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Nexplanon is a reversible and highly effective form of birth control. It provides several years’ worth of protection against unintended pregnancy.

People sometimes refer to it as the implant because it is a small plastic tube that a doctor inserts into the upper arm.

Learn more about birth control implants.

This article covers everything a person needs to know about Nexplanon, including how it works, its benefits, and some potential risks.

This article talks about perfect and typical use of birth control. Perfect use describes how effective a form of birth control is if everyone uses it exactly as instructed every time they have sex. Typical use describes how effective a form of birth control is if a person sometimes uses it as instructed but may also use it irregularly or imperfectly.

Even with perfect use, contraception is not 100% effective. People should discuss birth control options with a healthcare professional to find the right option for them.

Nexplanon is a type of reversible hormonal birth control. It is a 1.5-inch-long soft plastic tube that releases hormones to prevent pregnancy.

As with an intrauterine device (IUD), a doctor needs to insert the contraceptive implant. Following insertion, the person will have protection against pregnancy for up to 5 years.

Nexplanon does not help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Therefore, a person should take additional steps to help prevent infection, such as using barrier methods of protection.

The Nexplanon implant releases progestin into the bloodstream. Progestin is an artificial hormone similar to progesterone.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, progestin works in three ways to prevent pregnancy:

  • It thickens the mucus around the cervix, which prevents the sperm from reaching the egg.
  • It prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg.
  • It thins the uterine lining.

The Nexplanon implant is one of the most effective forms of birth control. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fewer than 1 out of 100 people become pregnant while using it.

In other words, the implant is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

Unlike other forms of hormonal birth control, a person does not need to use Nexplanon daily, weekly, or monthly.

Instead, they will need to visit a doctor every 3 years or as the doctor directs. This option might be less stressful for people who find it hard to take other forms of birth control regularly.

The Nexplanon implant is very effective in preventing unintended pregnancy. After a week following insertion, it is more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy.

However, a person will need to use additional birth control methods or avoid sexual intercourse for the first 7 days following insertion. During this time, a person can still become pregnant.

Nexplanon has several potential side effects, which means that this birth control implant may not be suitable for everyone.

According to the FDA, more than 10% of people who use Nexplanon may experience one or more of the following common side effects:

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) add that other potential risks include:

Certain people should not use Nexplanon. The FDA states that this birth control method is unsuitable for those who:

  • have had serious blood clots
  • may be pregnant
  • have or have had breast cancer
  • have allergies to anything in the product
  • are living with liver tumors or disease
  • experience unusual vaginal bleeding

A person will also need to take additional steps to prevent STIs. These may include using condoms or avoiding sexual contact with a partner experiencing symptoms.

A person needs to visit a doctor’s office, where the doctor will insert the flexible tube into their upper arm. People interested in having a Nexplanon implant should make sure that the doctor has experience in performing the procedure.

During the procedure, the doctor will make a small incision with a tool designed to insert Nexplanon. The procedure only takes a few minutes and does not require any downtime.

The doctor can insert the device at the same time as they remove an old one. To remove the device, they will administer a local anesthetic to the area, make a small incision underneath the implant, and grip the device with forceps to pull it out gently.

A range of healthcare professionals and birth control services offer Nexplanon and other birth control options online.

Preparing for the appointment

Before the appointment, a person should eat and drink as normal. They can also continue taking their usual medications and using any regular birth control methods.

However, a person should avoid having sex without a method of birth control for 2 weeks prior to the appointment.

Aftercare

After the procedure, a person will have bandage strips on the area, as well as a gauze dressing, which they should keep on for 24 hours. They should allow the bandage strips to fall off by themselves. A person should also avoid touching or bumping the area.

People are free to return to their usual activities immediately after the insertion of the Nexplanon implant.

Nexplanon removal should take only a few minutes. After the removal of the device, a person may become pregnant straight away if they have sex without using a barrier method of protection.

The removal site may feel swollen, tender, and bruised for a few days or weeks. Any side effects that a person previously experienced with Nexplanon should disappear quickly.

The healthcare professional who removes the device will provide advice on how to wash and take care of the skin.

A person can choose from several birth control options. The table below compares the Nexplanon implant with external condoms, IUDs, and the Depo-Provera shot:

NexplanonExternal condomIUDDepo-Provera
Life spanlasts up to 5 yearsone-time use onlylasts up to 12 yearslasts up to 15 weeks
Usedoctor inserts it into the armgoes over the penis before sexdoctor inserts it into the uterusdoctor injects it into the arm
STI protectionnoyesnono
Average costup to $1,300about $12 for a pack of 12up to $1,300up to $150
Side effectsmenstrual changes

headaches

breast tenderness

nausea

weight gain

acne
allergic reaction to latex or polyurethane
breast tenderness

nausea

acne

mood changes

pelvic pain
irregular bleeding

headaches

sore breasts

nausea

weight gain

depression
Efficacymore than 99% effective98% effective with perfect usemore than 99% effectivemore than 99% with perfect use

Learn more about the different forms of birth control.

All types of birth control have some associated risks. Any form of hormonal birth control will have similar side effects and risk factors.

However, when a person uses them correctly, most forms of birth control are highly effective.

People with other prescriptions for birth control can look into services such as:

Below, we answer some of the most common questions about the Nexplanon contraceptive implant.

What are the most common side effects of Nexplanon?

Common side effects include:

  • headaches
  • menstrual bleeding changes
  • weight gain
  • vaginitis
  • pharyngitis
  • acne
  • breast pain
  • abdominal pain

There are also less common and rare side effects. A person should speak with a doctor if they are experiencing any unexpected or severe side effects.

What are the pros and cons of Nexplanon?

Advantages of Nexplanon include:

Disadvantages include:

  • Side effects are common.
  • A healthcare professional must insert and remove the device.
  • It does not protect against STIs.

Does Nexplanon really cause weight gain?

According to Planned Parenthood, although Nexplanon can sometimes cause weight gain, many people use it without experiencing this side effect.

Nexplanon is a type of hormonal birth control. A doctor will insert the small plastic tube into a person’s upper arm.

The contraceptive implant provides nearly 100% protection for up to 3 years at a time. Once this time is up, the doctor can remove the tube and insert a new one.

It is worth noting that Nexplanon is not a good solution for everyone. Anyone with a history of breast cancer, liver disease, or another health condition should talk with a doctor before getting the implant.