The contraceptive implant: common side effects and reviews­

Maddie Braidwood - The Lowdown

by Maddie Braidwood · Oct 28, 2020

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Reviewed by Dr. Melanie Davis-Hall on Mar 11, 2021

Get the lowdown on the most common contraceptive implant, Nexplanon, and potential side effects.

There are so many types of contraceptives it can be hard to know which one is best for you. Experiences differ from person to person and it’s always good to read real user experiences.

In this post, we’re looking at the contraceptive implant and sharing our data on the most common side effects as experienced by over 3000 real people.

Check out the contraception reviews | The Lowdown

What is the birth control implant?

The contraceptive implant (Nexplanon implant) is a small soft flexible rod made out of ethylene vinyl acetate copolymer (plastic) that goes under your skin. It releases a hormone called progestogen that works to prevent pregnancy. It lasts for three years before it should be replaced.

How does the contraceptive implant work?

Once placed under the skin of your upper arm by a doctor or nurse, it releases the hormone progestogen gradually into your bloodstream which works to prevent pregnancy in three ways: by stopping ovulation, making the fluid in your cervix thicker (making it more difficult from sperm to enter the womb), and preventing the lining of your womb thickening enough for an embryo to grow in it.

How effective is the contraceptive implant?

It is 99% effective, meaning that the chances of getting pregnant on the implant are fewer than 1 out of 100 women over the course of a year.

Contraception recommender | The Lowdown


What are the most common contraceptive implant side effects?

  • Spots or acne
  • Tender breasts
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes
  • Changes in sex drive

However these symptoms often settle after a few months.

Changes in your periods are common. These can include spotting or irregular bleeding, prolonged bleeding or your periods may stop altogether. Around 20% of women can expect to have no periods and 30% of women less than 1 period a month.

Because of how it works the implant may actually help to reduce period pain, pain related to ovulation and heavy periods.

Women have also reported other possible side effects but the lack of research into this area means we don’t have scientific evidence that links these to the implant. For example there is no scientific evidence that the implant causes weight gain. Research does admit that women can put on weight while using the implant but this is thought to be due to natural weight gain as part of ageing that would happen normally without contraception.

Check out some of our user’s contraceptive implant reviews:

“Excellent for the first 3 years, not having to think about it at all was the biggest selling point to me, but now after almost 6 years – with acne, weight gain and mood swings I’m wondering if it’s time to try something else.”

“I really like the implant. Basically having no periods is great and cheap! Haven’t noticed any negative side effects. Getting it put in was easy, having it changed was a bit weird but fine. A tiny bit annoying there is 2 small scars on my arm now.”

“After a year and a half of the implant, I’m getting recurrent thrush and my moods are frequently low. Periods finally started again but were very heavy and irregular. Sex drive is totally gone. Not fantastic but no acne and I got a year and a half without periods.”

Removal of the contraceptive implant

To remove the contraceptive implant you will need to go back to your heathcare provider – DO NOT attempt to take it out yourself.

The procedure is normally fairly simple and should only take a few minutes. As soon as it’s removed you won’t be protected from pregnancy. You will have a local anaesthetic injection, then the doctor or nurse will make a tiny cut in your skin and gently pull the implant out. They will put a dressing on the arm to keep it clean and dry and reduce any bruising.

Check out some of our reviews regarding the contraceptive implant removal:

“My first implant insertion went well and better than expected. However, I went to have it renewed and they had to remove, create a new incision and insert into a new area. My arm looks awful and is very bruised. I expected a little but not as much as this. I won’t be getting this inserted again as the procedure is a little much for me. Although I will say as a contraceptive it has been effective and any side effects have been bearable.”

“I really like the implant. Basically having no periods is great and cheap! Haven’t noticed any negative side effects. Getting it put in was easy, having it changed was a bit weird but fine. A tiny bit annoying there are two small scars on my arm now.”

  1. Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health (FSRH)

  2. Family Planning Association (FPA)

Maddie is an English Language and Linguistics graduate who is passionate about writing. She writes fun and informative content on the weird and wonderful sides of contraception!