The implant (Nexplanon is the brand name; previously Implanon) is a teeny-tiny rod that’s inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It’s so small, in fact, most people can’t see it once it’s inserted—which means it can be your little secret, if you’re so inclined. The implant releases progestin, a hormone that keeps your ovaries from releasing eggs and thickens your cervical mucus—which helps block sperm from getting to the egg in the first place. It prevents pregnancy for up to four years. Not too shabby.

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Get it and forget it

If you’re a busy person who doesn’t want to worry about remembering birth control, the implant just may be for you. Once it’s in, it lasts for up to 4 years.

Hands free

No packages or prescriptions to pick up at the pharmacy, so there’s nothing that could get lost or forgotten.

Total privacy

No one can tell when you have the implant. There’s no tell-tale packaging, and nothing you need to do right before you have sex.

The pregnancy question

You should return to fertility (fancy way of saying you should go back to being able to get pregnant) any time after the implant is removed. So don’t take any chances. If you get it taken out, but you’re not ready for a baby, protect yourself with another method right away.

Don’t take our word for it. Check out the videos above to hear people talk about their experiences with the implant. And be sure to ask your health care provider which method is best for you.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, if you have health insurance, chances are good that you’ll be able to get this method with no out-of-pocket cost. BTW, the open enrollment period for 2017 is over, but you may still be able to get health coverage. Find out if you could be eligible for special enrollment.

If you don’t have insurance and you’re not on Medicaid, this method can be pricey up front. Still, the implant can stay in place for up to four years, so it becomes pretty economical over time, averaging about $10 a month if you keep it in for the full four years.


  • This method may be free or low-cost for you
  • With Medicaid: Free
  • With insurance: Free under most plans
  • Without insurance: Depending on your income, you may be able to go to a low-cost clinic to get the implant at reduced cost.

    The full price of the implant can range from $450 - $848. To see how this translates over time, here’s what it would cost to pay for the implant month-to-month at full price:

  • Cost per month over one year: $38 - $71

  • Cost per month over four years: $10 - $18

  • Payment assistance: Check with your local family planning clinics and find out if they offer free or low-cost implants (many do).

Once the implant is inserted, it’s as easy to use as, well, doing nothing. That’s right. The implant just sits there, under your skin, offering protection against pregnancy for up to four years.

Here’s how the whole thing goes: You visit a health care provider, they gather all your medical info and give you a physical exam, then they numb a small area of your upper arm with a painkiller and insert the implant under your skin. And you’re done.

If you get the implant during the first five days of your period, lucky you: You’re set with pregnancy protection from that very moment. If you’re outside of those first five days, you’ll need to use a back up method for the following week. (Condoms, internal condoms, diaphragm, sponge, or emergency contraception.)

When it’s time to take the implant out, your provider will numb your arm again, make a tiny cut in your skin, and remove the implant. If you’re interested in continuing to use the implant, they can put another one in at the same time.

There are positive and negative things to say about each and every method. And everyone’s different—so what you experience may not be the same as what your friend experiences.

The Positive

Positive “side effects”? You bet. There are actually lots of things about birth control that are good for your body as well as your sex life.

The Negative

Everyone worries about negative side effects, but for many women, they’re not a problem. And if you do experience side effects, they’ll probably go away. Remember, you’re introducing hormones into your body, so it can take a few months to adjust. Give it time.

  • Doesn’t interrupt the heat of the moment
  • Most women have fewer, lighter periods
  • You don’t have to worry about remembering to take it every day
  • Your birth control is taken care of for up to 4 years
  • Safe for smokers and those with hypertension and diabetes
  • Can be used while breastfeeding
  • Can be used by women who can’t take estrogen
  • May improve PMS, depression and symptoms from endometriosis
The most common complaint:
  • Irregular bleeding, especially for the first 6-12 months (This could mean spotting in between periods or having longer, heavier periods. Some women have irregular bleeding the whole time the implant is in. On the other hand, some women get no periods at all, at least for a while. A little unpredictable, but most women seem to do okay. Bottom line: you need to be okay with irregular periods if you are thinking about the implant.)
Less common side effects:
  • Acne
  • Change in appetite
  • A change in your sex drive
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Depression
  • Discoloring or scarring on the skin over the implant
  • Dizziness
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Pain where the implant was inserted
  • Sore breasts

If you have bad side effects that don’t improve after six months, talk with your provider about switching to something that works better for you. Just make sure to stay protected by starting a new method immediately. You’re worth it.

