Is an implant better than the pill?

This article discusses a mature topic. Our 17-year-old and younger readers are encouraged to read this with an adult.

At dinner parties, my friends always joke that I sit at the “sex end of the table” because, once people find out that I work at Planned Parenthood, they ply me with questions. Yes, it is fun to talk about sexuality all day long. No, I can’t diagnose your rash. Yes, I’m willing to talk to your kids about sex when you have them. One of my favorites is when I get to talk to frustrated women about birth control options.

Some people love routine–and the birth control pill is a great option for those folks. But for those of us who can’t keep a schedule to save our busy lives, there has to be other kinds of birth control out there!

Today I’m going to talk about the implant (not the breast-enhancing kind) which provides a low maintenance and effective way to prevent pregnancy. As always, if you have questions you can always send them to me at [email protected]

I’m 21 and absolutely terrible at remembering to take my birth control pills everyday…For a young woman who hasn’t had a child, and is miserable at remembering to take a daily pill, what would you suggest as a reliable and healthy form of birth control?

Even though hormonal birth control methods have been available for decades (happy anniversary, Griswold v. Connecticut), it can seem like all you ever hear about is the pill.

There are lots of shiny, tri-fold pamphlets with information about birth control, but they often don’t feel that informative or in-depth. I talked about IUDs in a previous post, but there are other long acting kinds of birth control methods to choose from. It really comes down to finding the one that works best for you!

One option is the implant, better known by its brand name, Implanon.

Implanon is a small plastic rod (it kind of looks like a matchstick) that is inserted by a clinician just under the skin of the inner arm (a local anesthetic is applied before making a small incision). You shouldn’t be able to see it, but you can feel it if you press on the area. It releases a hormone continuously that prevents your body from ovulating.

How well does the implant work. And what if I don’t like it? Am I stuck with it?

Implanon is more than 99% effective and works for three years. Since it is inserted by a clinician, it’s not going to stop working because you snoozed your “remember to take my pill” alarm.

Implanon and other long-acting reversible contraceptives (sexual health pros call them LARCs) are way more effective than the pill and other short term methods because they eliminate the chance of user error. If you know that you don’t want to have children for a few years (for example, until after finishing your education) these can be a great option.

If, for whatever reason, you don’t like Implanon you can always have it removed by a clinician.

How much does Implanon cost?

Implanon costs $400-$800 but lasts up three years. Similar to the IUD, the implant has a higher up-front cost that the birth control pill—but can actually be more affordable over the long run. Planned Parenthood and many other community health centers work to make birth control more accessible and affordable. Some health centers are able to charge according to income, and you may qualify for state programs that lower the cost of birth control. To make an appointment or learn more, contact the Planned Parenthood health center nearest you.