Hormonal Implants

Key Facts
  • Hormonal implants are a type of birth control that can last for 3 years.
  • A tiny tube that releases a form of the hormone progestin is placed under the skin of the upper arm.
  • Hormonal implants do NOT protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
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hormonal implantHormonal implants are a type of birth control in the shape of a tiny tube that is placed under the skin of a woman’s upper arm. The implant prevents pregnancy and is effective for 3 years. The implant is about the size of a toothpick and made of a flexible plastic that contains a type of progestin hormone medicine called etonogestrel.

Out of 100 women using hormonal implants
Typical use: 1 or fewer women become pregnant icon representing less than 1 pregnant woman
Perfect use: 1 or fewer women become pregnant icon representing less than 1 pregnant woman

How does the hormonal implant work?

When placed under the skin, the implant  slowly releases small amounts of a progesterone hormone called “etonogestrel.” This suppresses the pituitary gland which stops the ovaries from releasing eggs. It must be inserted by a health care provider. The hormone also changes the cervical mucus (making it thicker) to prevent sperm from reaching the egg.

Nexplanon® is a type of hormonal implant that is available in the United States (US). Other hormonal implants such as Norplant and Norplant II are no longer available in the US, but may be available in other countries.

When is the hormonal implant inserted?

The implant can be inserted at any time as long as you are not pregnant. Your health care provider will tell you when to make an appointment. A routine pregnancy test is typically done before the procedure.

When does the hormonal implant start to work?

As long as the hormonal implant is inserted within the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle, it begins to work right away. If the implant is inserted after the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle, you should not have sex or you should use condoms for 7 days.

How long can the hormonal implant stay in my arm?

Nexplanon® works for 3 years. At this point if you are still happy with this type of birth control and your health care provider agrees that it is still a good option for you, the old hormonal implant can be removed and a new one inserted on the same day.

What is the procedure like?

Before the procedure: You will be asked to read and sign a consent form which gives your health care provider permission to insert the hormonal implant.

The procedure: Your upper arm is cleaned with a special soap. Numbing medicine is then injected just under the skin of your upper arm (where the implant will be inserted) to lessen the discomfort. Next, using a special tool, your health care provider pushes the implant (tube) through a needle under the skin. This is a minor procedure that takes less than 5 minutes with minimal discomfort.

After the hormonal implant is inserted: Your health care provider will go over home-care instructions with you and will cover the site with 2 bandages. The top bandage can be removed in 24 hours. The smaller bandage can be changed to a new one each day. The insertion site should be kept covered for about 3-5 days. This will keep the site clean and dry as it heals.

How effective are hormonal implants?

Hormonal implants are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. This means that if 100 women use hormonal implants, less than 1 woman will become pregnant in a year. Hormonal implants do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)Condoms should be used with all sexual activity.

Can you see or feel hormonal implants?

Usually, you can’t see the implant under your skin. However, in individuals with lower body weight, the outline of the implant may be visible. It is possible to feel the hormonal implant in your arm, but it shouldn’t hurt.

Do hormonal implants have any other benefits besides protecting against pregnancy?

Yes. Hormonal implants can cause very light, or no, menstrual periods, less anemia (low number of red blood cells), and less menstrual cramps and pain.

Where can I get hormonal implants?

A health care provider (HCP) must insert the hormonal implant. Most health insurance companies cover all of the costs. You can call your health insurance company to make sure it is covered.

Can any woman get hormonal implants?

No. Hormonal implants cannot be used by women who:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Have a serious liver disease
  • Have had breast cancer

Some medications may lower the effectiveness of the implants. If you are taking medications such as certain anti-seizure medications, over-the-counter herbs, dietary supplements and /or vitamins, tell your health care provider.

Are there any side effects of hormonal implants?

There are some possible side effects of hormonal implants. They are different for every woman. The most common side effect is irregular menstrual bleeding. The bleeding is usually light and not a medical concern. If you have irregular menstrual bleeding and it is bothersome, call your health care provider.

If you experience heavy bleeding, keep track of the amount of pads/tampons you use and call your health care provider right away.

Other possible but uncommon side effects are:

  • Headaches
  • Weight gain (You can help maintain your weight by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise)
  • Scalp hair loss
  • Acne
  • Breast pain
  • Mood changes, such as depression or nervousness

Should I be worried if my menstrual period stops?

No. Some women stop having their menstrual periods after getting a hormonal implant. This is not a reason to worry. It just means that your ovaries are resting and not releasing an egg each month. Your ovaries are making less estrogen, and the lining of your uterus does not get thicker. So there is no menstrual bleeding. Your menstrual cycles will return to the way they were, after the implant is removed. Talk to your health care provider and they’ll decide if you need a pregnancy test.

What if I have problems with the hormonal implant?

Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns, especially if you are having:

  • Very heavy or long menstrual periods
  • New painful headaches
  • Redness, swelling, or bleeding around or at the area where the implant was inserted

The hormonal implant isn’t the right option or choice for everyone. Did you know that you can have the hormonal implant removed anytime? Never, ever try to remove the implant by yourself! The implant MUST be removed by your health care provider!

What happens after 3 years when it’s time to take the hormonal implant out?

When it’s time, you’ll need to make an appointment with your health care provider to have the implant taken out. If you like having an implant, a new implant can be inserted on the same day that the old implant is removed.

Will I be able to get pregnant after I have the implant removed?

Yes, you are fertile once the hormonal implant is removed.