The contraceptive implant is a relatively new birth control method, which means there’s still a lot of uncertainty about it. We’ve heard some pretty strange misconceptions about it, and we want to set the record straight because we believe it’s a great long-term birth control option.
So, first up – what is the contraceptive implant anyway?
The medical name for the implant is the Impanon NXT, and it’s a tiny rod that lives just under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. It’s made of silicone and it’s inserted into the non-dominant arm.
Ouch, that sounds painful!
Don’t stress, it doesn’t hurt: a trained healthcare professional administers the contraceptive implant under local anaesthetic, so you don’t feel it going in.
Hmm, that doesn’t sound too bad. So how effective is it?
Very. The implant is 99% effective and works for three years by slowly releasing low doses of the hormone progestin to prevent an egg from being released each month. What’s great about it is that you can’t forget to take it or miss a dose, like with short-acting contraceptives such as the pill or injection.
Once it’s in my arm, can it move to other parts of my body?
Nope, once the rod is inserted, it stays where it is until it’s taken out. In rare cases, the rod might start to come out. This can be as a result of infection at the insertion site or if the rod wasn’t put in properly, and it usually happens within four months of insertion. If this happens to you, go back to the clinic as soon as possible and use back-up contraceptives in the mean time.
Will it leave a scar?
It’s unlikely you’ll have a scar because the cut is small and no stitches are required. What can be a little weird is that once the implant is inserted, you can feel its outline under your skin and sometimes you can see it, but you get used to it quickly. You may have a little pain and bruising for a few days after insertion, and it’s usually very easy to remove the implant too, unless it wasn’t properly inserted or you use an unskilled provider.
Are there side effects?
Like with all contraceptives, there are side effects when you first start using the contraceptive implant. This is because the body reacts to having something foreign inserted into it.
The most obvious thing you’ll notice is changes in your menstrual pattern: during the first year, you may experience longer or heavier periods, with bleeding lasting eight days or longer, and more blood than normal. Don’t worry, this generally isn’t harmful. After a year, you may notice that your periods stop altogether – this also isn’t a problem, and it doesn’t mean that there’s blood building up inside you.
Besides this, common side effects are headaches, abdominal pain and breast tenderness. These side effects don’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, and they’ll also lessen or go away completely within the first year of use.
I’ve heard that the contraceptive implant has health benefits. Is this true?
Studies have found that the implant contraceptive can greatly reduce the risk of ectopic pregnancies and protect against symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. They may also help to protect against iron-deficiency anaemia.
Once the implant is removed, how long will it take to get my fertility back?
What’s great about implants is they stop working as soon as they’re taken out, and their hormones don’t stay in your body. This means they don’t affect your ability to fall pregnant, but remember, fertility decreases with age. One major study found that women who have their implants removed can fall pregnant as quickly as women who stop using non-hormonal methods.
Where can I get the implant?
You can go to any Marie Stopes centre in SA, where our skilled and knowledgeable staff are trained to insert and remove the contraceptive implant. They can also give you advice on other contraceptive methods to help you find the best one to suit your lifestyle.
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