The Contraceptive Implant-Implanon

February 10, 2011

Implanon was approved by the FDA as a birth control method in July of 2006. Implanon is a thin rod shaped device-roughly the size of a short toothpick--made from flexible plastic. Implanon is inserted under the skin on the underside of your upper arm, and is a progestin-only birth control method which can provide up to thirty-six months of pregnancy protection. A local anesthetic must be applied to the arm skin, and insertion takes only a few minutes. The implant can be removed any time prior to the end of the three years' time. Because Implanon will not dissolve on its own, it must be removed by a doctor.

How Implanon Works

When using Implanon, a low dose of progestin is continuously released over the three year period, with an average of 60-70 micrograms released per day in the first year, with the amount decreasing every year. Implanon works like any other hormonal method of birth control by stopping ovulation. Implanon additionally thickens the cervical mucus, making it very difficult-if not impossible-for the sperm to muddle their way through. Implanon also thins the uterine lining, making egg implantation much less likely.

Disadvantages

While many women adjust to Implanon with no noticeable effects at all, others have certain problems, including irregular bleeding, especially during the first 6-12 months of use. Most women will have lighter, and possibly fewer, periods, and after approximately one year, nearly one out of every three women who use Implanon will cease having periods altogether. Implanon may cause some women to have longer and heavier periods as well as increased spotting between periods. Implanon, like any hormonal birth control method, can cause headache, nausea, pain at the insertion site, tender breasts, and skin discoloration over the implant. While serious problems with Implanon occur rarely, if you are pregnant, or think you could be pregnant, you should not use Implanon. If you have liver disease, have a history of severe depression, have had blood clots in your legs, lungs, eyes, or a heart attack or stroke, you should not use Implanon. If you have ever had breast cancer or have unexplained vaginal bleeding, Implanon may not be the best form of birth control for you.

Advantages

Implanon is generally considered a safe and effective means of birth control, and is a good option for women who are unable to used estrogen-based contraceptives. Once Implanon is inserted, you don't have to worry about remembering birth control or having an unplanned pregnancy for three years. Following removal of the Implanon, most women can become pregnant fairly quickly-in fact, some women have reported becoming pregnant within days of removing Implanon. Implanon can be used by breastfeeding moms, and due to its low and steady hormone-delivery system, most women will experience fewer hormone-induced emotional roller-coaster rides than when using the pill or the patch. Perhaps the biggest advantage of Implanon is that it is 99.9% effective in preventing pregnancy.

If you decide to use Implanon, you will need a medical prescription. You will need at least two doctor's visits, the first of which will include a medical evaluation with a pelvic exam and blood pressure check, the second to have the implant inserted. The cost generally runs from $500-$750, however this averages out to be less than $20 per month. If you get the implant during the first five days of your period, you are protected against pregnancy immediately, otherwise you will need to use some other form of backup birth control for the first week following insertion of the Implanon.

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