Contraceptive implant: setting the record straight
This page was originally published in 2019 and has since been updated.
Using a contraceptive is an important part of taking care of your reproductive health. As such, there are a number of contraceptive options for you to access. The birth control implant is one such option, and can be considered one of the most effective methods. However, there might be a few misconceptions about what it is, and how it works. We’re here to give you the facts about the implant and clear up a few common myths.
What is the contraceptive implant?
Contraceptive implants are small, flexible rods which are inserted under the skin of the upper arm by your medical practitioner. The implant contains progestins which are regularly released into the bloodstream.
This continuous release of progestins will stop the release of an egg from the ovaries during ovulation. It also thickens the mucus from the cervix, making it a greater challenge for sperm to reach the eggs for fertilization.
How effective is the contraceptive implant?
Once the implant is inserted, it goes to work. It’s known to be 99% effective and, depending on the type of implant, can last between 3-5 years. It’s also important to note that the implant can be removed at any time, with fertility returning soon after.
Once it’s in my arm, can it move to other parts of my body?
Once the rod is inserted, it stays where it is until it’s taken out by your doctor. In rare cases, the rod might shift a little – always less than 2.5cm from the original spot. In any case, you should be able use your fingers to feel your implant and know that it is in the right place. If you ever can’t feel you implant, contact your medical provider to make sure all is well.
Will it hurt?
Quite a fair bit of people are worried about pain at the time when the implant is inserted. It’s common practice for your doctor to use a local anaesthetic before the procedure. For most, the sting they feel from the numbing medicine is the worst part.
Are there side effects?
The most obvious thing you’ll notice are changes in your menstrual pattern: during the first year, you may experience longer or heavier periods, with bleeding lasting eight days or longer, and more blood than normal.
Don’t worry, this generally isn’t harmful. After a year, you may notice that your periods stop altogether – this also isn’t a problem, and it doesn’t mean that there’s blood building up inside you.
Besides this, common side effects are headaches, abdominal pain and breast tenderness. These side effects don’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, and they’ll also lessen or go away completely within the first year of use. Should you have any concerns don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare worker.
I’ve heard that this contraceptive has health benefits. Is this true?
Contraceptive implants are known to greatly reduce the risk of ectopic pregnancies and protect against symptomatic pelvic inflammatory disease. They may also help to protect against iron-deficiency anaemia.
Where can I get the implant?
You can go to any Marie Stopes centre in SA, where our skilled and knowledgeable staff are trained to insert and remove the contraceptive implant. They can also give you advice on other contraceptive methods to help you find the best one to suit your lifestyle.
Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)
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