Center for Young Women's Health

Hormonal Implants



  • Hormonal implants are a type of birth control method that can last 3 years.
  • A hormonal implant is a tiny rod inserted under the skin of the upper arm.
  • Hormonal implants do NOT protect against STDs.

What are hormonal implants?

Hormonal implants are tiny rods the size of a matchstick and contain hormones that are inserted under the skin. Hormonal implants include Norplant® which has 6 small rods, Norplant II® which has 2 small rods, and Implanon® which has one small rod. Hormonal implants are a type of contraception that lasts for 3 to 5 years, depending on the type. Implanon® is available in the U.S. and provides birth control for 3 years.


Out of 100 women using hormonal implants
Typical use: 1 or less women become pregnant icon representing less than 1 pregnant woman
Perfect use: 1 or less women become pregnant icon representing less than 1 pregnant woman


Hormonal Implant


What is the surgery like?

The hormonal implants are inserted under your skin on the inside of your upper arm. The minor procedure is done in your health care provider's office that lasts about 5 minutes. The surgery is done with local anesthesia placed just around the area of your upper arm, where the implants will be inserted. The implants are usually inserted within the first seven days of your menstrual cycle or while you are taking oral contraceptives or on Depo-Provera®.


How do hormonal implants prevent pregnancy?

The tubes slowly release small amounts of levonorgestrel or etonogestrel. This suppresses your pituitary gland which stops your ovaries from releasing eggs. Without these eggs, pregnancy can't happen. The hormones also change the lining of your uterus and the mucus in your cervix. By changing your cervical mucus, the hormones make it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.


When do the hormonal implants start to work and how long do they work for?

If the hormonal implants are inserted within the first 7 days of your menstrual cycle, they start protecting against pregnancy 24 hours after they are inserted. They give protection 3 to 5 years depending on the type.


How effective are hormonal implants?

Hormonal implants are more than 99% effective. This means that if 100 women use hormonal implants, less than 1 woman will become pregnant in a year. A new implant can be inserted when the old one is taken out. Hormonal implants do not protect against sexually transmitted infections. So you need to use a condom to protect against STDs.


Do hormonal implants have any other benefits besides protecting against pregnancy?

Yes. Hormonal implants can cause very light, or no, menstrual periods, less anemia (low number of red blood cells), and less menstrual cramps and pain.


Where can I get hormonal implants?

A physician must insert the hormonal implants. They cost about $280-$600. In the U.S. the Implanon is available and is approved for 3 years of use. Some insurance companies may cover part or all of the costs.


Can you see or feel hormonal implants?

Usually, you can't see implant under your skin. However, in thin women, the outline of the implant may be visible. It may be possible to feel the hormonal implant in your arm.


Can any woman get hormonal implants?

No. Hormonal implants cannot be used by women who:

Some medications may lower the effectiveness of the implants. If you are taking medications such as certain anti-seizure medications, implants may not be right for you. Check with your health care provider.


Are there any side effects of hormonal implants?

There are some possible side effects of hormonal implants. They are different for every woman. The most common side effect is irregular menstrual bleeding. If you have irregular menstrual bleeding and it is really annoying, ask your health care provider about possible treatments.


Other possible but uncommon side effects are:

Should I be worried if I stop getting my menstrual period?

No. Some women stop having their menstrual periods after getting hormonal implants. This is no reason to worry. It's not a medical problem. It just means that your ovaries are resting and not releasing an egg each month. When your ovaries don't release an egg, the lining in your uterus does not grow. So there is no menstrual bleeding. Your menstrual cycles will return to the way they were after the implants are removed.


What if I have problems with hormonal implants?

If you have questiions, call your healthcare provider, especially if you are having:

What about removal of the hormonal implants?

Hormonal implants can be removed whenever you want. They last 3 to 5 years, depending on the type. It takes about 10-30 minutes to remove the implants. It costs about $100-$300 to remove the hormonal implants. Some insurance companies may cover part or all of this cost. As soon as the implants are removed, you can become pregnant again.


Written and reviewed by the CYWH Staff at Boston Children's Hospital


Updated: 7/13/2011


Related Guides:


Did you know that about 800,000 teen girls become pregnant in the United States each year, and more than 80% of these pregnancies are unplanned? Dealing with a pregnancy is one of the most important decisions a teen may need to make...


Making Healthy Sexual Decisions

As a young adult, it's normal to think about sex, have sexual feelings, and have a desire to learn more about your own body. Deciding to have a sexual relationship is an important decision since it involves both your body and your emotions. You need to make sure that it is the right decision for you...

Search Our Site
Center for Young Women's Health Center for Young Women's Health Boston Children's Hospital Boston Children's Hospital
Photo of Peer Leaders Meet Our Peers
15 Years!