With so many birth control options available, it can be a hard decision finding the one that best fits your lifestyle. Because the implant last for 3 years, it is a very practical choice for women who find it difficult to remember to take a pill at the same time every day. Once the implant is inserted, you do not have to think about contraception for 3 years.
The other great benefit of the implant is that it is reversible, and your healthcare provider can remove it at any time if you are having side effects or wish to get pregnant.
As with all contraceptive methods, the implant does carry a few risks and is not suitable for everyone. Women with liver disease or a history of serious blood clots, heart attack or stroke are not suitable candidates for the implant.
Inserting and removing the implant involves having a small, quick, procedure. There is no reason to be anxious about having the procedure as it is done by a trained medical professional who will ensure that the implant is correctly fitted. The procedure is not painful as local anaesthetic will be applied to your skin.
How Does The Implant Work?
A contraceptive implant is a flexible plastic rod about 4cm in length that is placed under the skin of your non-dominant upper arm. The implant releases a low, steady dose of the hormone progestin. It is oestrogen-free which lowers the risk of blood clots forming.
Progestin prevents pregnancy by blocking ovulation. It thickens the mucus of the cervix which makes it harder for sperm to reach an egg. Progestin also thins the lining of the uterus which makes it harder for the fertilised egg to attach to the uterus if conception takes place.
Who Should Not Use Contraceptive Implants?
Although very convenient, contraceptive implants are not right for everyone. Your healthcare provider may suggest an alternative birth control method if you have:
- Allergies to any components of the implant
- A history of serious blood clots, heart attack or stroke
- Liver tumours or disease
- A history of breast cancer
- Irregular menstrual bleeding (bleeding outside of your typical period)
You should advise your healthcare provider if you have a history of allergies, depression, diabetes, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, seizures, or epilepsy.
Certain medicines and herbal products can decrease the efficacy of the implant by lowering the levels of progestin in your blood. Medicines known to have this effect include certain seizure medicines, sedatives, HIV medicines and St. John's wort.
Preparing For A Contraceptive Implant
You should continue with your normal routine before having the implant. You do not need to have an empty stomach and you should eat your regular meals before the appointment. You should take all your medications as you normally would.
Keep in mind that certain herbal supplements, such as St. John’s Wort, should be avoided if you have the implant. You should speak to your doctor about any medications that might interfere with the efficacy of the implant.
Most importantly, you should not have unprotected sex for at least 3 weeks before having the implant. The implant can be inserted at any time during your menstrual cycle if you are not pregnant. If the implant is inserted during the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle, you will be immediately protected against becoming pregnant. If it is fitted afterwards, you will not be protected against pregnancy for up to 7 days.
You can have the implant fitted 3 weeks after you have given birth. It is safe to have an implant fitted while you are breastfeeding. You can have the implant fitted immediately after a miscarriage or an abortion and will be protected against pregnancy immediately.
How Is A Contraceptive Implant Inserted?
The contraceptive implant is fitted by a specially trained medical professional. The procedure only takes a few minutes, and you should only feel slight discomfort - if any. Before inserting the implant, your healthcare provider will apply local anaesthetic to numb the area of insertion on your upper arm.
The small wound made in your arm is closed with stitches. An adhesive bandage and a tight (pressure) bandage will be placed over the site. This helps reduce swelling and bruising. It is normal to feel some bruising, tenderness or swelling around the implant but these symptoms should pass within a week.
After The Contraceptive Implant Is Inserted
You should ask your doctor if you need to use a birth control method, such as a condom, for a week after insertion. This will be determined by where you are in your cycle.
You can remove the pressure bandage after 24 hours but need to keep the area dry. You should continue to keep an adhesive bandage on the site for 3 to 5 days after the procedure. If you experience pain, use an ice pack, or take an over-the-counter pain medicine.
During the first few months after the procedure, you may experience temporary side effects such as headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood swings. These should settle after a few months.
In the first year after the implant is inserted, your periods may become irregular, lighter, heavier, or longer. This is nothing to worry about and will usually settle down after a few months. There is no evidence to show that you will gain weight with the implant.
The implant can be removed at any time by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It is a quick and nearly painless procedure that only takes a few minutes to remove. Once the implant is removed your natural fertility will return and you will no longer be protected against pregnancy.