Contraceptive implant

Pregnancy prevention for 3 to 5 years, remove at any time

An effective long-acting, reversible contraceptive

The contraceptive implant is a small, plastic rod (or sometimes 2 rods) that is put into the upper arm, preventing pregnancy for up to 3 to 5 years.

The implant is a long-term method of contraception. Long-acting methods of contraception all have the advantage that, once in place, you don’t need to think about them until they need replacing and none of them interrupt sex. They’ve also been shown to be 20 times more effective than short term contraceptive methods such as the pill.

How an implant works

The contraceptive implant works by slowly releasing a hormone (progestin) in your blood and the hormone stops the body releasing an egg each month. The hormone also makes it harder for the man’s sperm to get into the womb.

Inserting the implant is a simple procedure that takes about five minutes. A trained provider inserts the implant into 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. 

Dependent on when you get the implant inserted, it can take up to seven days for the implant to start working. It is recommended that you use a condom during this time to make sure you are protected from pregnancy. It stops working when it is taken out, at which point your normal fertility returns.

Frequently asked questions about implants

What are the advantages of the implant?

  • Once in place, you don’t need to think about it or do anything until it needs replacing, which can be up to either 3 or 5 years depending on the type of implant you are using.
  • If you want to get pregnant before that time you can simply have the implant removed at any time. Your previous fertility will return within a month after the implant is removed.
  • You can start it straight after a miscarriage or abortion, and it works as soon as it is put in.
  • It does not interrupt sex.
  • The implant is inserted like an injection and it stays in the same place it was inserted.
  • Monthly bleeding changes are not harmful and will return to normal when you remove the implant. If the changes are irritating the irregular bleeding can be managed with additional medication.

What are the disadvantages of the implant?

  • Some women will continue to have regular periods with the implant.  However, most women will have a change in their bleeding pattern while using the implant. The amount of bleeding that women experience is typically the same or less than normal but the pattern or timing of the bleeding can be more random and/or spaced out. Some women may stop having monthly periods. These changes in bleeding are not harmful to a woman’s health and will return to normal when the implant is removed.  For women that have an irritating bleeding pattern in the first 3 months of use, many of them will have improvement in the next 3 months of use.
  • A small number of women may experience other side effects on the implant, such as acne, headaches, mood changes, weight gain or loss or breast tenderness. However, these symptoms usually improve over time.
  • The implant sits under the skin. There may be a very small scar where the implant is inserted but it will not be obvious to others that you have an implant.
  • Unlike condoms, it does not protect from sexually transmitted infections.

What happens during an implant insertion?

The inside area of your arm will be numbed beforehand. Then, the implant is easily inserted by a trained Marie Stopes provider. It will feel like having an injection. There may be some slight pain afterwards, but you won’t need any stitches.

Once in, it can last up to 5 years and is easily removed if you change your mind. Once removed, fertility will return quickly.

What happens during an implant removal?

If you are ready to have your implant removed, this is quick and easy to do. It will only take a few minutes. The area will be numbed, and a small cut will be made to pull the implant out.

Once your implant is removed, you will no longer be protected against pregnancy and will need to use another method of contraception if you do not wish to get pregnant.

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