SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Hormonal contraception is available in several forms, the slow-release implant is one of them.
- The contraceptive implant is one of the most effective reversible contraceptive methods available. It is what is known as a ‘long-acting reversible contraception’, or LARC.
- Different methods of contraception may suit you at different times in your life.
- Condoms give the best available protection from sexually transmissible infections (STIs).
On this page
- About the contraceptive implant?
- Effectiveness of the contraceptive implant
- How to use the contraceptive implant
- How the contraceptive implant works
- Where to get the contraceptive implant
- Benefits of the contraceptive implant
- Side effects of the contraceptive implant
- Contraceptive implant and serious health problems
- Suitability of the contraceptive implant
- What stops the contraceptive implant from working
- If you are overdue to have your contraceptive implant changed
- If you get pregnant while using the contraceptive implant
- Contraceptive implant after having a baby
- Contraceptive implant and pregnancy
- Further information about the contraceptive implant
- Where to get help
About the contraceptive implant?
Hormonal contraception is available in several forms, one of which is the slow release implant.
The contraceptive implant (Implanon NXT®) is a soft plastic stick about 4 centimetres long. The implant slowly releases a hormone, progestogen, into your body over time. Progestogen is like the hormone produced by the ovaries.
Other types of hormonal contraception include:
- oral tablets (the combined pill and the progestogen only pill)
- hormonal IUD
- contraceptive injection
- vaginal ring.
Contraceptive implants are very effective if used the right way. When choosing the method of contraception that best suits you, it can help to talk to a doctor or nurse about your options.
Effectiveness of the contraceptive implant
The contraceptive implant is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and can last for up to 3 years.
How to use the contraceptive implant
The implant is inserted (injected) under the skin of your inner upper arm by a trained doctor or nurse. A local anaesthetic is used so that you will not feel pain when this is happening, although you might feel some pressure or discomfort.
How the contraceptive implant works
The implant works by preventing the ovaries from releasing an egg each month. It also thickens the fluid around the cervix (the opening to the uterus or womb). This helps to prevent the sperm from reaching the egg.
When the implant is first inserted into the arm it can take up to 7 days to start working to prevent pregnancy.
Where to get the contraceptive implant
Your doctor or nurse practitioner will write you a script and you can get the implant from your pharmacy. You will then need to return to the clinic to have the implant inserted.
If you don't have a Medicare card it will be more expensive. It will be cheaper if you have a health care card.
Benefits of the contraceptive implant
Advantages of the contraceptive implant are:
- It is the most effective method of contraception.
- Once inserted (put in) you can forget about it for 3 years.
- It can last up to 3 years.
- Many users have no vaginal bleeding at all or very light bleeding.
- Periods may be less painful.
- Acne can improve.
- It is another choice if you have problems taking the hormone oestrogen. ‘The pill’ (also known as the combined pill) and the vaginal ring contain oestrogen and progestogen. The implant only contains progestogen.
- You can use it while breastfeeding.
- It is easy to remove.
- Once removed your fertility quickly returns to normal.
Side effects of the contraceptive implant
Once the contraceptive implant has been inserted your vaginal bleeding pattern (period) will change. It might be more often or irregular (at odd times). Around 20% of women will have no bleeding at all (this is not harmful to the body). Frequent or prolonged bleeding may get better with time. Some medications can help with this bleeding, speak to your doctor or nurse.
Other possible side effects for a small number of users can include:
- changes to your skin
- sore or tender breasts
- mood changes.
These side effects often settle with time.
The implant has not been shown to cause weight gain.
Contraceptive implant and serious health problems
Rarely, the implant is inserted too deep and you may need minor surgery to have it removed.
Suitability of the contraceptive implant
The contraceptive implant might not be a good option if you:
- have been treated for breast cancer
- have severe liver disease
- take certain medications which may prevent the contraceptive implant from working. (Check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist).
What stops the contraceptive implant from working
The implant may not work if you:
- are taking some medications or natural remedies (check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist)
- leave it in for more than 3 years. To prevent this from happening, it may help to write down the date when you had the implant put in, or enter a reminder in your phone for when you need to have it replaced.
If you are overdue to have your contraceptive implant changed
If the implant has been in for more than 3 years, use condoms until you can have it replaced.
If you get pregnant while using the contraceptive implant
The implant is not known to harm a pregnancy. It is safe to continue the pregnancy (and remove the implant) or to have an abortion.
Contraceptive implant after having a baby
The implant can be inserted straight after you give birth, even if you are breast feeding.
Contraceptive implant and pregnancy
If you are using a contraceptive implant and want to become pregnant, the implant must be removed by a trained doctor or nurse.
Your fertility will quickly return.
Further information about the contraceptive implant
The contraceptive implant does not protect you from sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Condoms provide the best available protection from STIs.
The implant is one of many types of contraception. Read about other contraceptive options.
Where to get help
- 1800 My Options Tel. 1800 696 784 – for information about contraception, pregnancy options and sexual health in Victoria
- Your GP (doctor)
- Many community health services and some public hospitals will have a family planning clinic, a sexual health clinic or a women’s health clinic providing contraception
- Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) – book an appointment online or call Melbourne CBD Clinic: (03) 9660 4700, Box Hill Clinic: (03) 9257 0100 or (free call): 1800 013 952. These services are youth friendly
- Sexual and reproductive health, Therapeutic Guidelines Limited.
- Contraceptive implant (Implanon NXT), Sexual Health Victoria.