My Contraception

Roe McDermott

With so many options of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) available, choosing the right method for you may seem daunting. However, by merely taking a few lifestyle choices into consideration, picking the right LARC becomes a walk in the park. Take a glance at our handy lifestyle and LARC guide to see what will work best for you.

It is one of the most important decisions that any young woman has to make. You are going to college for the first time; or you are embarking on a career with real prospects. You are experiencing a level of personal freedom that you had dreamt about growing up. You are beginning to be active sexually in a truly adult way.

You are smart enough to know that safe sex is a given. But you also know that condoms are only ever so reliable. And so you are faced with the question: is there a form of contraception that would give me the sense of comfort and certainty that I really want to feel. If you have just started out on a degree course or have just joined a rock band as the lead singer, the last thing that you want is to take the risk of an unwanted pregnancy.

Historically, the option chosen by liberated women who wanted to take control of their lives and their fertility, and who valued the freedom to be sexually active on their own terms, was the pill. It was a vital support for millions of women, whose lives it transformed.

But, in all honesty, the pill is a chore! It is relentless. To put it at its simplest, you have to remember to take it. And you don't have to have had a glass of wine more than you intended to be prone to forgetting. Some people just are. And so, liberating as it was for the female sex – and for men too in so many ways – in real life situations, it is great that we now have other options. Which is why a greater number of young women are now turning to Long Acting Reversible Contraceptive options.

There may have been a working assumption that LARCs are particularly suited to women who have had kids, or are married and want to wait a few years before they start a family. But when you think about it, that turns logic on its head. Because, more often than not, the younger you are, or the earlier in your career, the greater will be the trauma of discovering that you have unintentionally become pregnant.

In truth, all of the reasons why LARCs are good for more mature women apply to an even greater extent where young, sexually active women are concerned.

The bottom line is that LARCs are a great option for any woman with a busy life. The fact that you don’t have to remember to take a pill every day – or to haul them around with you wherever you go – is such a relief! You want to stay in a friend's place? Great! There is no need to leave at 3am, in order not to forget to take the pill. With LARCs, contraception becomes something you can count on. Always.

It is vital for young women that LARCs are, as the name suggests, reversible, so they can be stopped. LARCs don’t interfere with sex. They can be used while breastfeeding. And they can be used if you cannot, or do not want to, take estrogen. (Contraceptives that contain estrogen aren’t suitable for women with medical conditions like breast cancer, blood circulation problems, or migraines.) As a bonus, some LARCs offer additional benefits like offering relief from heavy periods.

Remember that contraception is a personal choice that should work for your body and your lifestyle, so be sure to consult with your doctor – and select the option that’s right for you!

• Intrauterine System (IUS)

An intrauterine system (IUS) is a small soft plastic device containing the hormone progestogen, that is inserted into the womb. The IUS prevents pregnancy by thickening cervical mucus at the entrance of the womb, making it difficult for sperm to get through. The IUS is suitable for women who don’t want to think about contraception on a daily basis, and is suitable for use while breastfeeding. The IUS can improve heavy and painful periods, and for some women, even stop bleeding altogether, benefiting women who have anaemia. The IUS does not offer any protection against STIs. IUS are becoming more popular among teens and women in their 20s thanks to the long-term pregnancy prevention and its effect on heavy periods.

• Intrauterine Device (IUD)

An intrauterine device (IUD), also known as the copper coil, is a small soft device with a copper thread or copper cylinders that is inserted into the cavity of the womb by a trained doctor. It can be left for 5-10 years, depending on the types, and offers reliable long-term contraception for women who would prefer not to think about contraception on a daily basis. An IUD can be used while breastfeeding, and when removed, fertility will return immediately. IUDs do not offer any protection from STIs and may cause heavy or prolonged periods. IUDs are becoming more popular among teenagers due to the long-term pregnancy prevention; however it’s important that these users also remain vigilant about protecting themselves from STIs.

• Injection

The injection method of contraception works by injecting the hormone progestogen, which prevents ovulation. The injection is administered by a doctor or nurse, and lasts for 3 months. The injection is suitable for women who are breastfeeding, or who cannot or do not want to take estrogen. It can reduce heavy, painful periods and provide relief from PMS. Some women may even stop having periods altogether. While the effects of the injection are reversible, it may take some women up to a year after they stop getting the injections for their period and fertility to return to normal levels. Long-term use of the contraceptive injection has been linked with a small amount of weight gain, so should be used under medical advisement if you are overweight.

• Implant

A sub-dermal implant is a small, plastic rod containing the hormone progestogen, which is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The hormone is released in small doses over time and prevents pregnancy for up to three years. It is implanted with a minor surgery by a doctor or nurse, and can be removed at any time with minor surgery. It can be used by women of all ages, women who are breastfeeding and who cannot tolerate estrogen, and fertility returns to normal once the implant is removed. Some women experience side-effects such as headaches and abdominal discomfort.

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