A cartoon image of sperm cells
Birth control implants work to help stop sperm cells from reaching and fertilizing eggs.

Birth Control Implants

Birth control options continue to expand and now include a wide array of options to choose from. Of course, not every birth control option is well-suited for all people in all situations. It is important for you to consider all options and consult your doctor before making a decision. What works for one person might not be a good option for you.

Consulting with your doctor is a great way to learn about available birth control options, but doing your own research can help along the way. When reviewing your possibilities, be sure to include the different types of birth control implants.

Birth Control Options

Because there are so many types of birth control methods, experts separate them into categories based on how they work in the body.

Permanent Sterilization

These surgeries involve blocking the sperm or eggs from a position in which pregnancy may occur. Vasectomies for males and tubal ligation for females are a few possibilities. Although these may be reversible in some cases, they are usually permanent solutions.

Short-Acting Hormonal Methods

Birth control pills and patches are commonly used to prevent pregnancy. They contain low levels of hormones, like estrogen and progestin, which disrupt the normal ovulation and release of eggs to be fertilized.

Pills are generally safe and effective, but they must be taken consistently at the same time every day. If some doses are missed, the chances of becoming pregnant are more likely.

Barrier Methods

Condoms are the most frequently used barrier method, but this category includes sponges, diaphragms and cervical caps. These methods work by creating a physical barrier between the sperm and egg, so the two never meet.

Though these are less effective than hormonal methods, they are safer. There is a very small risk of allergic reactions and urinary tract infections.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives

This broad group of birth control options includes:

  • Intrauterine device (IUD): a T-shaped copper device inserted into the uterus.
  • IUD with progestin: a T-shaped device inserted into the uterus that releases a hormone.
  • Progestin shot/Depo shot: an injection loaded with a hormone.
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Implantable Rod Basics

The final type of long-acting reversible contraceptives are implantable rods. These birth control implants are a thin cylinder about the size of a matchstick.

If someone has a birth control implant inserted, their doctor will numb a section of the upper arm and slide the plastic device under the skin with a special needle. The procedure is generally quick and creates only minimal discomfort.

The implantable rod, known by brand names like Implanon and Nexplanon, works by releasing a steady stream of the hormone progestin into the body. The hormone will interrupt the woman’s cycle, changing the cervix to make it less likely for sperm to reach an egg. It also stops the ovaries from releasing eggs.

For many, birth control implants are a favorable option because they do not require you to think about birth control for long periods of time. One birth control implant can last for three years, and if you change your mind and want to become pregnant, a doctor can remove the device.

The Risks and Benefits of a Birth Control Implant

No matter the method, all birth control options have a series of risks and benefits. Birth control implants are no different.

The risks of birth control implants include:

  • Changes to your menstrual cycle.
  • Weight gain.
  • Headaches.
  • Sore and tender breasts.
  • Skin changes with increased acne.
  • Ovarian cysts.
  • Blood clots, heart attacks and strokes (in rare occasions).

Another group of risks that birth control implants pose is related to their insertion. They can be difficult to insert, hard to remove and once inserted they may move to another part of the body, which can lead to infection.

Remember, like other forms of birth control, birth control implants do not prevent or treat any sexually transmitted diseases.

Despite these risks, birth control implants carry many appealing qualities because the product is simple, long-lasting, maintenance-free, easily reversible and private and discreet.

Another important benefit of the implant is cost. For most people with insurance, the rod, the insertion and removal are all completely free or available for a very low cost.

Perhaps the most significant bonus of the implant is the effectiveness. Out of every 100 people using an implantable rod, less than one will become pregnant. Compare this with about 6 out of every 100 who will become pregnant with an injection method, and about 9 out of 100 who will become pregnant when using birth control pills.

Closing Thoughts

Choosing a birth control option is a personal decision. If you are considering birth control for the first time, or thinking about switching methods, you should consult your doctor about what option works best.

Unfortunately, all options carry risk. Weigh the risks and rewards of each class of birth control to find the one best suited for your lifestyle and family goals.