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Contraceptive Implants: Pros and Cons

Nowadays implants are mostly associated with the esthetic surgery. However, it is not only the way to receive new breasts, chin or buttocks; implants are also used to deliver medications into the human organism. This form of medicine delivery suits perfectly for the contraceptives – medications, which should be used regularly for the long period of time. Indeed, isn’t it much better to go through the single procedure of contraceptive implantation and stay protected for 3-5 years than to follow a strict regimen of oral contraceptives, which should be taken every day at the same time in order to feel safe?

Of course, making a decision about implantable contraceptives requires more detailed considerations and evaluating all the pros and cons in comparison to more common types of contraception, such as pills, spermicides or even IUDs. That is why it may be of use to oppose all the advantages to the disadvantages of implantable contraceptives prior to making a final decision about having one inserted in your own body.

First of all, here is a short presentation of available implantable contraceptives.

Norplant was the first birth control method in the form of implant, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1990. Initially Norplant was produced in the form of six little sticks, each containing levonorgestrel as the active contraceptive agent. After having those sticks inserted under the skin, a female received protection from pregnancy for as long as 5 years.

Though Norplant gained its popularity in more than 60 countries worldwide, its distribution in the USA ended in 2002. In 1996 and repeatedly in 2002 the FDA approved the next version of Norplant (Norplant II or Jadelle – two-rod implantable contraceptive); however, it is not currently available in the USA.

Implanon is the brand new implantable contractive, which received the FDA approval in 2006. It is a single rod implant, which ensures pregnancy protection for up to 3 years. Its working ingredient is etonogestrel, which belongs to the group of hormones known as progestins.

Well, now it is time to define all the advantages and disadvantages of implantable contraceptives.


High level of effectiveness – this is the primary advantage of the implantable contraceptives. The chance to get pregnant during the use of this type of birth control is less than 1 %, which is approximately the same as with the use of hormonal daily pills or condoms. Statistics says only 8 women of 1000 may become pregnant during the use of implantable contraceptives.

Reversibility of the birth control method – once a woman decides to become pregnant and stop her contraceptive regimen, she may have her implanted contraceptive removed. The ability to get pregnant returns in about one week after the removal.

Freedom – implantable contraceptives are probably the best option for those women, who do not feel comfortable about the necessity to remember taking pills every day or use contraceptive before each sexual intercourse. Once inserted, a woman may forget about her contraceptive and stay confident about its effectiveness for years.

Financial issues – though the procedure of implant insertion can be costly, it is still the one-time investment without the need to buy pills or condoms or other contraceptives periodically.  

Safety - implantable contraceptives are considered to be a safe birth control method. Since both Norplant and Implanon contain only one hormone (unlike daily pills, which commonly contain combination of two different hormones), side effects are usually mild and not severe (temporary changes in menstruation, bleeding or spotting).

Implantable contraceptive can be used by breastfeeding mothers – the implants can be inserted right after the delivery of a baby. Usually it takes only 8 hours for an implanted contraceptive to start working. Breastfeeding mothers can use this type of contraception safely and effectively.


It is a surgery after all – though it usually takes about 10 – 20 minutes to insert an implantable contraceptive, some women may feel uncomfortable to undergo the surgical operation.

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Cosmetic issues – if properly inserted the implanted contraceptive is completely invisible and does not create any discomfort for a woman. However, the implanted rod may become slightly visible in some very thin women.

Implants do not protect form STDs – unlike barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms, neither Norplant nor Implanon can protect a woman from sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Of course, choosing a method of contraception is personal for each woman. All the above said information should not be treated as the promotion of implantable contraceptives; it is just a few ideas to be used while writing your own list of pros and cons of a particular birth control method.


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