Young women's experiences of side-effects from contraceptive implants: a challenge to bodily control

Hoggart, Lesley and Newton, Victoria Louise (2013). Young women's experiences of side-effects from contraceptive implants: a challenge to bodily control. Reproductive Health Matters, 21(41) pp. 196–204.



In the UK, long-acting reversible contraceptives have been welcomed by sexual health policy-makers and many practitioners as a particularly effective way of preventing unintended pregnancy, especially teenage conception. However, little is known about women's individual experiences of these forms of contraception beyond limited data on retention rates and reasons for discontinuation. The main aims of this research were to gain a fuller understanding of why some young women have their implants removed, and what may help them maintain this method of contraception if they wish to do so. The contraceptive choices of 20 young women (aged 16–22) who had chosen the implant, and later discontinued it, were examined. They had experienced unacceptable side effects that they attributed to the implant, and interpreted as a threat to their bodily control, which they were not prepared to tolerate. These feelings were exacerbated if they then encountered delays after requesting removal. Although they remained concerned to avoid unintended pregnancy, they generally moved to a less reliable form of contraception following implant removal and felt discouraged from trying other long-acting contraception. We suggest that principles of contraceptive choice should include facilitating the discontinuation of unsatisfactory methods; implant removal should therefore be readily available when requested, regardless of the length of time the implant has been in place. Long-acting forms of contraception do not suit all women, and will not obviate the need for other forms of reproductive control, including legal abortion.

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