When it comes to birth control, there’s no such thing as one size fits all. Something that might work perfectly for your friend might not be ideal for you. That’s why it’s so important to know your options.
One method of contraception that’s worth considering is the birth control implant. Inserted under the skin in your upper arm, the birth control implant is the size of a matchstick and is incredibly effective. How effective, you might ask? There’s less than one pregnancy per 100 people who use the implant per year (around 0.05%). So essentially, you can think of it as over 99% effective in protecting you against unplanned pregnancy.
Those statistics might have gotten you interested. So how does the birth control implant work, and (perhaps more importantly) does it hurt when you have it inserted in your arm? We’ve pulled together an expert guide with the help of Lee P. Shulman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology in Illinois, US, to fill you in on everything you need to know …
What is the birth control arm implant?
First things first, if you’re reading this, you’ll likely be curious as to what the implant actually is. The birth control implant is a small, flexible plastic rod that looks a bit like a matchstick. It’s around 4 cm (1.57 inches) long and 2 mm (0.078 inches) thick — so tiny you could hold it in your palm.
You might have heard your doctor refer to the implant as the “subdermal implant.” This is because it’s inserted under the skin in your upper arm —“sub” meaning “under” and “dermal” meaning “skin.”
Once in place, the implant continuously releases a synthetic (meaning made in a lab) version of the hormone progesterone, which your ovaries usually release each month after you ovulate. This hormone (called etonogestrel, for the fact fans out there) enters your bloodstream, thickens up your cervical mucus to keep sperm out, and prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg during ovulation. You can read more on the ins and outs of how the implant works below.