Long-acting reversible contraceptives are the most effective form of reversible birth control but not the most commonly used. Misconceptions and outdated misinformation prevent many people from realizing the benefits of intrauterine devices, contraceptive implants and the birth control shot. Use of these contraceptives has increased over time, but they remain underused.
IUDs are small devices that are placed inside the uterus. There are several varieties of IUDs, some containing hormones and some without. These various devices can prevent pregnancy for varying amounts of time, typically between three and 12 years. The contraceptive implant is a small rod placed under the skin in the upper arm and can prevent pregnancy for as long as three years. The Depo Provera contraceptive shot is effective for three months before another shot needs to be administered.
One common misconception about long-acting reversible contraceptives is their safety. They are both effective and safe. There are very few women for whom such contraceptives would not be an option. Additionally, they are safe for use by adolescents, young women and women who haven’t had children. Of course, it’s important to speak with your health care provider about personal and sexual health history, and to ask about symptoms that could be cause for concern.
Another misconception surrounding long-acting contraceptives is that they have a detrimental effect on future fertility. They don’t. Research has shown but about 71 percent of women who wanted to become pregnant conceived within 12 months of removing IUDs; that’s comparable to the general population. It is important to talk to your provider about personal goals regarding future pregnancy; this will affect the type of contraception that is best for you.
Finally, long-acting reversible contraceptives are the most effective form of reversible contraception on the market; less than one percent of users will become pregnant. Pregnancy occurs in as much as 18 percent of women who use condoms as their primary method of birth control and in about 9 percent of women using oral contraception.
This often occurs because of inconsistent or incorrect use. Because long-acting contraceptives don’t require women to remember anything on a daily, weekly or monthly basis and require a visit to a health care provider for removal, they prevent the user error that often occurs with other forms of contraception.
About 50 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Long-acting reversible contraceptives can provide safety and security for most women, and they should be considered along with other forms of contraception.
Joanne Brown is an adjunct instructor in the UK College of Nursing and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner at University Health Service.