December 06, 2012

Contraceptive Series Part 4: Implanon, the Hormonal Implant

by novanilla

This is the third installment of my Contraceptive Series, in which I will provide accessible information about Implanon, the only hormonal implant option available in America at this time. This article will provide information about the basics of Implanon— everything you need to know when making a decision about what contraceptive is best for you.

So how does it work?

It contains 68g of progestin etonegestrel, released in small doses. Once inserted, it lasts for 3 years and has a failure rate of about .38%, so it is on par with the ideal use of the Pill. It suppresses ovulation and thickens cervical mucus to slow the travel of sperm, or inhibit it altogether. The lining of the uterus also becomes very thin during use of contraception containing progestin, making it difficult for an embryo to implant. The fact that you do nothing to make it work except get it inserted means it doesn't really have an "actual rate" unless someone inserts it incorrectly. If you see a provider who has been trained in Implanon insertion, it will be over 99% effective.

Who should use Implanon? Who shouldn’t?

It is important, before choosing a long-term birth control, that research is done to make sure it’s a good fit for you. This is a birth control that requires a provider’s assistance in its use. If you fear that in 3 years, you may not have health insurance or be able to afford removal, it may not be a good idea to insert Implanon, Mirena, or Paragard, the three longest-lasting birth control options in America today.

People who should consider Implanon are: non-breastfeeding mothers who want to space their children, women who know they will not want children in the next 3 years, women with endometriosis, women who want a private birth control, college students, women who often forget pills, women who want a hormonal option, women who want a long-term option but are fearful of IUDs, and women who want to ease their periods.

People who should keep looking: women who do not want to use hormones, women who are uncomfortable with being cut or things being under their skin, and women who want a guaranteed monthly bleeding.

What happens once I get it?

Side effects associated with Implanon are similar to those of any other hormonal contraception. However, 36% of users experienced irregular bleeding, such as prolonged bleeding, frequent bleeding, or the halt of all bleeding, that is not as common with methods such as the Pill. Moodiness, weight gain, headaches, acne, breast pain, and decreased libido may also occur. Aside from moodiness and decreased libido, whose numbers are lower, each of which are reported by 10-15% of women, so these are definitely problems to consider: do you think Implanon is worth it?

Once you have Implanon inserted, be sure to take note of the date and remove it before its expiration at 3 years.

Next time, I will write about Depo-Provera, the progestin-only birth control shot. If you have questions about Implanon that I did not answer here, please ask in the comments below or send me a message!