Implants: The Birth Control that Goes in Your Arm

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Yes, you read that right - birth control implants are a long-term, matchstick-sized, 99% effective contraceptive method that your arm! Coined the “get-it-and-forget-it” birth control, the implant has been in use preventing pregnancy since 2006. Tomorrow marks the 13th anniversary of the day the FDA approved its use in the United States, so a very special happy birthday to the birth control implant!

Want to learn more? TeenSource has all the information for you.

What is the birth control implant? 

Known on the market as Nexplanon (previously called Implanon), the birth control implant is a roughly 1 inch long rod-shaped device that is injected into your upper arm by a doctor after applying numbing topical medicine. The entire process should take less than an hour at the health clinic or doctor’s office, and an implant lasts for up to 4 years before a replacement is needed. You can also have it removed by a doctor at any time. Removal of the implant is a similarly simple, painless, and quick procedure. Once the implant is in your arm, it is not visible, but can be felt if the area is touched.

How does it work? 

The implant releases the hormone progestin into the body which prevents pregnancy by both thickening cervical mucus to stop sperm from reaching the egg, and by stopping ovulation so that there is no egg released from the ovaries to be fertilized. 


The great thing about the implant is that unlike the pill, once it’s put in, you don’t have to worry about it! It’s a one-and-done deal. The long-term protection provided by an implant is over 99% effective - as much as IUDs and sterilization. However, once the implant is removed, you can get pregnant immediately. The convenience and privacy also means no pharmacy trips, no steps to take before sex, or unnecessary questions and explanations. The implant also helps reduce period cramps, and about a third of users stop having a period altogether after a year. Finally, because it only uses progestin instead of both estrogen and progestin like other birth control methods, the implant can still be used by people who have health issues related to estrogen.


Some people experience things such as spotting or irregular bleeding, headaches, breast pain, nausea, and bruising near the upper arm when inserted. These cons are not serious and should go away within a few months. However, if you have an implant and feel like these symptoms get worse or are hard to ignore, talk to your doctor immediately about your concerns.

How do I get one or learn more?

If you’re interested in having an implant inserted, here’s a link to find a clinic near you. They can answer any questions you have and help you get started on the implant, or any birth control method!  And remember, teens can get the birth control method that is right for them for free thanks to new laws and programs like Family PACT.

There are a variety of birth control methods out there and it’s important to think about your lifestyle and preferences when deciding with your doctor on which one is right for you. Approximately 8% of women between the ages of 15-44 use LARCs, or long-acting reversible contraception, which includes the implant. The percent of women using LARCs is increasing as more people learn about them and barriers to getting them like cost are reduced.

REMEMBER: As with all forms of birth control -- except consistently and correctly used condoms -- the implant does NOT protect against STDs, so be sure to use a condom too! Find free condoms near you.