Hormonal Implant vs. IUD: What’s the Best for Your Reproductive Health?


Hormonal implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are safe and reliable forms of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), offering a “fit-and-forget” approach to birth control. These methods, which include both hormonal implants and IUDs, provide years of contraception without requiring any ongoing effort once they are in place, ensuring a convenient and effective means of preventing pregnancy. However, it’s also important to understand the differences between an implant vs. IUD, so you can make the best decisions for yourself.

How is an Arm Implant and an IUD Alike?

Both implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) boast remarkable efficacy, with the likelihood of pregnancy being less than 1 in 100 during the initial year of use, a notable improvement over the approximately 10 in 100 women who conceive within the first year of using birth control pills. These two contraceptive methods share additional similarities, such as requiring a medical professional for insertion and removal, making self-application impossible.

Furthermore, both options are reversible, allowing for pregnancy immediately upon removal. While they may incur higher initial costs compared to other birth control methods, their economic balance over time is noteworthy. It’s essential to note, however, that neither implant nor IUD provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Arm Implant vs. IUD Differences

Know what makes an IUD and an implant different from each other. You will also understand the pros and cons of each one below:

How do they compare?

A uterine device, or IUD, is a diminutive T-shaped apparatus inserted into the uterus, available in two variations: hormonal and copper. The hormonal IUD discharges progestin, altering cervical mucus thickness to impede sperm passage, inhibiting ovary egg release, and preventing a fertilized egg from adhering to the uterine lining. Conversely, the copper IUD is enveloped in a delicate copper wire, exhibiting sperm-toxic properties and obstructing the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Meanwhile, a hormonal implant is a minuscule tube, akin to the dimensions of a matchstick, strategically placed beneath the skin on the upper arm. This discreet device steadily releases a modest quantity of progestin, effectively interrupting the ovarian release of eggs and thickening cervical mucus to create a barrier impervious to sperm penetration.

How long do they work?

If you opt for a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), you’ll discover a range of options tailored to your preferences, each with its unique duration of effectiveness spanning between 3 and 7 years, contingent on the brand you select.

On the other hand, the copper IUD stands out with an impressive longevity of up to a decade, providing an extended period of worry-free contraception. Meanwhile, the hormonal implant, a discreet matchstick-sized tube nestled beneath the skin of your upper arm, ensures reliable birth control for a substantial span of up to 3 years.

Do they start working right away?

Copper IUDs provide immediate contraceptive protection upon insertion, while hormonal IUDs are effective right away if inserted within the first 7 days of your menstrual cycle; otherwise, it may take up to 7 days to prevent pregnancy. For implants, immediate efficacy is ensured if obtained within the initial 5 days of your period. However, if acquired after this timeframe, using condoms for at least 7 days is advised to prevent pregnancy.

How are they inserted?

Prior to receiving an IUD, your healthcare professional will conduct STD testing to ensure a safe procedure, as inserting the device while having an STD may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, a severe infection. Additionally, a pregnancy test may be administered to confirm that you are not pregnant. The nurse or doctor will employ a specialized tool to carefully insert the IUD through the cervical opening into the uterus, a brief process typically lasting only a few minutes. While you may experience cramps for a minute or two, they are generally transient. The IUD features attached strings that your provider can utilize for its later removal.

When inserting an implant into your arm, your provider begins by numbing the designated area with medicine. Using a special device, they place the implant under your skin, a quick process that requires no stitches. Your provider will guide you on caring for the skin in that area after the procedure. Although the implant is typically not visible, you can feel it with your fingers. Some soreness and bruising at the site may occur for a few days.

Side effects

As for the implant vs. IUD side effects, you may experience reduced cramp intensity and lighter periods with a hormonal IUD. While side effects such as irregular periods and spotting between periods may occur, they typically resolve within 3 to 6 months. On the other hand, copper IUDs might lead to heavy bleeding, cramps, and bleeding between periods. Implants can result in very light or absent periods, alleviating cramps and pain. The primary side effect is spotting during the initial 6 to 12 months, with less common occurrences of headaches, weight gain, and mood changes.


The majority of women, including teenagers and those without childbirth experience, can safely utilize IUDs and implants, but certain conditions may render them unsuitable for use. It is advised to refrain from using either type of IUD if experiencing non-menstrual vaginal bleeding, having cervical or uterine cancer, being diagnosed with AIDS, currently pregnant or planning to conceive, having breast cancer, possessing liver tumors, suffering from liver disease, exhibiting an elevated risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or having abnormal uterine anatomy.

For hormonal implants, it is recommended to avoid usage if pregnant, having liver disease, a history of breast cancer, or experiencing non-menstrual vaginal bleeding.

Determine the Right Birth Control Option for Your Body

Take control of your reproductive health with the knowledge to make informed choices between hormonal implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs). These long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) offer a “fit-and-forget” approach, ensuring years of effective birth control with minimal effort. Understand the unique features and differences between hormonal implants and IUDs, from their insertion processes to duration of effectiveness.

Empower yourself with insights into immediate contraceptive effects, potential side effects, and safety considerations. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best option aligning with your needs and embark on a journey towards worry-free contraception.


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