How effective is the birth control implant? Can you see it in your arm?


Someone asked us:

I’m planning on going to college in the fall, and I recently have been talking to my mom about getting started on birth control. I’ve been learning toward the pill, but I know it’s really important to take it everyday and I’m afraid I’d forget every once in a while. I’m curious about methods like the implant that lasts for three years, but I don’t know how effective that is? Also can you see the implant in your arm? It sounds ideal, but I don’t know enough about it!

Good news! The birth control implant (aka Implanon or Nexplanon) is one of the safest and most effective methods of birth control available, and it lasts for three whole years. IUDs are right up there with implants, so they’re another option you might want to consider — both are over 99% effective.

The most common reason birth control fails is because of user error, like forgetting pills, rings or patches. This is why methods like the implant and IUDs are so great – you set ‘em and forget ‘em until they need to be replaced or you want to get pregnant. There’s really no way you can screw them up (unless you don’t get them replaced when you’re supposed to).

And you’re absolutely right that, no matter what method you choose, it’s really important to use it correctly or you’ll be at risk for pregnancy. High-fives for thinking ahead and being honest with yourself about what’s really going to work for you. (And double high-fives to you and your mom for helping to ensure that you’ll be focusing on math tests instead of pregnancy tests in college.)

To answer your next question, the implant is usually invisible, though it can be felt through the skin if someone touches you where the implant is (which is a fun way to give your friends the willies). In rare cases, there may be scarring or discoloring of the skin where the implant is inserted.

The Planned Parenthood Tumblr team is a big fan of IUDs and the implant.  I have a Mirena IUD, Chelsea has a ParaGard IUD, and Amy just got the implant. Reading our stories, checking out the Planned Parenthood website, and using our My Birth Control app can help you decide what’s going to work best for you.

 -Kendall at Planned Parenthood