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Comparing Contraceptives: Are Implants Better Than the Pill?

Navigating the world of birth control can be confusing. There are so many options that it can be hard to know which type of birth control is best for your body and lifestyle.

Dr. John Kirk is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist who can help you determine which type of birth control is right for you. With offices in Napa, St. Helena, and Hidden Valley Lake, California, Dr. Kirk and our team at Adventist Health are ready to assist you. 

Two of the most popular types of contraceptives we offer are the subdermal implant and the contraceptive pill. While both are very effective contraceptive methods, they work differently and have different benefits and disadvantages. 

How do pills work?

There are two general types of contraceptive pill: the combination pill and the ‘mini-pill.’ The combination pill usually involves two types of synthetic hormones: estrogen and progestin. By taking your pill every day, these two hormones work together to prevent pregnancy. The less common mini-pill only uses progestin and needs to be taken at the same time every day. 

Advantages and disadvantages of the pill

Many people start their birth control journey by using a contraceptive pill. Advantages of the pill include: 

Disadvantages include: 

When taken properly, the pill is 99% effective, but because it’s easy to forget your pill, it’s about 91% effective with normal use. 

How do implants work?

On the other hand, implants work by using a hormone called progesterone to prevent pregnancy, similar to the mini-pill. These implants are usually small rods the size of matchsticks that are subdermally implanted into your arm, where they release a steady stream of hormones for three years. 

Advantages and disadvantages of implants

The implant has many advantages that may make it a better choice for you over the contraceptive pill, including: 

There are disadvantages that could make the implant inappropriate for you, including:

The implant is 99% effective. Because there’s no pill to forget, it’s considered a highly effective form of birth control. 

What happens during an implant fitting?

During an implant fitting, Dr. Kirk numbs your arm with a local anesthetic to ensure you don’t feel any discomfort. Once you are numb, Dr. Kirk makes a small incision in your arm and inserts a small flexible rod just under your skin. Afterward, your incision is covered with a bandage and should heal like a small cut. 

Although implants can last up to five years, they are usually removed after three. During the removal procedure, Dr. Kirk numbs the area around your implant with a local anesthetic. Then, he makes a small incision near your implant and removes it. If you would like, he then replaces it with a new implant before covering the incision site with a bandage.

Dr. Kirk has over 20 years of experience helping women navigate decisions such as choosing the right birth control for them. If you’re trying to decide between the pill or implant, call us or book an online appointment today to learn which option might be right for you.

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