The birth control implant (also called Nexplanon) is a convenient system used to prevent pregnancy. A hormone-containing plastic rod the size of a matchstick is inserted under the skin of a female’s arm.
How Does it Work?
Your healthcare provider inserts the hormone-containing rod into your skin using a needle. The needle is inserted into your arm at a slight angle, and when the needle is fully in your arm, the applicator is parallel to your skin.
The applicator inserts the rod into your arm and the needle is removed. The rod remains in your arm for up to five years, but can be surgically removed at any time.
The implant releases a steady dose of progestin into your body. Progestin is a synthetic (artificial) hormone that prevents ovulation (the ovary from releasing the egg) and thickens the mucus of the female's cervix. The thickened mucus prevents the sperm and egg from joining and fertilizing in case the egg is released.
Does It Protect Against STIs?
STI stands for sexually transmitted infection. STI risk varies depending on how you choose to protect yourself and your partner during sexual or intimate activities.
The birth control implant (Nexplanon) does not protect against STIs.
Does it Protect Against Pregnancy?
Yes, Nexplanon is more than 99 percent effective for preventing pregnancy.
Advantages and Disadvantages
- Once the rod is inserted, you don't have to worry about getting pregnant or remember to take daily preventive measures (like with the pill).
- The rods are reversible – once the rod is removed you can usually quickly become pregnant.
- The rod is extremely subtle – usually no one can see or feel the rod once inserted (unlike IUDs, which can sometimes be felt during sexual activity).
- Nexplanon can cause irregular bleeding and spotting.
- Pain and scarring can be associated with the insertion and removal of the implant.
- It may not work for overweight or obese women.
Nexplanon also carries increased health risks, such as:
- Blood clots (especially if you smoke)
- Ovarian cysts
- Weight gain
- Breast pain
- Viral infections
Last Reviewed: January 2019