An implant is a small rod – about the length of a match, but more flexible. It's inserted under the skin of your upper arm, and it releases a hormone that keeps you from getting pregnant. You should be able to feel it with your fingertip, lying just below the surface of your skin.

  • Implanon is a rod shaped device that is inserted under the skin just above the elbow.
  • The rod contains a progestogen called etonorgestrel.

How is it inserted?

A small amount of local anaesthetic is given to numb the skin on the inner area of the arm just above the elbow. The implant is then inserted under the skin and paper stitches and/ or a small dressing is applied over the puncture wound. To ensure that you are not pregnant, the implant is fitted sometime during the first 5 days after the beginning of a normal menstrual period.

Will the implant be visible to other people?

Implanon is not likely to be visible but you should be able to feel the rod with your fingertips.

When is it safe to have sex?

If you get the implant on the first day of your period you are protected immediately. However, if the implant is fitted later in your period you should wait for 7 days to be absolutely sure that you are covered for contraception.

How long does it work for?

The implant is effective for contraception for 3 years. If you are very overweight it may not be effective for the full 3 years. Your doctor may suggest that the implant is changed after 2 years, or that you consider an alternative form of contraception.

What can reduce the effectiveness of the implant?

Because the implant causes a slow release of progestogen into your system, there is very little that can interfere with it. Unlike oral contraceptives an upset stomach will not affect the action of the implant. However, women who are on some types of antiepileptic medication may not have good contraceptive cover and should consider other forms of contraception.

Do I need check-ups?

A check up is not necessary but if you are concerned about changes in bleeding pattern or any side effects such as prolonged headaches or breast tenderness please come back for review.

What about removal?

Removing the implant should be a fairly straightforward procedure provided the implant can be felt under the skin. A local anaesthetic is used to numb the area and a small incision is made at one end of the rod so that the rod can be removed. After removal either paper stitches or a dissolvable suture is used to close the wound. Some bruising is normal. In a small minority of patients where the device is not easily felt the implant may need to be removed using ultrasound imaging.

Will it leave a scar?

You will have a very small scar that fades with time.