*For a very small number of women there are risks of serious side effects.

We’re here to get this method working better for you. And if it still doesn’t feel right, we’ve got ideas for other methods. Just remember: If you change methods, make sure you’re protected while you switch.

  • ...I'm spotting a lot—should I be concerned?

    Spotting, which can happen with a bunch of different methods, doesn’t make you lose that much blood, even though it might seem like it. We have a Provider Perspective article about it if you want to learn more.

    Still not working?

    You may have more luck on a pill with a slightly higher dose of estrogen, or one that provides estrogen during a different part of your cycle.

    Try a different method

  • ...I don't like the spotting.

    This is a side effect that may be hard to fix, but if you’ve only had the implant for a few months or less, it could also lessen or go away on its own. Check out our Provider Perspective “Side effect spotlight: What’s up with spotting?” for more information.

    Still not working?

    If the spotting doesn’t improve with time, you might want to check out methods that let you have a predictable period. These include the pill, the patch, or the ring.

    Try a different method

  • ... I'm ready to get pregnant.

    Easy enough. Make an appointment to get it removed. Once it’s removed, the hormones in your body should go back to normal pretty quickly.

  • ...I feel moody, bloated, or nervous.

    If the implant is new to you (that means 6 months or less) and the side effects are bearable, give it a little more time—hormone levels will start to level off, so those hormonal side effects tend to go away.

    Still not working?

    If you’ve given it at least six months and the side effects are still bothering you, consider trying a shorter-acting, lower-dose method, such as the pill, the patch, or the ring. You could also try either IUD.

    Try a different method

  • ...I am uncomfortable with the thought of having something in my body for a long time.

    All the birth control devices have been rigorously tested and are FDA-approved for long-term use. And because it’s designed to be there for a long time, you can pretty much just forget about the implant for up to 4 years.

    Still not working?

    If you’re still bothered by the thought of having a device inside of you, there are plenty of other options.

    By not liking the feeling of “something in my body” we assume you’re talking about a device and not a drug, right? If so, what about the shot, the pill, or the patch?

    Try a different method

  • ...I get worried that I'm pregnant because I don't bleed regularly.

    With the implant, it’s totally normal to stop having your period and many women look at that as a good thing.

    Still not working?

    If it’s important to you to have regular periods so that you’re sure you’re not pregnant, you might want to try a cyclic method like the ring, the patch, or the pill.

    Try a different method

  • ...Having an implant freaks me out—could it be used as a tracking device?
  • ...I may want to get pregnant after getting my implant taken out. Will there be a delay?

    There may be a delay, but don’t count on it—many women get pregnant soon after stopping the implant, so if that’s not what you want, make sure to start a different method immediately after getting your implant removed. Depending on your body, it can take up to two months to get back to your regular cycle after having the implant removed.

  • ...I think my birth control is affecting my mood.

    If you feel like your birth control is changing your behavior, it’s time to talk to your health care provider. Everybody responds to birth control differently, and your provider can help you decide whether it’s time to try something else. It might be a matter of switching hormonal methods or deciding whether to avoid hormonal birth control altogether, or you may choose to wait it out since some negative side effects go away with time. The bottom line: If your current method is making you feel blah, don’t settle. There are a lot of methods to choose from and sometimes it can take a few tries to get it right.

  • ...I'm having irregular bleeding with a progestin-only birth control method.

    Yes. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs, like naproxen, can decrease menstrual flow and cramping. So if you have heavy or painful periods, your health care provider may recommend taking ibuprofen to help reduce heavy flow and/or cramping. It can also help reduce the irregular bleeding that is sometimes a side effect of progestin-only birth control methods like the shot or the implant.


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quick facts /

  • Invisible to the world but not to you. It’s easy, incredibly effective, long lasting, and reversible.

  • The implant is among the most effective methods.

  • Irregular bleeding is the most common side effect of the implant.

  • Quick insertion and you’re set for 4 years.

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