What are the Pros and Cons of the Birth Control Implant?

Contraceptive implants may seem a bit futuristic, but they’ve been on the market since the mid-1960s. Contraceptive implants are discreet, offer long-lasting protection against unintended pregnancy, and are highly effective. While the birth control pill is the most popular method of hormonal birth control, about 2% of women of reproductive age currently rely on the birth control implant to prevent pregnancy. So, how does the contraceptive implant work, and what are the pros and cons of using it? The following article will explore the contraceptive implant in more detail, and who can most benefit from using this method of birth control.

Facts about The Implant for Birth Control: Pros and Cons

How does the contraceptive implant work?

The contraceptive implant is about the size of a matchstick. The implant is injected just below the surface of the skin in the upper arm. Throughout 3 to 5 years, the implant will release a constant dose of synthetic progestin hormones into the bloodstream. Progestin prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs, and the hormone also thickens cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to travel to the womb and fertilize an egg.

How is the implant injected?

For a woman who wishes to use a hormonal implant to prevent pregnancy, she must not be pregnant when the implant is inserted. A medical provider will apply a local anesthetic to the inside of the upper arm. The implant is injected under the skin with a special needle. Once the implant is placed, it doesn’t require any other maintenance or replacing for at least three years. Some hormonal implants can last up to five years.

How is the implant removed?

A doctor or a nurse will apply a local anesthetic to the area where the implant has been placed. They will make a small incision near the implant, and pull it out from under the skin. Once the implant is removed, the contraceptive effects will quickly wear off. It’s possible for a woman to get pregnant as soon as the implant is removed.

What are the risks associated with the birth control implant?

Complications from the birth control implant are incredibly rare, but they are possible. It’s normal for there to be some pain at the injection site for a few days, but some women may experience pain at the injection site that lasts longer. Implants can get infected, and sometimes the skin will scar from the injection. It’s important that women have access to an informed team of healthcare providers and to be aware of the signs of infection:

  • Oozing, redness, bleeding, or pain at the injection site that does not go away.
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes.
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding.
  • Implant seems to have moved.

Rarely, implants can break while under the skin, or fall out on their own. If an implant breaks, it will need to be surgically removed. If an implant falls out, a woman should use a backup birth control method, such as condoms, until she has a new implant inserted.

In incredibly rare cases, some women will become pregnant while using the birth control implant. The implant has a 99% effectiveness rate. For every 100 women who use an implant, one will become pregnant within one year of using the device. For pregnancies that occur while using an implant, there is a slightly higher risk than normal that the pregnancy will become ectopic.

An ectopic pregnancy is one where the fertilized egg implants into the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. As the egg grows, it threatens the structure of the fallopian tube. If the egg isn’t removed, the fallopian tube can rupture — this is a life-threatening situation.

Who should not use the birth control implant?

Women who have a history of breast cancer or are at high-risk of breast cancer should not use the birth control implant. Some breast cancers are sensitive to the hormones in the implant. Also, women who smoke should not use birth control implants. The hormones in a birth control implant can increase the risk of developing life-threatening blood clots. For women who smoke, are over the age of 35, or have a history of blood clots, they should consider non-hormonal birth control options.

Can the implant alleviate certain health issues or hormonal imbalances?

The hormonal birth control implant can alleviate menstrual cramps. Also, one in three women who use the birth control implant will stop getting a period within one year of having the implant inserted. Other women may find that their periods are much lighter than before they started using the implant.

Who should use the birth control implant?

Women who are under the age of 35, do not smoke, and have no history of breast cancer or blood clots can use the birth control implant. Birth control implants are incredibly effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy and can alleviate issues associate with the menstrual cycle.

Also, depending on which type of implant a person gets, they can get continuous contraceptive protection for three to five years. Women who want to protect themselves against pregnancy for the long term can benefit from the implant.

The implant is up to 99% effective if inserted correctly. The pill, one of the most popular hormonal birth control methods, is 91% effective. Because the pill needs to be taken every day at the same time to get the most protection, user error is a more significant risk with the pill. Drinking alcohol, or becoming sick can interfere with the effectiveness of the pill. Once an implant is inserted, the user does not have to do anything else to get the benefits of the implant for many years. It’s an incredibly convenient form of effective birth control.

Birth control doesn’t just protect against unwanted pregnancy. It also offers an array of other health benefits as well. Women who use a longterm form of birth control such as the implant can lower their risks of ovarian and uterine cancers.


The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.