Contraceptive Implants

Contraceptive implants
Written by Dr David Delvin, GP and family planning specialist
For quite a lot of women, the idea of having a contraceptive implanted under the skin of your arm is quite attractive.
Why? Because of the fact, that once it’s been implanted, then with luck you can more or less forget about it. You can make love whenever you want to, without worrying about taking Pills or buying condoms!
Implants were first used on a wide scale back in the 1990s. They received rather a bad press, partly because they so often caused menstrual problems, and partly because some of them were put in by doctors who had no real idea what they were doing; as a result, some women developed pain or infection at the insertion site.
Even today, you should make absolutely sure that a doctor who offers to give you a contraceptive implant has been fully trained in the insertion technique. In Britain, only a small minority of medics have this particular skill.
In the early 2000s, there were stories that implants could ‘move around’ inside your body. These put some women off. We deal with this concern below.
What does an implant actually do?
From its position under your skin, it releases a steady stream of the female-type hormone etonorgestrol into your bloodstream. The hormone reaches your ovaries, and prevents them from releasing eggs. It also causes some minor anti-conception changes in your womb lining and in your cervix. Therefore, you don’t get pregnant – or at least, the chances of pregnancy are very small indeed.
The implant goes on working for several years (three years in the case of Implanon (etonogestrel)), after which it runs out of hormone. If, at the end of that time, you want to continue with the method, you would need to have the device replaced.
And if at any time you get fed up with the implant – for instance, because of side-effects (see below) – you can have it removed. However, once again you should make sure that the doctor who does the removal has...