Getting started with the implant

To get the implant fitted, you can:

You’ll need to have the contraceptive implant fitted by a trained healthcare professional. You’ll get a local anaesthetic to numb the area when it’s fitted, either with a spray or by injection.

To be sure it’s right for you, you’ll be asked about: 

  • your medical history

  • your periods

  • if you smoke

  • your blood pressure

  • your height and weight

You’ll also be asked about the health of your close relatives, in case there are illnesses that run in your family.

When to get the implant fitted

You can have the contraceptive implant fitted at any time. 

  • if you get it inserted in the first 5 days of your period, you’re protected immediately

  • if you get it inserted at any other time, you’ll need to use additional contraception – such as condoms – for the first 7 days

If you’ve used the levonorgestrel (72-hour) emergency pill, then you can have the implant inserted straightaway. But if you've taken the ulipristal acetate emergency pill, you should wait 5 days before having the implant. 

This is because the ingredient ulipristal acetate can interact with the implant and make both contraceptives less effective.

If there's a chance you could be pregnant, wait 3 weeks and do a pregnancy test. If it's negative, then you can go ahead and have the implant fitted.

What happens at the implant fitting appointment?

The implant will be fitted under local anaesthetic by a trained healthcare professional. It will sit just under the skin of the underside of your upper arm. It’s a flexible rod about the length and thickness of a matchstick.

The process takes 5 minutes. You don’t need to do anything to prepare for the fitting. But it’ll be easier to get to the right part of your arm if you wear a short-sleeved or sleeveless top.

Step 1: you’ll be given a local anaesthetic

You’ll normally be asked to lie down with your hand under your head. This makes it easy for the healthcare professional to see where the implant will go.

The local anaesthetic numbs the area before the implant is inserted. Your healthcare professional will use either a spray-on or an injectable anaesthetic. It stings a little at first, but after that, you’ll feel no pain. The local anaesthetic causes a complete loss of pain sensation to a specific area of your body, without making you lose consciousness.

Step 2: inserting the implant

The implant comes pre-loaded into a needle. This is inserted under the skin through a tiny cut, about 2mm long. Then the needle is removed, leaving the implant in place.

You might feel a little pressure during the process, but you will not feel any pain.

Step 3: applying a bandage

After the implant is in place, a plaster or steri-strip is put on the tiny cut. This is covered by a gauze pad and then a bandage.

The bandage applies gentle pressure to the area and should be kept on for 48 hours to reduce bruising.

Step 4: aftercare

You’ll need to keep the bandage clean and dry. You can have a bath or shower, but you should cover the bandage with plastic to keep it dry.

You can take off the bandage after 48 hours. You might want to leave a plaster over the cut for a few more days. You can replace it with new ones as needed.

Your arm will look bruised, but this will disappear over the next week or so. You’ll have a 2mm scar where the implant was inserted.

If the area seems hot or swollen or there’s a discharge, you need to see your healthcare professional or a GP, in case there’s an infection. This is rare. If you do have an infection, you might need antibiotics to fight it off.

The insertion was no more painful than an injection. Afterwards, it was tender for a few days, especially if I banged it against something, and the bruising was pretty bad. Now, I don’t feel it at all.

Getting the contraceptive implant removed

The implant can stay in place for up to 3 years, so you’ll need to remember when it needs to be removed and replaced.

Removing it takes about 10 to 15 minutes. As with the insertion, it will be done by a healthcare professional with specialist training. The procedure will take place with an injected local anaesthetic:

  • the healthcare professional will clean the area and apply a local anaesthetic

  • they’ll find the end of the implant nearest to your elbow, make a small cut and gently pull the implant out through it

  • since the implant is in your body for up to 3 years, your body may have formed a slightly thicker skin there, called a fibrous capsule – it may take a few minutes to free the implant

  • after it’s been taken out, steri-strips will be put over the 2mm cut and it will be covered with a gauze pad and a bandage – as with the insertion of the implant, the bandage applies gentle pressure and helps prevent bruising

  • you’ll need to keep the bandage clean and dry for 48 hours – cover it with plastic in the bath or shower

  • the bruises will go in a couple of weeks, leaving just a 2mm scar where the implant was inserted and removed

Risks when you’re having an implant fitted or removed

Although the contraceptive implant is extremely safe, there are some risks when it’s inserted and removed.

There’s a very rare chance that a nerve or blood vessel may be damaged when it’s being inserted. If it’s inserted correctly, it won’t affect the nerves or muscles in the area.

There’s a small risk of infection when it’s inserted or removed. You’ll know if you have an infection because the area around the implant (or where it was) will be hot, red, or have a discharge. You’ll need to contact a healthcare professional or GP as you might need antibiotics to treat the infection.

If the implant has been placed too deep under the skin, it will be more difficult to remove.

Everything you wanted to know about sexual health and wellbeing - your questions answered by our expert team.