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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


Contains progestogen


Can help with feeling low or anxious


No protection against STIs


Unlikely anyone else will see it


Periods may become irregular or stop altogether

Lasts for

Lasts up to three years


Can cause acne

Preventing pregnancy

More than 99% effective

Starting on this method

Requires an appointment with a specialist nurse or doctor to have it fitted. You may have to use additional contraception for seven days depending where you are in your cycle when you first start using the implant.

How the implant works

The implant releases the hormone progestogen (similar to the hormone progesterone that is produced naturally in the ovaries) into your bloodstream to prevent pregnancy. The implant does this by:

  1. Stopping ovulation
  2. Thickening the mucus around the cervix making it harder for sperm to get through
  3. Thinning the lining of the womb so that a fertilised egg is less likely to implant

The implant is a method of long-acting reversible contraception (or LARC). These methods don’t rely on you remembering to take them, but they do need a trained doctor or nurse to administer or fit them for you.

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

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Pros & cons


  • Over 99% effective
  • Not visible and no interruption to sex
  • Works for up to three years
  • Option for people who can’t use contraception containing oestrogen (such as the combined pill, contraceptive patch, or the vaginal ring)
  • Fertility returns to normal as soon as it is removed
  • Unaffected by diarrhoea or vomiting (like some methods)
  • Can help reduce heavy periods and reduce period pain
  • Eco-friendly method of contraception due to its long duration


  • Temporary side effects in first few months are common. These include headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings
  • Can cause or worsen acne
  • No protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Effectiveness reduced by some medicines 

Periods and the implant

Periods can become lighter, shorter or less painful. They also might become irregular, longer or heavier. It is also common for periods to stop altogether whilst using the implant.

How 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.

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.

At the appointment

You will need to book an appointment at a contraceptive clinic or with your doctor. This 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

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

At the fitting

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

  • 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.

When to see a doctor

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

When to get the implant

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. 

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

Fitting the implant after pregnancy

You can get pregnant from as little as three weeks after giving birth.
The implant can be fitted any time after giving birth. If fitted within three weeks of the birth you are protected immediately. If not, you will need to use alternative contraception for seven days.
The implant is safe to use while breastfeeding.

You can become pregnant from two weeks after an abortion or miscarriage.
The implant can be fitted straight away after an abortion or miscarriage and you will be protected immediately from pregnancy.

Speak to your midwife, GP or a nurse at a sexual health clinic to check if this method is right for you.

Factors affecting its effectiveness

Its effectiveness is reduced by some medicines including 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.

How the implant is 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.


Is it harmful for your periods to stop altogether?

For some people the implant can cause your periods to stop completely. This isn’t harmful and your fertility will return to normal once the implant is removed. Some people prefer to have a period while others prefer not to so it’s useful to think about this before getting the implant.

Does getting the implant fitted hurt?

You are given a local anaesthetic which numbs the site of the implant on your upper arm. You may feel some discomfort similar to an injection when the implant is fitted.

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