The contraceptive implant is a small, flexible rod containing the hormone progestogen, which is placed inside your arm to prevent pregnancy.

It is a long-term method of contraception which works for up to three years

How does it work?

The implant works mainly by stopping eggs from being released (ovulation). It also works by thickening cervical mucous to prevent sperm from being able to reach an egg, and by thinning the lining of the womb so that if an egg was fertilised it would not be able to implant.

How effective is it?

The contraceptive implant is over 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.

What are the advantages?

You don’t have to remember to take anything and it does not interrupt sex.

Other benefits are lighter or no periods, reduced period pain and less premenstrual symptoms. Research also suggests that it provides some protection against womb cancer and pelvic inflammatory disease.

What are the downsides?

Using the contraceptive implant can disrupt your periods, cause irregular bleeding, and for some women cause periods to be heavier and longer. Other side effects include headaches, mood changes, weight gain, spotty skin and breast tenderness.

Things to bear in mind:

The implant is a long-term method of contraception and so not suitable for someone who may be considering getting pregnant in the near future but want contraceptive protection at the moment.

Also, it has to be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse and may not be available at all GP surgeries or clinics.

It is possible that an infection may happen at the site of insertion, but this is rare

Most importantly, the implant does not provide any protection against HIV or other sexually transmitted infections like a condom does.

Where can I get it from and how much does it cost?

The implant is available free on the NHS. You can only get it on prescription. This can be from your GP, another GP who you have registered with for family planning services, a practice nurse or a family planning or young person’s clinic.

Page content supplied by Copyright 2012 © Terrence Higgins Trust.

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