Frequently Asked Questions

Roe McDermott

We answer the most common questions about long-acting reversible contraception, in order to dispel some myths and put your mind at rest!

What is Long Acting Reversible Contraception?

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) are methods of birth control that provide highly effective contraception for an extended period without requiring user action. They include injections, intrauterine contraception (IUCs) and subdermal implants.

How effective are LARC methods?

Intrauterine contraception (IUC) – which includes the IUS and the IUD – and the implant are the most effective forms of reversible birth control available. During the first year of typical use, fewer than 1 in 100 women using an IUC or an implant will become pregnant. That represents a very high rate of reliability.

How do LARC methods compare with other methods of contraception?

Over the long term, according to the ACOG (American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) website, LARC methods are 20 times more effective than birth control pills, the patch, or the ring.

Which birth control prevents ovulation?

The implant prevents pregnancy by preventing ovulation (the release of an egg by the ovaries). It does this by releasing hormones into your body.

Do LARCs have side-effects?

Depending on the method of contraception, side-effects can vary. The amount of menstrual bleeding and the length of the menstrual period usually decrease over time. Menstrual pain also usually decreases, though in certain instances, IUDs may cause periods to become heavier. A few women also may have side effects related to the hormones in IUSs, including headaches, nausea and breast tenderness.

Do LARCs offer protection against STIs and STDs?

LARCs do not offer protection from STIs and STDs, and those in non-monogamous relationships should be particularly vigilant about using condoms and getting STI screenings regularly. While LARCs are suitable for younger women, they should also be conscious of the importance of safe-sex practices.

What are the intrauterine contraceptives (IUCs)?

Intrauterine contraceptives are small, T-shaped devices that are inserted into, and left inside, the womb. There are two types:
1. The hormonal IUS releases progestogen. One hormonal IUS is approved for use for up to 5 years. Another is approved for use for up to 3 years and contains an even lower dose of progestogen.
2. The copper IUD does not contain hormones. It is approved for use for up to 10 years.

What women should avoid birth control with estrogen?

Contraceptives that contain estrogen aren’t suitable for some women, such as those with medical conditions like breast cancer, blood circulation problems or migraines.

How does the IUS work?

Both types of IUSs work mainly by preventing fertilization of the egg by the sperm. The hormonal IUS also thickens cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize the egg, and keeps the lining of the uterus thin, which makes it less likely that a fertilized egg will attach to it.

What are the benefits of IUC?

IUCs have the following benefits:
• Once in place, you do not have to do anything else to prevent pregnancy.
• No one can tell that you are using birth control.
• It does not interfere with sex or daily activities.
• It can be inserted quite soon after an abortion, a miscarriage, or childbirth and while breastfeeding.
• Almost all women are able to use an IUC.
• If you wish to become pregnant or if you want to stop using it, you can simply have the IUC removed.
• The hormonal IUS helps decrease menstrual pain and heavy menstrual bleeding.
• The copper IUD is also an effective form of emergency contraception.

How is an IUC inserted?

A health care provider must insert and remove an IUC. He or she will review your medical history and will perform a pelvic examination. To insert an IUC, the health care provider puts the device in a slender plastic tube. He or she places the tube into the vagina and guides it through the cervix into the uterus. The tube is withdrawn, leaving the device in place.

Will I feel anything when an IUC is inserted?

Insertion of the IUC may cause some slight discomfort. Taking over-the-counter pain relief medication before the procedure may help. The IUC has a string made of thin plastic threads. After insertion, the strings are trimmed so that 1–2 inches extend past the cervix into your vagina. The strings should not bother you.

What is the birth control implant?

The birth control implant is a single flexible rod about the size of a matchstick that is inserted under the skin in the upper arm. It releases progestin into the body. It protects against pregnancy for up to 3 years.

How does the implant work?

The progestogen in the implant prevents pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. In addition, as with the hormonal IUS, the progestogen in the implant thickens cervical mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to enter the uterus and fertilize the egg. Progestogen also keeps the lining of the uterus thin, making it less likely that a fertilized egg will attach to it.

How is the implant inserted?

The implant is inserted into your arm by a health care provider. A small area on your upper arm is numbed with a local anesthetic. No incision is made. Your health care provider places the implant under the skin with a special inserter. The procedure takes only a few minutes.

How is the implant removed?

To remove the implant, your health care provider again numbs the area. One small incision is made. The implant is then removed.

---- ⇧ Back to the Top