Can You Still Get Pregnant With a Progestin Implant?

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.
Can You Still Get Pregnant With a Progestin Implant?
José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli

Reviewed and approved by the doctor José Gerardo Rosciano Paganelli.

Written by Thady Carabaño

Last update: 15 December, 2022

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’s effectivity 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 “skin 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 progesterone, as pointed out in this study published in the journal Perinatology and Human Reproduction.

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 a doctor implants or removes 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.

The advantages it offers

Progesterone implants are one of the best long-term birth control methods. In this sense, they have multiple advantages, among which the following stand out:

  • You don’t need to remember to take a pill every day.
  • It doesn’t interfere with spontaneity during sexual intercourse.
  • It favors the reduction of menstrual pain.
  • It’s good for women who can’t take pills containing estrogen. These hormones increase the chance of developing breast cancer in the long term.
  • It can help protect you against vaginal infections, as the mucus plug produced by the implant in the cervix prevents bacteria from reaching the cervix.
  • It can be removed at any time, and fertility returns quickly.

Associated disadvantages

No medication or birth control method is perfect, so a progesterone implant also has some disadvantages, such as the following:

  • You may bleed between periods.
  • 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 and nausea
  • Fluid retention
  • Increased acne, although some women claim that theirs gets better
  • Abdominal or back pain
  • Increased chance of developing ovarian cysts
  • Changes in vaginal bleeding
  • Weight gain
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Mild insulin resistance

And this is evidenced by the study published in the journal Perinatology and Human Reproduction that we have already talked about previously.

When are progestin implants contraindicated?

Unfortunately, progesterone implants are not suitable for all women, so a consultation with a specialized gynecologist is important. Among the main contraindications of this contraceptive method, the following stand out:

  • 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
  • History of myocardial infarction or stroke
  • The presence of abnormal genital bleeding

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 the doctor implants it. This is evidenced by this research carried out by researchers from the Universidad Regional Autónoma de los Andes.

Meanwhile, progesterone implants may not be as effective in women with a body mass index greater than 30. In addition, some medications such as anticonvulsants, sedatives, and retroviral agents, as well as some herbs, can lower levels of progesterone in the blood, reducing the effectiveness of the implant.

When should you see a 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?

The implant is simply removed. The advantage of using this contraceptive method is that, at any time you decide that you want to get pregnant, you only have to ask your doctor to withdraw it.

Fertility is restored in a very short time. In just one month, at most three months, the ovulatory cycles will be completely normal.

About the progesterone implant

The effectiveness of progesterone implants depends on their being placed correctly. However, in general, we can say that the woman who uses it cannot get pregnant.

However, we always recommend that you consult your gynecologist about the best contraceptive for you and your lifestyle. Making the best decision will allow you to enjoy your sexuality and conceive at the right time fully.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.