Can You Still Get Pregnant With a Progestin Implant?

· September 14, 2018
A progestin implant is a highly effective form of contraception which is inserted under the skin. However, like all contraception, it's not infallible. The way that it is inserted in the body is really important for its effectiveness.

Science is forever advancing and developing safer forms of contraception. However, there is still no 100% effective method of protection. A progestin implant is a very reliable method, but just like other forms of contraception, its effectiveness depends on how it’s handled.

This form of contraception was first marketed around the world between 1999 and 2000. It was estimated to be 99% effective. In other words, only 1% of women may get pregnant with a progestin implant.

It’s a small percentage, but nonetheless, there remains a risk.

What is a Progestin Implant?

A woman looking worried and holding a pregnancy test

Also known as a contraceptive implant, this form of contraception is inserted under the skin of the woman’s arm. It very slowly releases progestin, a synthetic version of the hormone oestrogen.

It’s an ideal form of contraception for women who aren’t planning on having children for a significant period of time. Depending on the product, it can provide protection for between 3 to 5 years. At the end of this period, the woman can decide either to have it replaced or removed altogether. If she wants to have children, then the implant is removed and within one to three months normal ovulation resumes.

Progestin implants are flexible capsules or cylinders which are implanted or removed via a simple surgical procedure. You don’t need to go to hospital and the doctor will simply use a local anaesthetic. Its job is to prevent ovulation and make the cervical mucus thicker, which makes it harder for sperm to reach the uterus.


Advantages

  • You don’t need to remember to take a pill every day.
  • It doesn’t get in the way of ‘spontaneous’ sexual relations.
  • You can use it while you’re lactating and the hormone that is released will not affect your baby.
  • It reduces menstrual pain.
  • It’s ideal for women who can’t take pills containing estrogen.
  • It can help to protect against vaginal infections, as the thicker cervical mucus prevents bacteria from reaching the cervical canal.

Disadvantages

  • It can change the regularity of your period.
  • You may bleed between periods.
  • Irregular bleeding is common, which could be uncomfortable for you.
  • Sometimes, periods may be heavier and last longer.
  • For some women, periods become less frequent or may stop altogether.
  • If you already have irregular bleeding, you won’t be able to get a progestin implant.

Does It Have Any Side Effects?

Woman with a headache possibly as a result of having a progestin implant

There are other side effects as well. They generally appear in the first months after insertion and are similar to those caused by other forms of contraception. Normally, they disappear after 3 or 4 months after implantation.

Side effects can include:

  • Headaches
  • Breast pain
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased acne, although some women claim that theirs gets better
  • There is a risk that the skin cuts may become infected

When is a Progestin Implant Not Advised?

  • If you’re allergic (hypersensitive) to the ingredients in the implant
  • In the case that you have thrombosis
  • If you have a family history of breast or genital cancer
  • If you have had jaundice (yellow coloring of the skin) or tumors in your liver

When Might a Progestin Implant Fail?

A woman consulting with her doctor

The most important thing for the implant to work correctly is its location. A competent gynecologist with the right training will guarantee its effectiveness.

To receive an implant, you need to make sure that you’re not already pregnant. As the result, the implant is usually implanted five days after the menstruation period, which guarantees that you’re not pregnant. The implant is effective immediately from the moment it’s implanted.

When Should You Go to the Doctor?

  • If you cannot feel the implant
  • When the shape of the implant seems to have changed
  • If you notice a change in your skin or you feel pain in the area around the implant
  • If you become pregnant

What if You Want to Get Pregnant?

If you want to get pregnant, you simply have the implant removed.

The advantage to using this form of contraception is that if you decide that you want to get pregnant, you just need to go to your doctor and they’ll remove it.

Your natural fertility will be restored within a very short period of time. In just a month, or perhaps at the latest three months, your ovulation cycle will have returned completely to normal.

Summary

Woman staring at a pack of contraceptive pills

For a progestin implant to be effective, it needs to be implanted on the correct day. If not, there is a risk of becoming pregnant. Remember, no form of contraception is 100% safe. When considering birth control methods, you need to remember that there is always a risk, however low it might be.

Consult your doctor about which form of contraception is most appropriate for you and your lifestyle. By making the right decision for you, you’ll be able to have a fulfilling sex life and still be able to conceive when and if you’re ready.