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Contraceptive implant

3-minute read

A contraceptive implant is inserted under your skin and offers a very effective and convenient long-term contraception option.

What is the contraceptive implant?

The contraceptive implant is a thin, flexible piece of plastic about the size of a matchstick that is inserted under the skin on the inside of your arm.

The implant continuously releases small amounts of a hormone, progestogen, that prevents pregnancy. You need a prescription for the implant, and it needs to be inserted and removed by a trained doctor or nurse.

How does the contraceptive implant work?

A contraceptive implant sitting on a young woman’s inner upper arm near the elbow in the position where it would be inserted.
A contraceptive implant sitting on a young woman’s inner upper arm near the elbow in the position where it would be inserted.

The hormone is released slowly over 3 years. The hormone prevents eggs being released from your ovaries (ovulation), and thicken the mucus at the entrance to your uterus (womb) so sperm can't get through. This is similar to the mini pill.

You can feel the implant under your skin, but you usually can’t see it.

Types of contraceptive implant

There is only one type of contraceptive implant available in Australia: Implanon NXT.

How well does the contraceptive implant work?

The contraceptive implant works very well. Out of 100 women who use it for a year, less than 1 will become pregnant. This makes it more effective than the pill.

Certain medicines can reduce the effectiveness of the implant, so make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you use.

A contraceptive implant won’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs); only condoms can do that.

Advantages and disadvantages of the contraceptive implant

The main advantages of the implant are that:

  • there is no need to take a pill or have injections
  • it is safe for use by most women, including those who are breastfeeding
  • it lasts for 3 years, but can be removed earlier
  • it might make your periods less painful and lighter, and reduce pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and acne

The main disadvantages are that:

  • it might change the pattern of your vaginal bleeding, especially in the first 3 months
  • it can cause slight bruising and pain when inserted or removed
  • it can cause side effects such as tender breasts, mood changes or headaches

The most common reason why women decide to remove the implant is unacceptable bleeding, which may be irregular, more frequent, heavier, or longer lasting. However, most women find they have lighter periods than before, and some find their periods stop altogether.

More information

For more information, see Family Planning NSW and Jean Hailes for Women's Health.

Last reviewed: January 2019

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