About the contraceptive implant

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible rod, about the size of a matchstick (4cm long). It’s estimated to be 99.9% effective and lasts for three years. The implant is also known as a long acting reversible contraception (LARC). Implants are always inserted by a healthcare professional who has had implant training.

How it works

The implant slowly releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream over three years. This is similar to the hormone that is naturally released by a woman during her period.

A steady release of progestogen stops the ovaries from releasing an egg each month (ovulation). They also make it harder for sperm to get into the womb and reach an egg.

How to use it

The implant is put in by a doctor or nurse using a local anaesthetic to numb the skin. No stitches are needed. You do not need to do anything else once it is in place. However, to help protect against STIs, you will need to use a condom if you think you could be at risk.

Who can use it

Most women can be fitted with the contraceptive implant. It may not be suitable if you:

  • Think you might be pregnant
  • Want to keep having regular periods
  • Have liver disease, cirrhosis or liver tumours, diabetes with complications, heart disease, a history of heart disease, or stroke
  • Have (or have had) breast cancer
  • Are taking liver enzyme inducing medications which commonly treat HIV, Tuberculosis and epilepsy. Always let your nurse or doctor know if you are taking medications
  • Are using St John’s wort which is a herbal remedy that will stop the implant from working

Advantages

There are many advantages to using the contraceptive implant:

  • Works for three years
  • Highly effective in preventing pregnancy – 99.9%
  • Very convenient – you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day
  • Provides an option for women who cannot use oestrogen-based contraception
  • Safe to use while breastfeeding
  • Easy to remove and fertility should return to normal straight away
  • May give some protection against cancer of the womb
  • May reduce heavy periods or painful periods

Disadvantages

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the contraceptive implant:

  • Requires a small procedure to fit and remove, which may cause some tenderness, bruising and swelling when first put in
  • You will be able to feel the implant in your arm
  • A common side effect is that periods may stop, be irregular or last longer. The irregular bleeding should resolve within three months. If it doesn’t please contact your sexual health or contraception clinic
  • Other reported side effects include: headaches, acne, nausea, breast tenderness, changes in mood and loss of sex drive. Most of these resolve within three months
  • In rare cases, you may get an infection where the implant has been fitted. If this happens, the implant may need to be removed or you may need antibiotics

Where to get it

Most types of contraception are free in the UK, and are available to all women and men through the NHS. Places where you can get contraception include:

  • Most GP surgeries – talk to your GP or practice nurse
  • Sexual health clinics, which offer both contraceptive and STI services. If you’d like to, you can book an appointment now
  • Community contraception clinics
  • Some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • Some young people’s services, like those run by Brook

You will usually need to book an appointment to have an implant fitted.

Need contraception?

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