Contraceptive implant

The contraceptive implant is a flexible rod about the size of a matchstick. It’s inserted just under the skin of your upper arm and slowly releases the synthetic hormone progestogen. It can be left in place for up to 3 years. It’s a very effective contraceptive, but it may make your periods irregular. 

  • frequency: fit and forget

  • effectiveness: over 99%

  • STI protection? no

  • periods: changes are hard to predict

What you need to know about the implant

It’s a good option if you want long-term contraception that you don’t need to think about every day, or when you’re having sex.

How does the implant work?

It works by stopping the body from releasing an egg (ovulation) so that there’s no egg to be fertilised. It also thickens the mucus at the entrance of the womb so sperm can’t get through. And it thins the lining of the womb so that a fertilised egg can’t implant and grow.

Getting started with the implant

It’s fitted by someone with specialist training. It’s a short procedure that’s done under local anaesthetic (in other words the anaesthetic is just used to numb the area where the implant will be). The implant is usually inserted within the first 5 days of your period. If inserted during this time it’s effective immediately. It can be inserted at other times, but then you’ll need to wait 7 days before it prevents pregnancy.

Health benefits, risks and side effects of the implant

The contraceptive implant is a safe method with few health risks. And most people can use it. Even if you cannot take oestrogen – for example, if you’re over 35 years and you smoke – you can safely use the implant. The main side effect is irregular bleeding.

Do you need help with something else?