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Health Information and Tools > Sexual and Reproductive Health > Birth Control >  What is the birth control implant?
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Hormonal Birth Control

What is the birth control implant?

The birth control implant is a thin, plastic tube about 4 cm (1.5 in.) long. It goes just below the skin of your upper arm. It slowly releases progestin, a hormone like progesterone that your body makes, to stop your ovaries from releasing an egg. You can’t get pregnant if you don’t release an egg. The implant also thickens the mucous in your cervix, so it’s harder for sperm to pass through.

How well does the implant work?

  • The implant is 99.9% effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • The implant can help prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years.
  • The implant doesn’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Use a condom every time you have sex (vaginal, oral, anal) to lower your risk of STIs and HIV.

How do I start using the implant?

You need a prescription for the implant. Your healthcare provider will numb your skin and put the implant just under the skin of your upper arm. This takes a few minutes. When the implant is in place, you’ll have a dressing and an adhesive (sticky) bandage over the area. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can take them off.

You probably can’t see your implant, but you can feel it if you touch the skin over it. Your healthcare provider will show you how to feel your implant.

When does the implant start working?

If you get your implant on day 1 to 5 of your period, it works right away. If you get it any other day, use an extra form of birth control (such as condoms or don’t have sex) for 7 days.

What are the benefits of the implant?

The implant has many benefits:

  • The implant works on its own to prevent pregnancy. You don’t have to do anything.
  • If you use the implant for 3 years, it costs less than other birth control like the pill, patch, or ring. You can get a new implant after 3 years if you want to keep using it.
  • The implant may make your period cramps less painful.
  • You can use the implant if you can’t use birth control with estrogen.
  • You can use the implant while breastfeeding.
  • Your healthcare provider can take out your implant at any time and for any reason you want.

How will the implant affect my period?

The implant may change your period. The changes aren’t harmful and don’t affect how well the implant works:

  • Your periods may be lighter or heavier than usual.
  • More than half of people with the implant stop having a period or have a period less often than usual.
  • About 1 in 4 people with the implant have periods more often, longer periods than usual, or both.

What are the side effects of the implant?

Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned about side effects from the implant. They may include:

  • headache
  • weight gain
  • acne
  • tender breasts
  • changes in mood
  • abdominal (tummy) pain

What are the risks of the implant?

The implant is very safe. Problems putting it in or taking it out are rare. They may include the following:

  • You may have bruising and swelling around the implant. This is common in the first 24 hours.
  • The implant area could get infected.
  • The implant could move a bit from where it was placed. This usually doesn’t cause problems.
  • The implant could move a lot from where it was placed. This is very rare. If this happens, a specially trained healthcare provider will take out your implant.
  • The implant may be hard to take out. If this happens, your healthcare provider may take longer to take it out, or a specially trained healthcare provider will take it out.

I’m thinking of getting an implant. What do I need to tell my healthcare provider?

If you’re thinking of getting an implant, tell your healthcare provider if you:

  • are pregnant or think you might be
  • have or had breast cancer
  • have vaginal bleeding that’s not regular, or you don’t get your period
  • have growths in your liver or liver disease
  • have lupus
  • are allergic to numbing medicine (local anesthetic)

If I have an implant, when do I need to contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if you:

  • notice redness, warmth, or fluid leaking from your arm, or you have a fever within 1 week of getting the implant
  • think you’re pregnant
  • can’t feel the implant under your skin (use backup birth control like condoms or don’t have sex until you see your healthcare provider)
  • have any questions or problems with your implant

Did you know?

  • You can get pregnant as soon as you have your implant removed.
  • You can contact your healthcare provider anytime to take out your implant.
  • There’s about an 85% chance of getting pregnant after 1 year of having unprotected sex.
  • You have the right to decide to have sex or not.
  • Planning ahead and deciding to protect yourself lowers your risk of pregnancy, STIs, and HIV.
  • It’s important to talk with your partner about how you can protect each other.

For more information

Health Link - Health Advice 24/7: 811 ​​

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