Implanon by Merck

Photo: Merck

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The Implant (Implanon)
What: Approved by the FDA in 2006, this is a matchstick-size rod that is implanted by a doctor under the skin of the upper arm, where it releases a low dose of progestin (etonogestrel). It stays in place, invisible but detectable with a little prodding, for up to three years.
Failure rate*: 0.05%

Who: Women who have just given birth and know they won't remember or have time to return to the doctor for an IUD; women who have grown weary of the pill; women who would rather have something implanted in their arm than their uterus.

  • It's impressively effective for three years—which is just slightly longer than the average American family waits to have another baby.
  • It's safe to use after giving birth, says Carusi.
  • There's nothing to remember.
Why not:
  • The implantation is a minor surgery and must take place in a doctor's office.
  • The idea of having a device under their skin makes some women uncomfortable.
  • According to the manufacturer, it is unknown if the risk of blood clots with the implant is different than with birth control pills.
  • There's not a lot of data on the effectiveness for overweight women.
  • Carusi says that some women report irregular, hard-to-predict bleeding.
  • A botched insertion or removal, while rare, could lead to serious problems.
  • It takes time to get used to. Carusi often advises patients to give it six months to a year.
As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.