Nowadays there is currently a huge variety of contraceptives, including birth pills, contraceptive patches, intrauterine devices (IUD), condoms, cervical caps, and many more. When choosing a contraceptive method, one will have to consider their health condition and their own preferences. In the UK, contraceptive implants (AKA Nexplanon) is one of the more common contraceptive methods that is considered to be safe and effective.
We have heard a lot about “Pregnancy Sticks”, but what are “Contraceptive Sticks”? Our experienced doctors will answer this question!
1. What is the Contraceptive Implant?
A contraceptive implant is a device that’s about the size of a matchstick, it is also known as a “subdermal contraceptive implant”. The doctor will insert a flexible plastic rod under the skin of the inside of your upper arm. The implant will last for approximately three years and will have more than 99% effectiveness. If the contraceptive is implanted the first 5 days of your menstrual cycle, you’ll be immediately protected against becoming pregnant. If it is fitted any other day, you will need to use other contraceptives for 7 days.
Contraceptive implants work by slowly releasing progesterone into the bloodstream. The progesterone will inhibit the ovulation cycle as well as thicken the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperms to enter the uterus and fertilising an egg. It will also thin the lining of the womb, which makes it more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant itself into the uterus. This is how the contraceptive effect is achieved.
It should be noted that contraceptive implants cannot prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STI), so condoms should still be used to reduce the risk of infection.
2. Who is suitable to use Contraceptive Implants?Many female are eligible to use Contraceptive Implants, including mothers that are currently breastfeeding. Below is the list of people that is recommended to not use this method of contraception:
- Suspected pregnancy
- Worried about inconsistent menstrual cycles
- *Currently on another contraceptive, AIDS/HIV, epilepsy, and tuberculosis medications. Certain antibiotics might also be impacted
- Have unexplained vaginal bleeding (outside of menstrual periods or after sexual intercourse)
- Have or had breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and severe liver diseases
*If you fall into the conditions above or are currently using the listed medications, it is important to use additional contraceptive methods that are not affected by medications. Some drugs will weaken the effectiveness of the contraceptive implant. If in doubt about a medical prescribed, it is important to consult with your doctor about your contraceptive implant.
3. What is the process of getting implanted?
The doctor will first disinfect and then apply local anaesthetics to the area. They will then create a 2mm long incision to insert the contraceptive implant under the skin of your non-dominant arm. This operation is done in the clinic and will take approximately 15 minutes. Once the procedure is completed, you can resume your daily activities including exercising without any issues.
4. Is there any follow-up procedure after implantation?
The contraceptive implant will last up to 3 years and will need to be replaced after. After the removal of the contraceptive implant, it is important that a new one is replaced immediately to maintain the contraceptive effect. If your health permits, you can use contraceptive implants until menopause. If you suspect you are pregnant or if a pregnancy test is positive, please consult with your doctor.
5. What are the advantages of using contraceptive implants?
- Contraceptive implants can last up to 3 years and can be removed by the doctor at any time.
- It is a contraception method that doesn’t require remembering taking a pill daily or implementing the birth control measure beforehand
- Won’t affect breastfeeding
- Once the contraceptive implant is removed, fertility and menstruation resume after a month. Some contraceptives can require up to 6 months before normal fertility resumes
- It can help and lessen the pain from menorrhagia or menstrual cramps
- This method is also the best for women that cannot use other contraceptive methods such as birth pills, contraceptive patches, or vaginal rings
6. What are the risk and side effects of using contraceptive implants?After implantation, your menstrual cycle will stop or will become irregular. While this is harmless, some may consider this to be annoying. However, some people might also think this is an advantage since they can avoid their “monthly menstrual problems”. If there are vaginal bleeding, please consult with a doctor. Your doctor will investigate the root cause to see if the implant is the reason behind it. They might also prescribe additional hormones or medication if needed.
Other side effects you might experience while using contraceptive implants include headache, nausea, breast tenderness, and mood swings. In very rare cases, the implantation site might get infected due to improper insertion (too deep or the implant might have shifted from its intended location).
Your physical condition can also affect what kind of contraception method is most suitable for you. If you have any questions, please consult your doctor to learn what the best method for you is.
The information is provided by Dr. Ray Ng, General Practice