Healthy lives for young people
Contraception

Contraceptive Implant

The contraceptive implant is a small, flexible plastic rod that is placed just under the skin in the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen to prevent pregnancy.

Quick guide

How it works

The implant releases the hormone progestogen (similar to the hormone progesterone that women produce naturally in their ovaries) into your bloodstream to prevent the egg being fertilised by the sperm.  Read more

Pros & cons

It’s over 99% effective
It works for up to three years
It’s common to experience temporary side effects
Bleeding patterns may be irregular or stop altogether

Read more

Where to get the implant

The implant needs to be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It is available free of charge from contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest using our find a service toolRead more

How the implant works

The implant releases the hormone progestogen (similar to the hormone progesterone that women produce naturally in their ovaries) into your bloodstream to prevent the egg being fertilised by the sperm. The implant interrupts the process by:

  • stopping ovulation, thickening the mucus around the cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to get through
  • making the lining of the womb thinner so that a fertilised egg is less likely to implant

Pros & cons

Pros

  • It’s over 99% effective
  • It doesn’t interrupt sex
  • It works for up to three years
  • It is an option for people who can’t use contraception containing the hormone oestrogen (such as the combined pill, contraceptive patch, or the vaginal ring)
  • There is no evidence that it causes additional weight gain
  • Your fertility returns to normal as soon as it is removed, with no long term effects
  • The implant is not affected by diarrhoea or vomiting (like some methods)
  • It can help reduce heavy periods and reduce period pain

Cons

  • It’s common to experience temporary side effects during the first few months, like headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings
  • Bleeding patterns may be irregular or stop altogether (this usually settles down after a year)
  • It can cause or worsen acne
  • It doesn’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you will need to use a barrier method such as condoms

Where to get the implant

The implant needs to be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It is available free of charge from contraceptive clinics, your GP and Brook. Find your nearest using our find a service tool.

Contraception and sexual health services such as Brook are free and confidential, including for people under the age of 16. Health professionals work to strict guidelines and won’t tell anyone else about your visit unless they believe you’re at serious risk of immediate harm.

Find out more about Brook’s confidentiality policy.

What happens at an appointment?

An appointment will typically include:

  • A few questions about your medical and family history, to work out what method would suit you best.
  • You’ll discuss other medicines you are taking in case they can make the implant less effective.
  • The doctor or nurse will take your blood pressure and will weigh you

Some services may be able to fit it at the same appointment, or you may need a second appointment.

INFORMATION

You will not be required to have an internal or breast examination for the implant.

How is the implant fitted?

  • The implant is about 4cm long (about the size of a matchstick or hair pin), and is put under the skin in your upper arm by a specially trained doctor or nurse.
  • You will be given a local anaesthetic injection, to numb this part of your arm before they put the implant in.
  • It should only take a few minutes
  • You won’t need any stitches
  • The area may be slightly tender for a few days, but a small dressing will be added to protect it and help stop any bruising.

You can have the implant fitted at any time in your menstrual cycle if you are certain you are not pregnant. If the implant is fitted during the first five days of your period you will be protected from pregnancy immediately. 

If the implant is fitted on any other day of your menstrual cycle, you need to use condoms or internal condoms for the first seven days. You may also be required to take a pregnancy test after the implant has been fitted. 

Nexplanon is the main contraceptive implant currently in use in the UK.

INFORMATION

Once your arm has healed you will be able to do normal activities and you won’t be able to see it.

WARNING

Be careful not to squeeze or play with the implant because occasionally that can cause the small plastic rod to break. If you cannot feel your implant or it appears to have changed shape, or you notice any skin changes or pain around the site of the implant, visit a doctor or nurse and use condoms until you know that your contraception is definitely protecting you again

How is the implant taken out?

The implant can be left in place for up to three years.

The implant has to be removed by a specially trained doctor or nurse. They will:

  1. Give you a local anaesthetic
  2. Make a small cut in your skin
  3. Gently pull the implant out
  4. Have a dressing put on your arm (which you should keep on for a few days to reduce bruising and to keep it clean and dry)

If you want to continue using the implant, the new one can be put in at the same time and you will still be protected from pregnancy.

What can make the implant less effective?

  • The implant must be replaced every three years and must be replaced at the same time, otherwise you will not be protected from pregnancy
  • Some medicines can reduce the effectiveness of the implant, such as those used to treat epilepsy, HIV and TB and the complementary medicine St John’s Wort. Commonly used antibiotics do not reduce the effectiveness of the implant, but it is always best to check with the doctor, nurse or pharmacist first
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