Long-acting reversible contraceptive options

Our approach

Before recommending a long-acting reversible contraceptive method such as an intrauterine device, your doctor will walk you through the insertion process, and the risks and benefits involved. Choosing the right form of birth control can be overwhelming. That’s why Northwell Health professionals are committed to helping you find the method that best fits your lifestyle. 

Overview

Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are birth control methods that give you effective protection for an extended period of time without any required action on your part. These devices can be removed at any time if you should decide you’re ready to get pregnant; however, they do not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Reasons for treatment

If you want long-lasting pregnancy prevention with minimal maintenance, talk to your doctor about LARCs. These devices eliminate the “user error” factor of pregnancy protection, such as forgetting to insert a ring or take a birth control pill. 

Types

The most common types of LARCs include:

  • Intrauterine device (IUD) — An intrauterine device is a small, T-shaped device that your doctor inserts into your uterus. There are two types of IUDs: hormonal and copper. The hormonal IUD releases progestin. This method thickens the mucus in the cervix, which blocks sperm. In addition, the hormones inhibit ovulation. The copper IUD uses copper to block sperm from reaching an egg. A hormonal IUD can last between three and five years, and a copper IUD can last for up to ten years. These devices can be removed at any time upon request. If inserted five days after unprotected sex, a copper IUD can be used for emergency contraception. Once the device is in place, you don’t have to worry about another form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. This device doesn’t interfere with sexual activities.
  • Birth control implant — A birth control implant is a flexible rod, which is about the size of a matchstick. This device is inserted under your skin in the upper arm. It releases progestin, which stops ovulation. It also thickens cervical mucus, trapping and blocking sperm from fertilizing an egg. It protects you from pregnancy for up to three years. This device doesn’t interfere with sexual activity, and it can be removed at any time if you wish to become pregnant.

Risks and side effects

Risks and side effects include:

IUD

  • Menstruation pain and bleeding may increase at first
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Hormonal IUDs can cause nausea, headaches, depression and breast tenderness
  • The device could come out of the uterus
  • Pierce the wall of uterus during insertion
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • If pregnancy occurs, it could be an ectopic pregnancy

Birth control implant

  • Unpredictable bleeding 
  • Menstruation pain
  • Mood changes
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • If pregnancy occurs, there is a chance it could be an ectopic pregnancy

Preparing for treatment

Before deciding on a LARC, it is important to talk to your doctor about the risks, side effects and any concerns you may have. 

What to expect after treatment

You should ask your doctor when it is acceptable to have intercourse without a back-up method of birth control, as this time period varies depending on the device. Your doctor will inform you of any necessary follow-up appointments.