Implantable birth control now available at Women’s Care

By Sue Trezona, CNM

A new implantable contraceptive device now offers Women’s Care patients a new option in birth control. Implanon is a flexible rod the size of a matchstick that’s implanted on the inside of a woman’s upper arm. It releases a low, steady dose of progestin to prevent pregnancy for three years.

Implanon has proven to be 99% effective, making it one of the most effective forms of birth control, even surpassing the efficacy of tubal ligation. Birth control pills have lower rates of effectiveness, in part because a woman must remember to take the pill at the same time every day. With Implanon, that’s not a problem—you can start it and forget about it.

The implanting procedure is done by health care providers in our office, and takes just five minutes. We use a local anesthetic, and the procedure is about as involved as getting blood drawn. The device can be removed in our office at any time at the request of the patient. The patient then returns to her previous level of fertility.

About half the women who use Implanon will experience irregular and unpredictable light spotting. For some women, Implanon stops menstruation entirely. Other side effects may include acne, headaches, breast tenderness and weight changes. Like other hormonal contraceptives, Implanon doesn’t protect against AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.

The cost of Implanon is similar to that of birth control pills and other forms of hormonal birth control. However, its cost — roughly $975 — is paid upfront, rather than being spread out over the three-year life of the device. A new state law, effective Jan. 1, 2008, requires private health insurers to cover prescription birth control.

More than 3 million women in 17 countries have used Implanon since it was introduced in 1998. The Federal Drug Administration approved the device for use in the U.S. in July 2006.

If you’re interested in trying Implanon, ask your Women’s Care provider if this type of hormonal contraceptive might be right for you.

Sue Trezona, a certified nurse midwife and women’s health care nurse practitioner at Women’s Care, has traveled throughout Oregon training physicians and other health care providers on implant and removal techniques for Implanon.