Contraceptive implant – a guide to fitting and removal

contraceptive implant removal

With the contraceptive implant (Nexplanon) needing to be fitted under the skin in your arm, it can feel like one of the more daunting contraceptives to get on board with.

Is it painful to fit? Can I remove my implant early if it’s giving me mood swings? Can I get an infection from the implant being fitted or removed? These might be just some of the questions whizzing through your mind whilst trying to decide if it’s the most suitable method of contraception for you. 

But whilst the implant may seem an initially uncomfortable way to protect yourself from pregnancy, it’s a highly effective (99%), long-term contraceptive solution which can be removed at any time if causing side effects (check out our reviewers’ real experiences and side effects). 

With questions around the implant removal and fitting often front-of-mind when exploring this type of contraception, we’ve pulled together a detailed guide on what to expect for this procedure.

The contraceptive implant at a glance

  • The implant is a small matchstick sized rod that is inserted into the arm
  • The implant works by steadily releasing the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream, which prevents the release of an egg each month
  • It is a 99% effective method of contraception
  • The contraceptive implant only needs to be replaced every three years
  • The implant can be removed at any time if it is causing side effects
  • It is a safe style of contraception to use whilst breastfeeding
  • Where the implant is inserted it may feel bruised for a week or two after
  • You can resume daily activities immediately after the Nexplanon has been fitted
  • The implant may cause irregular bleeding or stop your periods for the first few months after insertion
  • You are no longer protected from pregnancy as soon as the implant is removed
  • Nexplanon can be fitted at any time during your cycle as long as you’re not pregnant
  • The implant may affect your mood and result in mood swings or depression

Having the contraceptive implant fitted – your questions answered

How large is the contraceptive implant?

The implant is approximately 4cm long, which is roughly the size of a matchstick.

Where is the implant fitted on my body?

The contraceptive implant is fitted in the top of your arm. It will be inserted in your non-dominant arm. 

Will it hurt when it’s inserted in my arm?

Before the contraceptive implant is fitted you will be given a local anaesthetic which will numb the area. The implant is then inserted under the skin.

How long will the Nexplanon implant take to be fitted?

The contraceptive implant is very quick to be fitted, and should only take a few minutes to be inserted. 

Will my arm hurt after the implant has been inserted?

Once the local anaesthetic has worn off you may experience some tenderness in your arm for a couple of days after. 

Will I need stitches in my arm after the implant has been inserted?

No stitches are required for this procedure. 

How do I know that the Nexplanon implant has been inserted correctly?

Immediately after insertion your healthcare provider will feel to check that it has been inserted correctly. If in the following time after insertion you cannot feel the implant, then contact your healthcare provider immediately and use extra contraceptive precautions (such as condoms) until they have checked that it is back in place. 

Can I have the implant fitted if I’m pregnant? 

The contraceptive implant cannot be fitted if you are pregnant. Your healthcare professional may ask you to do a pregnancy test prior to insertion to ensure that you are not pregnant before your fitting. 

Will I need any aftercare?

Where the implant has been inserted will be wrapped in a bandage. We advise that you keep the site dry and clean for 24-48 hours post insertion. 

Will having the implant fitted affect my periods?

Yes, many women find a change in their periods once they have the implant fitted. This could include spotting or heavier or lighter periods. A common side effect is that your period stops altogether which, whilst not harmful, you may want to consider before having the implant fitted. 

Can I get my contraceptive implant fitted on the NHS?

Absolutely. You can have it fitted at contraceptive clinics, sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries, and some young people’s services. Find a sexual health clinic

Is it free to have the implant fitted?

Yes all NHS services that fit contraceptive implants will fit it for free.

Can I have the implant fitted by a private clinic?

Yes, there are multiple private clinics offering implant fittings. The cost for the implant to be fitted is approximately £300, but will vary from clinic to clinic. 

Removal of the contraceptive implant – your questions answered

When can I have the implant removed?

You can have your implant removed at any time by a health professional. Your implant may have expired, you may be experiencing side effects, or you may wish to get pregnant. 

If I’m experiencing no implant side effects, how long until I need my contraception replaced?

Your implant can stay in place in your arm for three years before it needs to be replaced. 

How is the implant removed from my arm?

The healthcare professional will feel for your implant before they remove it. A local anaesthetic will then be administered, and a tiny cut will be made in your skin to pull the implant out.

Does implant removal hurt?

Removal will be relatively painless as your health professional will have administered a local anaesthetic. 

How long does it take for the implant to be removed?

It will only take a few minutes for the implant to be removed by your healthcare professional. 

Is there a risk of infection after contraceptive implant removal?

In very rare cases the site of the implant may become infected. In this instance it is important to contact your GP who is likely to prescribe antibiotics. 

Will I experience any bruising on my arm after the removal?

You may experience slight bruising and tenderness after the removal. This should go down after a few days. 

Will I get a scar on my arm once the implant has been removed?

In most cases you will not be left with a noticeable scar. 

Can I get pregnant once the implant has been removed?

Yes you are immediately fertile on removal of the implant and it is possible to get pregnant as soon as the implant has been removed. If you do not wish to get pregnant we recommend using condoms. 

Is it dangerous if I go past the three year life span of my implant before getting it removed?

It is not dangerous to keep the implant in, but it will be less effective which will increase the risk of pregnancy. 

Side effects of the contraceptive implant (Nexplanon)

  • Longer or shorter bleeding during your period
  • No bleeding at all during the time of your period
  • Spotting between your periods
  • Irregular periods (48% of our reviewers stated this as a side effect)
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Increased spots or acne
  • Loss of sex drive (53% of our reviewers stated this as a side effect)
  • A depressed mood

For further information on side effects and risks, see our complete guide and reviews of the contraceptive implant.

This guide was brought to you by The Lowdown. We are the world’s first contraception review platform, providing real-life experiences from thousands of reviews collected from our community of men and women.

Why not leave us a review of your contraceptive experience? Whether you’ve got good things to say about the Mirena coil or had trouble with implant removal, we want to hear about it! Tell us about your experience and help people around the world find the right method for them.