Contraceptive implants like implanon allow for more convenience and offer 99% protection against pregnancy.
Are you thinking of getting on contraceptives? 4 out of 5 patients I see opt for birth control pills by default.
“Because it’s the most common option around”
“I’ve not heard of other birth control options”
While birth control pills are indeed one of the most common contraceptive options around, they may not be suitable for everyone1. If you’re one of those or simply exploring other birth control options, allow me to suggest contraceptive implants.
Contraception should never be something that you have to worry about and it should be hassle-free and seamless. Contraceptive implants offer just that type of experience.
In this article, let’s explore birth control pills and contraceptive implants side by side. You may also agree that contraceptive implants may just have the edge!
What do I need to know about birth control pills?
You know how reproduction works from biology class – a woman releases an egg during ovulation and that egg is fertilized by the sperm and it then implants in the uterus.
Birth control interrupts this process in three ways.
1. They prevent you from ovulating
Birth control pills contain small amounts of synthetic estrogen and progestin. Both are produced naturally in the body. These hormones prevent pregnancy. As such these hormones stop the ovulation process.
2. Thickening of the mucus
Estrogen and progestin thicken the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from reaching the egg.
3. Changes in the lining of the uterus
This makes fertilization more difficult.
There is also the "mini-pill" which contains progestin only and the emergency pill (morning after pill) that is often used when other contraceptive methods have failed or no contraception was used during the time of intercourse at all.
What are some of the drawbacks of birth control pills?
Sometimes, women experience side effects when taking birth control pills. Here is a list of some of the common ones.
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Lighter periods
- Menstrual changes
- Dizzy spells
- Lower belly pain
- Weight gain
Also, some women find it a complete hassle to have to take their pill every day and depend on memory. This is very risky as missing a pill could put you at risk of pregnancy.
What are contraceptive implants?
If you are looking for more convenient birth control that doesn’t require constant compliance, you may be interested in Implanon.
How does the Implanon implant work?
Implanon works by preventing the release of an egg during the ovulation process. It also thickens the cervical mucus, preventing sperm from entering the uterus.
Implanon is extremely effective, giving 99%2 protection against pregnancy. It also lasts for 3 years without the need for doctor visits in between – all you have to do is schedule an appointment with your doctor when it is time for a replacement.
What does the contraceptive implant look like?
Contraceptive implants or implanon resemble a 4cm long toothpick – except they are made of plastic and are quite flexible.
Where is the Implanon implant inserted?
The implant is injected into the inner upper arm, right below the skin. Your doctor or a trained nurse will administer a local anesthetic, so you should not feel anything during the procedure. The process is usually finished in minutes.
What are the advantages of the Implanon implant?
There are some distinct benefits if you decide to get the Implanon implant. Here are some pros that you can look forward to:
Stress-free birth control
As mentioned, administration of Implanon is a one-time procedure which lasts for 3 years without the need for monitoring or compliance3. Birth control pills, on the other hand, strictly require you to take a pill everyday.
Improvement in periods
Most women experience lighter and more manageable periods, with some experiencing almost no vaginal bleeding at all.
Improvement in acne
Most patients who tend to suffer from acne tend to see a significant reduction in breakouts after starting the implant.
Safe for breastfeeding moms
Moms can use it while breastfeeding their babies with no issues.
Does not affect fertility
Once the Implanon implant is removed, fertility returns to normal.
Easy to remove
Insertion and removal of Implanon takes just a few minutes.
Does not contain estrogen
It is an excellent option for those who have difficulty tolerating estrogen since the implant contains progestin only.
How soon does Implanon start to work after it is administered?
Implanon starts to work 7 days after it is inserted in your arm. So, we advise that you desist from sexual activity till then. The timing of your menstrual cycle may also affect when the implant takes effect. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Is there anything that can affect the efficacy of the Implanon implant?
If you are on any medications or use any natural remedies, you should let your doctor know so you can know if they affect your implant.
Of course, if you leave your implant beyond 3 years, you will not be protected against pregnancy.
If you are late removing your implant, you should use condoms or emergency contraception if you used absolutely no protection.
Is Implanon suitable for everyone?
While Implanon is a good option for most women, it is not recommended for those with:
- Severe liver disease
- Breast cancer or history of breast cancer (breast cancer survivor)
Are there any side effects to be aware of?
You may experience minor side effects such as:
- Soreness or bruising at the site of the implant. Your doctor may ask you to wear a bandage for about 24 hours to protect the area
- Slight headaches
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
However, the good news is that these side effects usually improve with time and you won't even think about your implant.
So, if you are considering contraception other than the pill, ask your doctor about Implanon contraceptive implants.
- Colquitt CW, Martin TS. J Pharm Pract. 2017 Feb;30(1):130-135. doi: 10.1177/0897190015585751. Epub 2016 Jul 8. PMID: 26033795
- Isley M. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol. 2010 Dec;23(6):364-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jpag.2010.03.006. PMID: 21105241
- Newberry YG. Nurs Womens Health. 2007 Dec;11(6):607-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-486X.2007.00252.x. PMID: 18088298
This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 28/01/21