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How do Implants Work

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Contraceptive implants are a highly effective birth control method that provides an alternative to the contraceptive pill. Once the implant has been inserted it can provide effective contraception for up to three or five years depending on the specific type.

Some women may experience side effects with birth control pills, such as nausea, headaches and weight gain, all of which are less likely when using a contraceptive implant. They are also a reversible form of birth control that can be removed by a healthcare professional at any time.

How do they work?

Contraceptive implants are small, flexible rods that are inserted under the skin of the upper arm. They work by gently releasing a hormone called progestin, a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone, into the body. Progesterone is produced naturally in the ovaries.

Progestin is the active ingredient that works to prevent pregnancy. It does this in three different ways:

Thickening the cervical mucus

Progestin makes the cervical mucus thicker which makes it more difficult for sperm to swim through the cervix and reach the egg.

Suppressing ovulation

Progestin also suppresses ovulation, meaning that the ovaries do not release an egg each month. This means that fertilisation cannot occur.

Thinning the uterus lining

Progestin also causes the lining of the uterus to grow thinner, this makes it more difficult for a fertilised egg to implant and grow. The combination of these effects makes it extremely difficult for a pregnancy to occur. This makes contraceptive implants more than 99% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy.

Are there any potential side effects?

Contraceptive implants are a convenient, long-lasting and highly effective form of contraception. As with any form of birth control, there are some potential side effects. Some women experience side effects such as irregular periods, acne, or weight gain while using an implant. Implants may not be suitable for everyone, such as women who have particular medical conditions or who are taking certain medications.

It's important to discuss your options with a health professional and to consider your own personal needs and preferences. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.

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Dr Lisa Briscoe Chavda BSc MBBS MRCP DFSRH MRCGP
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