A guide to contraceptive implants

The pros and cons of implants


Hormonal contraceptives are available in the market for women as either injections, implants or the pill. These implants slowly release hormones in the bloodstream over regular intervals of time protecting against pregnancy. If used the right way, contraceptive implants can be very effective.

What is a Contraceptive Implant?

A contraceptive implant is a hormonal implant that measures approximately 4 cm in length. This matchstick-sized device is inserted in the upper arm under the skin. The implant releases progestogen and stops ovulation and thickens the uterine wall so that sperm cannot get through. The implant is inserted by a professional nurse or a doctor under local anaesthesia.

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What are the Advantages of Contraceptive Implants?

There are many advantages of contraceptive implants which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The effectiveness of the implant is close to 100%.
  • A single implant lasts for around three years.
  • Depending on where the implant is administered, it takes only a week to start working.
  • The implant is also safe to use if you are lactating or breastfeeding.
  • Approximately 20% of women with implants do not get periods.
  • Contraceptive implants reduce period pain.
  • It is very beneficial for women who cannot tolerate oestrogen-containing medication.
  • It helps clear acne problems.

After the removal of the implant, the ovulation process resumes within three weeks.

What are the Disadvantages of Contraceptive Implants?

While there are many advantages of the implant, there are also some risks that you need to be aware of, and keep in mind before deciding to use it. These include the following:

  • Periods can become irregular.
  • The site of the implant can experience tenderness or bruising that can last for more than a week.
  • The implant can move from its original position.
  • Side effects of the implant may include an increase in hunger levels, breast soreness or tenderness, and headaches.
  • Some medicines, such as epilepsy-protecting medicines, might stop working under the effect of the implant.
  • There is a minor risk of bleeding or infection around the site of the implant.
  • Having an implant does not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases or infections.

How Is the Contraceptive Implant Fitted in the Arm?

The fitting and preparation of a contraceptive implant is quick and only takes a maximum of fifteen minutes. Once the implant is inserted in the arm, the doctor will give you further advice on how to check the position of the implant when needed. Once the fitting is completed, a dressing will be wrapped around your arm. You will be required to keep the dressing on for three to five days. During this time, you will experience mild pain or bruising. Once your body is used to the implant, the bruising will disappear.

When Should I Visit My Doctor After Implant Insertion?

Normally, there is no need to visit a doctor once the implant has been placed in your arm. However, you should immediately visit your doctor if you experience the following:

  • The implant was ineffective, and you have gotten pregnant.
  • The skin around the site of the implant is painful or completely numb.
  • You cannot feel or locate the implant under your skin anymore.

Who Should Not Use Contraceptive Implants?

Following women should consider other options of birth control and stay away from contraceptive implants:

  • Women who have a history of breast cancer
  • Women who have suffered from a stroke or a heart attack
  • Women who suffer from liver disease or liver cancer
  • Women who suffer from blood clots
  • Women who are obese or overweight

How is the Contraceptive Implant Removed?

The process of contraceptive implant removal is more straightforward than insertion. The doctor will give you a local anaesthetic, and once the site is numb, they will make an insertion and remove the implant. Once the implant has been removed, he will stitch the site up, and your skin will return back to normal without causing you any further discomfort.

If you are considering contraceptive implant as an option for birth control, consult with your nearest health professional today. 

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