Contraceptive Implant

The contraceptive implant is a thin and flexible piece of plastic inserted into the upper arm.
Contraceptive Implant
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Street names The rod, the stick, the bar
Medical names Contraceptive Implant, Implanon NXT® (brand)
Effectiveness 99.9% ?
It lasts 3 years, unless you have it removed earlier
Fertility Ovulation returns when the implant is taken out
Who can use it? People with a vagina and uterus of any age from menarche to menopause
Hormones Contains progestogen hormone
Visibility Moderately discreet, it can be felt by touching your arm
STIs No protection ?
Side effects Uterine bleeding, headaches, breast tenderness, acne, mood changes. Allow 6 months to adjust to hormone
Cost Between $7 and $170 depending if you have a Health Care card, Medicare card or private script. Additional costs for the procedure
Where to get it Visit a reproductive and sexual health clinic or your local doctor. You may need to visit a pharmacy to pick up a prescription

How does it work?

The implant slowly releases progestogen hormone into the bloodstream. The hormone stops the ovaries from releasing eggs (ova). It also changes the mucus of the cervix making it harder for any sperm to enter the uterus. This prevents pregnancy.

The implant contains 68mg of a progestogen hormone called etonogestrel. One implant contains enough hormones to work as a contraceptive for 3 years.

You will still need to consider the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) every time you have sex.

What’s it like to use?

The contraceptive implant is inserted by doctors or nurses who have specific training. They insert it under the skin of the upper arm. A local anaesthetic is given first to reduce pain. Some say it doesn’t hurt more than a normal injection, others say it can feel painful for a few days.

You may need to keep a bandage on the area for a few days. After that time you will be able to return to normal activities with that arm. You may be able to feel the implant with your fingers as it is just under the skin. In every day activity, you would not feel the implant.

Your body stops ovulating. You no longer have menstrual bleeding and instead experience uterine bleeding. It can feel similar but the flow is usually lighter and shorter.

What if I forget about it?

The piece of plastic can be left in the arm longer than 3 years. It will stop releasing the hormone so you will need to consider another contraceptive method.

After three years if you want to continue using the contraceptive implant method, the implant can be taken out and replaced with a new one. You can ask for the new implant to be inserted in the same or a different place.

Who can use it?

People with a vagina and uterus of any age from menarche to menopause.

The contraceptive implant is suitable for people who have never experienced pregnancy and for use as contraception after pregnancy.

If you experience polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the Combined Hormonal Contraceptive Pill is generally considered to be the best contraceptive option. However, the contraceptive implant is also a suitable option for women with PCOS. It is best to discuss your exact situation with a doctor.

The contraceptive implant is suitable for people who may have a family history of breast cancer. It is not suitable for people who have breast cancer or have experienced breast cancer in the past.

Side effects

During the first 6 months your body may take time to adjust to the hormone.

The most commonly reported side effect is altered uterine bleeding patterns. For every 5 people who use the contraceptive implant:

  • 3 will experience uterine bleeding similar to a menstrual period or lighter
  • 1 will experience amenorrhoea (no uterine bleeding at all)
  • 1 will experience prolonged or irregular uterine bleeding

If you are concerned about irregular uterine bleeding, read more about uterine bleeding management or seek medical advice. Some people use one contraceptive choice to manage menstrual bleeding and the other to prevent pregnancy. Learn more about your reproductive organs and sexual health and hormonal contraceptives.

Other side effects can also include headaches, breast tenderness, acne, or mood changes. While body weight can change alongside hormonal changes, contraceptive implants should not cause weight gain.

If at any point you feel that this contraceptive method is making you feel uncomfortable or unwell, get advice from a medical professional. If it is an emergency, call an ambulance on 000.

How and where to get it

You need to get a contraceptive implant prescribed, inserted and removed by an experienced reproductive and sexual health clinician. Most clinicians require you to pick up the implant from a pharmacy. You would then need to go back to the clinician to have it inserted.

The implant price will be between $7 and $170 depending on whether you have a Health Care Card. There may also be consultation fees. You can ask for a quote when you book an appointment.

What if you change your mind

Any time you want to have it removed visit a reproductive and sexual health clinician. It does not need to be the same clinician who did the insertion. While in the appointment ask the clinician about other contraceptive options because ovulation can return shortly after the implant has been removed.