The implant

What is the implant?

The implant is a plastic rod that is the size of a matchstick. It is inserted just below the skin of the upper arm.

When used correctly, the implant has a very high chance of preventing pregnancy. The implant does not prevent STIs and HIV, but male/external and female/internal condoms do.

How does the implant work?

The implant constantly releases hormones in small doses into the bloodstream. The hormones keep your ovaries from releasing eggs but also thickens the walls of your cervix making it hard for sperm to move. The cervix is the opening into the womb.

How often do you use the implant?

There are different brands of the implant, some are effective for three years and others are effective for five years. 

How do you get the implant?

A trained healthcare provider at a health facility will safely insert the implant into your upper arm using local anaesthetic. Once the area is numb, a small cut will be made into the skin and the implant will be placed into your arm.

Who can use the implant?

Once they have been assessed by a healthcare provider, all women can safely use the implant for years as a contraception method to protect themselves against pregnancy

Who cannot use the implant?

You should not use the implant if you do not have access to a trained healthcare provider to insert it. If you are planning a pregnancy in the next few months you may prefer using a different type of contraceptive as an implant prevents pregnancy for years.

For medical reasons, you should also not use the implant if:

  • You have had a blood clot in your legs or lungs, a stroke, or a heart attack.
  • You have unexplained vaginal bleeding.
  • You have liver disease, breast cancer or high blood pressure.

How much does the implant cost?

The cost varies depending on the brands, some brands of the implant cost about R1 700 in private facilities. The implant can be inserted for free at government health facilities. 

Pros

  • The implant protects women against pregnancy for three to five years and you do not need to remember to use the implant every day.
  • Women with an implant do not have to return to a health facility regularly for contraception like the injection or the pill.
  • The ability to fall pregnant often returns soon after the implant is removed. 
  • If you are breastfeeding, you can use the implant to prevent pregnancy.

Cons

  • The implant must be removed and replaced by a trained healthcare provider every three to five years (depending on the brand) to continue to prevent pregnancy.
  • The implant does not protect against HIV or STIs. 

Important points to remember when using the implant

  • If you are on any medication, for example medication for HIV or epilepsy, please let your healthcare provider know as the implant may affect your other medication.
  • Some women who use the implant experience bleeding changes – some will have no periods after some time, and others spotting in between their periods, this is not harmful.

How do I get additional protection against HIV and STIs when using the implant?

For additional protection against HIV and STIs, different prevention options can be explored, such as PrEP and using a condom. Using condoms and contraception together is what we call “dual protection”. 

Is the implant your ideal contraceptive? Take the test!

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