Contraceptive Implant Placement
- Author: Megan A Brady, MD; Chief Editor: Michel E Rivlin, MD more...
The contraceptive implant is a popular form of reversible long-acting contraception. Norplant, the first contraceptive implant, became available in 1983 but was later removed from the market owing to patient dissatisfaction with adverse effects that ultimately led to several lawsuits against the manufacturer. It was also difficult to remove.
The currently available implants, the Nexplanon, and its first-generation model, the Implanon, contain the progestin etonogestrel. The advantage of this form of contraception is that it provides effective long-term contraception that does not depend on the recipient’s daily compliance.
The most recent generation of implantable devices is the most effective form of birth control available and can usually be inserted by trained practitioners in less than one minute.[3, 4, 5, 6] The pregnancy rate with the implant is 0.05%, which is slightly lower than the levonorgestrel intrauterine device (0.2%) and the copper intrauterine device (0.6%).[7, 8]
A release rate of 25-30 µg/day of etonogestrel is required to suppress ovulation. With this device, the initial rate of release is 60-70 µg/day, which slowly decreases over time, to about 30 µg/day. Maximum serum levels are attained the fourth day after insertion, on average.
After removal of the implant, etonogestrel serum levels become undetectable within one week.[1, 5, 9]
The contraceptive implant is currently approved for contraception in women, including nulliparous women, adolescents, and breastfeeding mothers. It has been studied for use in women with pelvic pain and endometriosis; additional uses of this device are a topic of ongoing research.[10, 11]
The contraceptive implant now available is a levonorgestrel implant, which works by the same mechanism as other progesterone-only methods: by inhibiting ovulation, thinning the endometrium, and thickening cervical mucus.[4, 12]
The US Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use, published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guides practitioners about the safety of contraceptive implant use in patients with other medical conditions. The contraceptive implant is safe or the risks of harm are thought to be outweighed by the contraceptive benefit in the following situations:
Current infection with or history of sexually transmitted diseases or pelvic inflammatory disease
History of bariatric surgery
Breastfeeding (Taneepanichskul and Brito)
Postabortion (first or second trimester)
The contraceptive implant should not be used in the following situations:
Liver disease, including severe cirrhosis or liver tumors
Personal history of breast cancer
Undiagnosed abnormal vaginal bleeding
Allergy or hypersensitivity to any of the implant materials
The pregnancy rate with the implant is 0.05%, which is slightly lower than the levonorgestrel intrauterine device (0.2%) and the copper intrauterine device (0.6%).[7, 8]
The most common procedural complication is pain at the insertion site, which occurs in less than 3% of users, according to one study. Pain is usually transient and resolves with time. Other uncommon complications include the implant being retained in the needle applicator, bleeding or redness at the insertion site, and hematoma formation.[6, 5] Bruising after insertion is possible and should resolve within a few days.
Side effects of the levonorgestrel implant, unrelated to implant insertion, have been reviewed in an analysis of 11 major international clinic trials that include 942 subjects. The most common reason (13.6%) for a woman to discontinue use of the implant was an adverse side effect such as headache, weight gain, acne, breast pain, emotional lability, and abdominal pain. Another 11% of women cite undesirable bleeding irregularities as their reason for discontinuation. The most common irregularity was infrequent bleeding (33.3%), followed by amenorrhea (21.4%), prolonged bleeding, and frequent bleeding.
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