What is the contraceptive implant?
The contraceptive implant, sometimes known as Nexplanon, is a small, flexible rod that’s inserted under the skin of your arm.
How does the implant work?
The implant releases the hormone progestogen, preventing an egg from being released each month. It also thickens the mucus at the entrance to the womb preventing sperm getting through and thins the lining of your womb making it hard for a fertilised egg to implant there.
If the implant is inserted in the first 5 days of your period, you'll have immediate protection from pregnancy. If it’s put in on any other day of your cycle, you won't be protected from pregnancy for 7 days. During this time you should use condoms or avoid sex.
Once inserted, you won’t need any follow-up until it needs removing/replacing.
How long does the implant provide protection for?
The implant provides protection for 3 years but can be taken out sooner if you need.
How effective is the implant?
The implant is more than 99% effective 1.
This means less than one person using the implant will get pregnant in a year.
Things to consider when getting the implant
- The implant takes a few minutes to fit - local anaesthetic is used to numb the skin before it's inserted.
- The implant may affect your periods – they can be irregular, stop completely or last longer. It can reduce heavy or painful periods.
- Some medicines can affect the effectiveness of the implant. Tell your healthcare professional at your consultation about any medicines you use. If you’re prescribed medicine while using the implant, you should tell your doctor who can advise on whether it will be affected.
- Your fertility will return to what is normal for you as soon as it's removed.
- The implant doesn’t prevent you from getting sexually transmitted infections so you may want to use condoms too.
Removing the implant
You can book an appointment to remove your implant when you want. Only a trained nurse or doctor can do this. They’ll find the implant on your arm and give you a local anaesthetic in that area. They’ll then make a small cut and take it out.
Potential Nexplanon side effects
Sometimes the implant (Nexplanon) can cause side effects which include spotty skin (acne).
Some people also report headaches, nausea, breast tenderness, weight change and mood swings but there’s no evidence to suggest a causal link.
Can I get the implant on the NHS?
Yes, the implant is available at no cost from the NHS. Book an appointment with your GP or your local sexual health clinic to talk about your options
Where can I get the implant?
You can get the implant for free at NHS sexual health clinics, contraception clinics and some young people’s services. Some GP surgeries may offer the implant but not all surgeries do.
Other contraception options
If the implant isn’t right for you there are other forms of long-acting reversible contraception available including the intrauterine device (IUD), the intrauterine system (IUS) and the injection. Once you have started these methods, they provide protection against pregnancy for months (injection) to years (IUS/IUD).
If you’d prefer something a bit more flexible, that gives you the ability to manage your periods, you could choose from the combined pill, the progestogen-only pill, the contraceptive patch or the ring (NuvaRing). If you live in an eligible borough, these types of contraception are also available free online from SHL.UK, Register or Login for more information.
Reviewed by our clinical team: December 2020 (next review date: April 2022)
1. Source: NHS Contraceptive implant - NHS (www.nhs.uk)