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Contraceptive implant

What is a contraceptive implant?

A medical implant inserted in your arm which reduces the risk of pregnancy and can reduce or stop menstruation.

It's also known as Nexplanon or Etonogestrel.

The same hormones used in the contraceptive implant can also be used for other purposes; see progesterone, contraceptive injection.

What does a contraceptive implant do?

How long does a contraceptive implant last?

The contraceptive implant lasts for three years before needing replacement.

What should I be aware of?

The contraceptive implant has a very high effectiveness, but there is still a small (<1%) chance of pregnancy, and some medicines may make the implant less effective 1. Combining the implant with the use of barrier methods such as a condom will reduce the risk of pregnancy even further.

Why might I want a contraceptive implant?

A contraceptive implant substantially reduces the risk of pregnancy for up to three years. Unlike the contraceptive pill, you do not need to remember to take a pill every day.

For many people the contraceptive implant reduces menstruation (periods) and menstrual pain. For around 1 in 5 people, it stops menstruation entirely, and for around 3 in 4 menstruation will be infrequent 2;1.

Unlike contraceptive injections, when the implant is removed there is not normally a long delay before fertility returns 3.

If you are using testosterone, the contraceptive implant is believed to be a better choice than the combined contraceptive pill 4.

Why might I not want a contraceptive implant?

You might not want to undergo the surgery to insert and remove the implant. However, the surgery is quick (under 15 minutes) and you will be given a local anaesthetic so it should not be painful.

If you don’t want other people to know you are using contraception, an implant might not be the best option for you, as other people may be able feel or see it if they look closely at your arm.

Some people decide they do not want the implant because they experience side effects from the implant, such as headaches, acne, or heavy bleeding. However, not everyone will experience these side effects.

Are there other options?

Other options that can also be used while taking testosterone include contraceptive injections, progesterone-only contraceptive pills, and most types of IUD 4.

If you are not using testosterone, other options also include the combined contraceptive pill, patches, and vaginal rings.

How do I get a contraceptive implant fitted?

You can ask for a contraceptive implant to be fitted at most GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, and GUM clinics. A GP or nurse makes a small cut in your arm and inserts the implant into your arm using a special tool.

After three years, the implant will need to be removed. You can ask for a new implant to be fitted to replace it during the same surgery.

How much does it cost?

If fitted at an NHS GP surgery, sexual health, or GUM clinic, the contraceptive implant is provided for free.

Where can I learn more?

You can read more about the contraceptive implant on the NHS website.

You can find more information about contraception specifically for transgender and non-binary people on the FSRH website.

References

  1. 1.
    Electronic Medicines Compendium (2020) “Nexplanon 68 mg implant for subdermal use.” Link
  2. 2.
    Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (2014) “Progestogen-only Implants.” Link
  3. 3.
    Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (2019) “Contraceptive Choices for Young People.” Link
  4. 4.
    FSRH Clinical Effectiveness Unit (2017) “Contraceptive Choices and Sexual Health for Transgender and Non-binary People.” Link

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