Contraceptive implant

The implant is a form of long-acting reversible contraception for women. This page explains how the implant works and tells you how to get it.

What is an implant?

The contraceptive implant inserted under the skin of the arm.

Contraceptive implants are small rods about the size of a matchstick which are put under the skin in the inside of your arm. You can feel them under the skin. They slowly release a hormone called progestogen.

How long can an implant stay in my arm?

Implants last either three or five years depending whether there are one or two rods.

How do they work?

Implants can stop the body from releasing an egg each month. They also thicken the mucus in the cervix so sperm cannot travel up to meet an egg.

How well does it work?

Implants are more than 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. This means only a few women out of a thousand will get pregnant each year.

What will I notice?

Your periods are likely to change. A few women have no periods, a few women have their normal periods, but most women have a change in bleeding pattern. This may be infrequent bleeding, frequent bleeding, light bleeding or heavy bleeding.

This is safe for your body and there are pills to treat this if it happens. Research has shown that about one woman in every seven who gets an implant has it removed because of bleeding problems.

Can I become pregnant after the implant is removed?

Your natural fertility will return as soon as you have the implant removed. If you get pregnant with the implant in place, and decide to continue with your pregnancy, the chance of having an abnormal baby is not increased. You will need to have the implant removed.

How is the implant put in and taken out?

You need to see someone who is trained to insert and remove implants. A local injection is used to numb the area. The rods are placed under the skin and steristrips are used to hold the skin together until the skin heals.

The implant is removed in the same way. You will have a small scar from each procedure.

What should I know before I have an implant inserted?

Read our implant instructions if you are having an implant inserted so you are well prepared.

Who can have an implant inserted?

Almost every woman can have an implant inserted whatever her age. It is suitable for women who may forget pills, appointments for injections or who may have a medical reason that stops her using the combined pill.

Who should not use it?

Women who have had breast cancer and women who are taking some medications. Check with your doctor if you are taking regular medication.

What are the advantages?

  • Fit and forget – no need to think about contraception/ārai hapū every day.
  • Long acting – once inserted it will be effective for several years.
  • Easy to use – there is nothing to do or remember once it has been inserted.
  • Effective – it is extremely effective as a contraceptive.
  • Return to fertility – rapid return once it is removed.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Irregular bleeding, or periods that last longer. This is quite common especially in the first six months and may last for the whole three or five years. While it can be annoying, it is not harmful and does not mean the implant is less effective.  If irregular bleeding is a problem, you can get medication to control it.
  • No bleeding – periods stop for some women. This is safe for your body.
  • Wound problem – you may have bruising. Occasionally there can be soreness or infection.
  • Insertion and removal – needs to be done by a trained nurse or doctor.
  • Difficulty in removing implant – occasionally the implant cannot be easily felt under the skin and you may need to be referred to someone else to remove it.
  • The research does NOT show that implants cause any change in weight, mood, headaches or libido.

Does it protect you from sexually transmissible infections (STIs)?

No, you need to use condoms (and lubricant) as well to protect against STIs.

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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