The contraceptive implant is an effective, convenient and safe form of contraception. A small procedure under local anaesthetic is needed to insert the small, rod-shaped implant under the skin. Each implant lasts three years.
What is the contraceptive implant?
A contraceptive implant is a device that is put under the skin in order to offer you an even dose of contraception without you having to take a daily pill. It contains a progestogen hormone. The only contraceptive implant currently available in the UK is Nexplanon® (there are other devices available elsewhere in the world).
Nexplanon® is a small rod 40 mm long and 2 mm wide.
When should it be put in?
You can have an implant fitted at any time in your menstrual cycle if it is certain that you are not pregnant.
- If the implant is put in during the first five days of your period you will be protected against pregnancy immediately.
- If the implant is put in on any other day you will need to use an additional method of contraception during this time.
- If you don't have regular periods then the implant can be put in at any time provided it is certain that you are not pregnant.
If you have had a baby the implant can be put in at any time after the birth. If the implant is inserted on or before day 21, your contraceptive protection starts straightaway. (You can't become pregnant in the first 21 days after delivery, so as long you have it inserted any time up to day 21 you are protected.) If it is fitted later than this, you need to use additional protection for seven days.
If you have had a termination of pregnancy or a miscarriage the implant can be put in straightaway, or in the first five days, and is effective immediately.
Can I have the implant after emergency contraception?
After using emergency contraception because you have had unprotected sex (intercourse), you need to be sure you are not pregnant before having the contraceptive implant.
The contraceptive implant can be put in once your next period has begun (you will be covered immediately if it is put in between days 1 and 5).
If no period arrives within three weeks of taking emergency contraception you should do a pregnancy test before insertion of a contraceptive implant.
How effective is the implant?
Only around 1 in 3,000 sexually active women using the implant will become pregnant each year, often because they were actually pregnant at the time of insertion. This failure rate is even lower than that of the intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD), the intrauterine system (IUS) and sterilisation, which also have very low failure rates. This is the lowest contraceptive failure rate of any method, including sterilisation (male or female). In fact in most studies of the implant, no women became pregnant at all.
Compare this to when no contraception is used: around 4 out of 5 sexually active women become pregnant within one year.
Can I get pregnant if I have the contraceptive implant?
This would be extremely unlikely, unless you were already pregnant when it was put in. If you did think you might be pregnant, the result of a pregnancy test would be unaffected by the implant.
How long will the implant last?
The implant is fully effective for three years, although it ceases to be effective if you take it out. After three years if you want to continue using this method of contraception, you will need a new implant.
Do I need regular check-ups if I have an implant?
You don't need regular check-ups, so if all is well you do not need to see your doctor or nurse until you need the implant replaced, or you want it removed.
Can anything make an implant less effective?
Some medicines may make an implant less effective. This includes some medicines used in epilepsy, HIV and tuberculosis, and St John's wort (a herbal remedy often used to treat headaches, mood disturbances and premenstrual syndrome). These medications reduce the effectiveness of the implant by increasing the rate at which your body disposes of the hormone in the blood. If you are using one of these medicines you will need to consider a different or additional contraceptive method.
The implant is not affected by common antibiotics, or by an attack of diarrhoea or being sick (vomiting).
Who cannot have one?
Most people can have the contraceptive implant if they want it, but there are a few exceptions. Learn more about these exceptions.
Did you find this information useful?
- Long-acting reversible contraception; NICE Clinical Guideline (September 2014)
- Power J, French R, Cowan F; Subdermal implantable contraceptives versus other forms of reversible contraceptives or other implants as effective methods of preventing pregnancy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jul 18 (3):CD001326.
- Nexplanon®, CEU Statement; Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare, 2010
- Trussell J; Contraceptive failure in the United States, Contraception, 2011
- UKMEC Summary table for intrauterine and hormonal contraception; Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (2016)
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.