The female contraceptive implant is a flexible stick the size of a matchstick that is inserted under the skin. It contains the same hormones as a birth control pill. Once placed in the arm, it directly diffuses the hormone into the blood and suppresses ovulation. Find out how this contraceptive device works.
The contraceptive implant is marketed in France under the name “Nexplanon“, since spring 2001 by the laboratories MSD France. This hormonal contraceptive method comes in the form of a stick the size of a matchstick. It is effective for three years and can be removed as soon as the woman wants it.
A very simple medical act
The insertion of the implant can be performed by a doctor, a gynecologist or a midwife. Under local anesthesia, this stick 4 cm long and 2 mm in diameter, is placed under the skin of the inner part of a non-dominant arm (the left for right-handed people, and vice versa). It gradually releases during three years a progestogen-type hormone:etonogestrel.
The protection is effective 24 hours after installation, and fertility is mostly restored one cycle after extraction. The mode of action of this implant is the same as that of birth control pills containing only progestin. The main advantage of this type of contraceptive is thatthere is no risk of forgetting.
What side effects?
Overall, the contraceptive implant is well tolerated by the people who use it. But it has the same side effects as progestin-only pills: lengthening of periods, decrease or increase in flow, bleeding between periods, and sometimes disappearance of rules.
Other side effects have been seen, such as weight gain, acne, migraines, vomiting, discomfort, or pain in the breasts.
Since 2016, the National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM) has also noted a risk of implant migration in the blood vessels and in the thorax. Even if this type of incident is rare (thirty cases identified since 2001), it remains no less serious. To prevent any risk of migration, the ANSM recommends that all women concerned practice autopalpation once or twice a month to check that the implant is still in place.
How is the extraction going?
The extraction of the implant, like its placement, is done in a few seconds. It is also performed under local anesthesia and can be performed by a doctor, a gynecologist, or a midwife. The healthcare professional performs a subcutaneous incision, then extracts the implant with suitable forceps. Note: the extraction can leave a small scar. This allows women who can’t stand it or change their minds to easily remove it.
To renew this method of contraception, it suffices to insert a new implant after a maximum of three years, in place of the one that has just been removed.