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Strengthening implant provision and acceptance in South Africa with the ‘Any woman, any place, any time’ approach: An essential step towards reducing unintended pregnancies

  • Rees, H1
  • Pillay, D2
  • Mullick, S1
  • Chersich, M1
  • 1 Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa , (South Africa)
  • 2 National Department of Health, Pretoria, South Africa , (South Africa)
Published Article
South African medical journal = Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir geneeskunde
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2017
PMID: 29400025


Progress in reducing unintended pregnancies in South Africa is slow. The implant, introduced in 2014, expanded the range of available longacting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) and held much promise. Uptake, however, has declined precipitously, in spite of its ‘unmatched effectiveness’ and high levels of satisfaction for most users. We propose policy and provider interventions to raise implant use, underscored by a ‘LARC-first’ approach. Contraceptive counselling should focus on the particular benefits of LARCs and methods be presented in order of effectiveness. Moreover, implants hold particular advantages for certain groups, especially adolescents and young women, in whom it is considered first-line contraception. Provision of immediate postpartum and post-abortion implants is safe and highly acceptable, yet remains under-utilised. Implant services at HIV and tuberculosis clinics are a key priority, as is inclusion of LARC provision within school health services. Implants could also be delivered by existing mobile outreach services, for example in sex worker programmes. Services could be built around nurses dedicated solely to providing implants, with other health workers receiving brief refresher training. Women who experience side-effects, especially abnormal bleeding, require timely interventions, following a standardised protocol, including use of medications. Encouraging return for side-effects, follow-up phone calls and home visits would raise continuation rates. Removal services require doctor support or designated nurses at specific centres. Limited access to removal services, health workers’ resistance or botched procedures will further undermine implant provision. Rapid implant demonstration projects in postpartum wards, schools, outreach services and by dedicated providers may rapidly advance the field. Together, the actions outlined here will ensure that the implant fulfils its potential and reinvigorates family planning services.

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