the skin in the area of the upper arm between the biceps and triceps. If you are interested in finding out more information about implants or any other birth control method, you can refer to Nurx where we make high-quality healthcare and birth control solutions accessible and affordable for all women.
Implants are 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. However, it is important to remember that they do not offer any protection in preventing HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Implanon was an identical product that was discontinued in 2011.
Mechanism of Action
Implants use the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy. For example, Nexplanon is a 1.6-inch long thin rod made of a flexible plastic that contains about 68 mg of the hormone progestin. Once inserted under the skin, it releases on average about 62 micrograms of the hormone each day. The peak serum levels are from 60 to 70 micrograms in the first six weeks of insertion that dwindles down to 35 to 45 microgram by the end of the first year and 25 to 30 micrograms by the end of the third year.
Progestin prevents pregnancy by offering three lines of resistance:
- First, it prevents ovulation, so that no egg is released to be fertilized.
- Second, it thickens the cervical mucus to deter the sperm from swimming effortlessly to the ovum, in the rare case that it might be released.
- Lastly, it works on the lining of the uterus making it thin, thus making implantation of the fertilized ovum difficult, in case the first two lines of defense fail.
Hence, a properly administered implant is 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.
Image via Flickr by Wonderlane
Your doctor will assess your health and medical history and explain the merits and demerits of birth control implants. If you are a good fit, the doctor will perform the insertion at the clinic, and you can go home and resume normal activity immediately. There is no downtime associated with the procedure.
Before inserting, the inside of the upper arm is sanitized and numbed using a local anesthetic. A special applicator is used to insert the implant is placed under your skin. You will be able to feel a slight bulge. The site is then covered with a sterile bandage. Most implants can provide protection for three years and can be removed anytime.
When Not to use Birth Control Implants
It is generally recommended that you should not use implants if you:
- Are pregnant.
- Have liver disease or tumors.
- Have blood clots (DVT, pulmonary embolism, stroke, heart attack) because Nexplanon can make your clots worse, especially in women with a history of smoking.
- Have a history of breast cancer.
- Are allergic to any of the components in Nexplanon.
Drug Interactions with Implants
Medications that can interfere with the efficacy of birth control implants include drugs used in the treatment of tuberculosis, HIV and seizure disorders. There are other possible drug interactions as well which you should refer to and discuss with your doctor before you decide to use the implant.
Side Effects Associated With Implants
Similar to the mini-pill, implants are also associated with certain side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:
- Headaches, mood swings, depression, acne, and weight gain.
- Effects on the regularity and frequency of a woman’s periods. The monthly period may get lighter, heavier, irregular and/or painful.
- Spotting between periods.
- Close to 30 percent implant users stop getting a period at all after one year of use.
- Sore breasts, stomach pain, back pain, nausea, flu-like symptoms, dizziness, and Vaginitis.
- Having pain at the site of insertion
You should call your doctor right away if you:
- Feel extreme and prolonged pain in your head, lower legs or chest.
- Experience sudden partial or complete blindness.
- Have difficulty breathing or spit blood in your cough.
- Feel your limbs are getting numb or weak and you are not able to speak.
- Notice signs of allergy such as swelling in tongue or face or difficulty breathing or swallowing.
Risks linked to Implants
Like any medical procedure, the insertion of birth control implants is not without its risks. Please make sure that you have the procedure performed by a doctor who is trained and authorized to perform implants. Some of the risks include:
- Failure to properly insert the implant resulting in the implant ejecting itself out.
- Scarring, bruising, inflammation or infection at the site of the implant.
- Implants getting bent or broken while in the arm.
Although not a common occurrence, implants have managed to travel and have been found in blood vessels in the lungs. However, this is very rare.
Generally speaking, the cost of an implant is approximately $450 to $848. This comes to approximately $10 to $18 a month if used for four years. Implants are a prescription-only drug and individual cost depends on your insurance coverage and doctor’s clinic fee structure. Please consult your doctor and insurance provider to get an accurate estimate of the costs of both insertion and removal. At Nurx, we understand how the cost may affect a woman’s decision to use or not to use an implant. We can help you choose the right brand without breaking the bank.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the implant contain?
The implant is a hormonal contraceptive that releases a low dose of progestin. Its function is similar to that of the mini-pill. Progestin can also stop eggs from leaving your ovaries (called ovulation), so there’s no egg to fertilize.
How do I know it is right for me?
Implants are generally easy to use and worry-free. There is no need to set reminders as is the case with most other forms of birth control methods. Implants are also quite useful for women who are over the age of 35, who smoke or who are sensitive to estrogen.
How does it feel to get an implant inserted?
The initial shot received when the implant is inserted is shot to numb the area. Most women report a slight sting feeling from the numbing shot. After that, you shouldn’t be able to feel the implant being inserted. Tenderness and swelling at the implant site may occur but only last a few days.