IMPLANON – What you need to know!

The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “Reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognised in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly on the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.

In this article I will be talking about hormonal implants as a form of contraception. Read on to find out if this could be the contraception for you, after all it is your right.


IMPLANON is a hormone-releasing birth control implant for use by women to prevent pregnancy for up to 3 years. The implant is a flexible plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that contains a progestin hormone called etonogestrel. Your health care provider will insert the implant just under the skin of the inner side of your upper arm. You can use a single IMPLANON implant for up to 3 years. IMPLANON does not contain estrogen.

How does IMPLANON work?

Implanon works in three ways:

  • It stops the body from releasing an ovum (egg) every month (ovulation).
  • It makes the mucus in the cervix (the entrance of the uterus) thicker, so sperm cannot get through.
  • It changes the lining of the uterus.

How effective is it?

The implant is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy for 3 years — meaning it’s on-par with the intrauterine device(IUD) and more effective than birth control pills when it comes to pregnancy prevention — and can be removed at any time prior if you want to get pregnant or switch methods of birth control.

What if I need birth control for more than 3 years?

The IMPLANON implant must be removed after 3 years. Your health care provider can insert a new implant under your skin after taking out the old one if you choose to continue using IMPLANON for birth control.

What if I want to stop using the implant before 3 years?

You don’t have to keep an implant in for 3 years. If you decide you want to stop using it, see your doctor and ask to have it removed. You will stop being protected against pregnancy immediately after the implant is removed. An implant is designed to be used for three years and is not a short-term method of contraception. If you are not sure you want contraceptive protection for this long, other methods of contraception may be more suitable for you. There is no evidence that there is a delay in return to fertility after the removal of an implant. Over 90% of women will have returned to a normal cycle within 4 – 6 weeks.

Other methods of contraception: Oral Contraceptives, IUD (Intrauterine Device)

Are there any side effects?

Your periods will probably change. In the first 3 – 6 months of use, many women have irregular bleeding. After this most women will have lighter and/ or less frequent periods. Some will have regular monthly periods and some will not bleed at all. These changes are not harmful. It may also be associated with acne. Although research has not shown implants to cause depression or mood changes, some women may experience these symptoms. 

Who should not use IMPLANON?

Do not use IMPLANON if you

  •   Are pregnant or think you may be pregnant
  •   Have or have had serious blood clots, such as blood clots in your legs (deep venous thrombosis), lungs (pulmonary embolism), eyes (total or partial blindness), heart (heart attack, or brain (stroke)
  •   Have liver disease or a liver tumour
  •   Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  •   Have breast cancer or any other cancer that is sensitive to progestin (a female hormone), now or in the past

How is the implant inserted?

Your health care provider will place the IMPLANON implant in a minor surgical procedure in his or her office. The implant is placed just under the skin on the inner side of your upper arm.

The timing of insertion is important. Your health care provider may:

  •   Perform a pregnancy test before inserting IMPLANON
  •   Schedule the insertion at a specific time of your menstrual cycle (for example, within the first few days of your regular menstrual bleeding)

Insertion only takes a couple of minutes. A local anaesthetic (might feel a bit of a sting) is given to numb the skin before inserting the implant using a special applicator, with no stitches required. A pressure bandage is then placed on the arm to reduce the chance of bruising. When the anaesthetic wears off, some women may experience tenderness and bruising for a few days afterwards.

You will get a USER CARD to keep at home with your health records. Your health care provider will fill out the USER CARD with the date the implant was inserted and the date the implant is to be removed. Keep track of the date the implant is to be removed. 

How is the implant removed?

You will receive a local anaesthetic to numb the skin over the implant first. It usually takes a few minutes to remove an implant. If the implant has been put in correctly, it should not be difficult to remove. The doctor will feel for the implant under the skin, make a tiny cut and gently pull the implant out. Occasionally an implant is difficult to feel under the skin and it may not be so easy to remove. If this happens you may be referred to a specialist centre to have it removed with the help of an ultrasound scan.

In conclusion

There’s no such thing as a birth control method that’s perfect for everyone. You need to find the one that fits into your life. There are lots of things to think about — like convenience, effectiveness, and cost.

Come see us if you think IMPLANON is the contraceptive for you.


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