The contraceptive implant is one or two small plastic rods which are about 4cm long and sit just under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. The implant prevents pregnancy for 3 to 5 years (depending on the type).
The contraceptive implant works by slowly releasing a hormone called progestin in your blood. The hormone stops the body releasing an egg each month. The hormone also makes it harder for sperm to get into the uterus (womb).
Inserting the implant is a simple procedure that takes about five minutes. A trained person inserts the implant under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. Your arm is numbed before insertion, so it is generally not painful. Once inserted the implant does not move around your body. It stays where it is inserted. You can feel it under the skin.
How good is the implant at preventing a pregnancy?
- The implant works very well at preventing pregnancy – it is the most effective contraceptive method available
- Less than 1 of 100 of people who use the implant will become pregnant
What are the advantages of the implant?
- Once in place, you don’t need to think about the implant or do anything until it needs replacing, which can be up to either three or five years depending on the type of implant you are using.
- You can get the implant removed whenever you want
- Your fertility will return to normal immediately after the implant is removed
- You can have an implant inserted right after childbirth, abortion or miscarriage
- It is not used during sex so will not affect spontaneity
What are the disadvantages of the implant?
- Most users will have a change in their bleeding patterns. The amount of bleeding is usually the same or less than usual but can be irregular. Some users may stop having monthly bleeds. These changes in bleeding are not harmful to your health and will return to normal when the implant is removed
- A small number of users may experience other side effects with the implant, such as acne, headaches, mood changes, or breast tenderness. However, these symptoms usually resolve within a few months
- Use of some medications, such as those for seizures (fits), HIV or for tuberculosis, can make the implant less effective. Check with your medical provider if your medications are compatible with the implant
- Condoms are the only contraceptive method which protect against sexually transmitted infections. To ensure protection from both pregnancy and infection, we recommend "dual protection". This means using a male or female condom in addition to the contraceptive method of your choice to prevent pregnancy.
What are the possible risks / complications for this method
- The implant sits just under the skin. There may be a very small scar where the implant is inserted and removed but it will not be obvious to others that you have an implant
- There is a very small risk of infection at the site of fitting
- Very rarely an implant can be inserted too deeply, which could cause damage to blood vessels or nerves
- Very rarely, the implant may move, if you cannot feel it seek medical advice