Implantable Birth Control Offers Women a New, Convenient Long-Term Option
Published December 2006
A single-rod, implantable contraceptive that has been available in other countries since 1998 is now being used in the United States, including in the Cincinnati area.
The implant is injected underneath the skin of the upper arm during an in-office procedure that takes about one minute. The implant, the size of a matchstick, releases a steady stream of the hormone etonogestrel (Implanon) over a three-year period.
“This is a great option for women who can’t take pills or don’t easily tolerate other birth control options like IUDs and the patch,” says UC fertility expert and contraceptive researcher Michael Thomas, MD.
Etonogestrel works by thickening the cervical mucus, which prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg and also stops any egg that does get fertilized from implanting itself in the uterine wall.
Etonogestrel completely inhibits the release of eggs from the ovaries during the first two years. In the third year, it begins to lose its effectiveness.
“Women who use this form of birth control don’t have to worry about taking a pill every day or changing their birth control ring every month,” says Thomas. “It’s a great long-term option.”
Thomas cautions, however, that the implant is not for everyone.
“Unfortunately, irregular bleeding is a side effect. Women have to be willing to tolerate this possibility. Also, women who experience heavy bleeding or are significantly overweight may want to consider other birth control options.”
Thomas is a physician with the UC Center for Reproductive Health at Christ Hospital, which has expertise in infertility, menopause and endocrinological disorders. Established in 1988, the center is the only comprehensive patient care and research unit focused on women’s health in the Cincinnati area.
To contact the center, call (513) 585-2355. To learn about birth control studies at UC, call (513) 584-4100. Thomas has no financial interest in Organon USA, the manufacturer of Implanon.