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Implants (birth control)

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A birth control implant, as you might have guessed is a contraceptive technique used for preventing pregnancy. It’s a flexible plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that is inserted by your doctor under the skin of the upper arm, thereby offering your protection for nearly 3 years. Implanon and Nexplanon are the two widely supplied birth control implants, the latter being the latest version.

Mode of action of birth control implants

It prevents pregnancy by releasing the hormone “progestogen or etonogestrel” which mimics the function of the hormone progesterone. It acts in the following ways:

  • Thickens the cervical mucus to block the pathway of sperms to the egg
  • Thins the endometrial lining so that it cannot implant a fertilized egg
  • It prevents regular ovulation to prevent fertlization

How to Prepare?

  • You need to fix an appointment with your doctor during which he/she will analyze your health. Your doctor will ask you a plethora of questions regarding your general health, future plans of pregnancy, if you are already using any other contraceptive method, have undergone miscarriage, had childbirth recently or have undergone STD treatment, pelvic surgery, etc. etc.
  • You may need to undergo blood tests to rule out pelvic infections or disease. After evaluating everything your doctor will determine whether a birth control implant is suitable for you or not
  • You need to lie on your back and then raise your hand upwards to expose the inner side of the upper arm. The technician will then locate the correct place for inserting the rod

Insertion and Removal of Birth Control Implant

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  • Insertion is performed by your health care provider. Your skin is numbed with a local anesthesia and then the rod is pushed through a needle underneath the skin of your upper arm. It takes a minute or two.
  • During removal, a very tiny incision is made at the tip of the rod to pull it out. It’s also performed under the effect of local anesthesia.

What to expect after

Minor pain, pinching and burning are very common after the device has been placed. The rod is not visible but you can feel it. The technician will sense it through touch to ensure that it has been positioned correctly in the arm. A small bandage might be wrapped around the insertion site.

Some additional side effects include acne, breast pain, headache, mood swings, nausea, etc. Infection, though rare might also occur at the insertion site. However, there’s no major concern to worry about.

How long it takes to become effective?

It your doctor inserts it in the first 5 days of menstrual cycle, then it protects you immediately or else you need to wait for a week for it to become effective. During that period use alternative means (condoms) of protection while having sexual intercourse

Advantages of Birth Control Implants

  • Lasts long for 3 years, easy and safe to wear and remove
  • Does not interfere with your sexual activities
  • You don’t need to remember your pills or use additional condoms
  • You can use an implant even while breastfeeding
  • Quick return to fertility after removal
  • Reduces heavy bleeding and menstrual cramps

Disadvantages of Birth Control Implants

  • Some may find it expensive
  • Doesn’t provide protection against STDs
  • Might reduce menstrual bleeding below normal
  • Can cause irregular menstrual periods
  • Can cause weight gain, depression and mood swings

All in all, the final decision will definitely taken by your doctor. Make sure you seek for immediate medical help on observing any abnormality in your health post insertion and remember to follow your doctor’s advice. In general, it’s safe and effective.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 11, 2015

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