Hormonal contraception for women is available in the form of implants or injections that release the contraceptive into the body over a sustained period of time. Contraceptive implants and injections are very effective, but can cause side effects.
Hormonal contraception for women is available in the form of implants or injections that release the contraceptive into the body over a sustained period of time.
Hormonal implants and injections are very effective if used correctly, but can cause side effects. Speaking with a doctor or nurse can help you to choose the method of contraception that best suits your needs.
Other forms of hormonal contraception include oral tablets (the combined pill and the mini pill), the hormonal IUD and the vaginal ring.
The contraceptive implant (sold as Implanon NXTTM) is a hormonal implant the size of a matchstick, which is inserted under the skin at the inner side of the upper arm. This 4 cm-long implant contains etonogestrel, a progesterone-like hormone that prevents ovulation.
This hormone also thickens the mucus in the cervix (entrance to the uterus), preventing sperm from getting through. The implant is inserted and removed under local anaesthetic by a specially trained doctor.
Advantages of the contraceptive implant include that:
- It is close to 100 per cent effective.
- It lasts for three years.
- It costs about $36 for Medicare card holders (less for healthcare card holders).
- At most, it takes just one week to start working (depending on when the implant is inserted).
- It is safe to use when breastfeeding.
- It can be used by most women who cannot take synthetic oestrogens.
- Women usually start ovulating again within three weeks of removing the implant.
- Some bruising and discomfort around the implant is common and may last for up to a week.
- It can cause irregularities with periods, such as unscheduled bleeding.
- It can cause headaches, acne, breast tenderness and increased appetite.
- It can move from its original position under the skin.
- There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding around the implant.
- The contraceptive implant does not provide protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
- Some medications, particularly some that are used to treat epilepsy, and the herbal remedy St John’s Wort, can make it less effective.
The contraceptive injection, known as Depo (sold as Depo-ProveraTM/ Depo-RaloveraTM) is a long-acting, injectable contraceptive that contains only the synthetic form of progesterone, depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA). Each injection of DMPA prevents an unplanned pregnancy for 12 to 14 weeks.
The contraceptive injection prevents ovulation and thickens the mucus in the cervix, preventing sperm from getting through. It can also be used to treat women with menstrual problems.
You will need to talk with a doctor or nurse before you start using the contraceptive injection, as this method is not suitable for all women.
Advantages of the contraceptive injection include that:
- It is very effective and convenient.
- It is safe to use when breastfeeding, especially if the baby is over six weeks old.
- About 50 per cent of women using the contraceptive injection do not have periods, which some women see as an advantage.
- There are no medications that make it less effective.
- It cannot be reversed or withdrawn, which means side effects may last for 12 to 14 weeks.
- It can cause unpredictable irregularities with periods.
- There is a delay in return to fertility after the contraceptive injection is stopped.
- It can be associated with a reduction in bone density.
- Some women experience side effects such as weight gain, headaches and depression.
- The contraceptive injection does not provide protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
- Male injectable contraceptives are currently being trialled.
Other types of contraception
There are a number of contraceptive methods available in Australia. Speaking with a doctor or nurse can help you to understand your options. The method you choose will depend on your general health, lifestyle and relationships. It is important to weigh up the benefits and possible negative effects of each method, and consider your current and future needs.
Protection from sexually transmissible infections
It is important to practice safer sex. The best way to reduce the risk of STIs is to use barrier protection, such as male and female condoms and dams (a thin piece of latex placed over the anal or vulval area during oral sex).
Condoms can be used for oral, vaginal and anal sex in conjunction with other contraceptive methods to help prevent the spread of infections.
Where to get help
- Your doctor
- Family Planning Victoria Tel. (03) 9257 0100 or 1800 013 952
- Family Planning Victoria’s Action Centre (for people aged under 25 years) Tel. (03) 9660 4700 or 1800 013 952
- Women’s Health Information Centre Tel. (03) 8345 3045 or 1800 442 007
- Melbourne Sexual Health Centre Tel. (03) 9341 6200 or 1800 032 017 or TTY (for the hearing impaired) (03) 9347 8619
- Community health centre
Things to remember
- Hormonal contraception for women is available in the form of slow-release implants or injections.
- Different methods may suit you at different times in your life.
- Condoms provide the best available protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
You might also be interested in:
- Contraception - choices.
- Contraception - condoms for women.
- Contraception - diaphragms.
- Contraception - emergency contraception.
- Contraception - female sterilisation.
- Contraception - intrauterine devices (IUD).
- Contraception - the pill.
- Contraception - vaginal ring.
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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Family Planning Victoria
Last reviewed: November 2012
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