What You Need to Know About Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) can be an effective and safe option for women looking to prevent pregnancy or ease heavy or painful periods.

Long-acting reversible contraception is more effective in preventing pregnancy, is more cost-effective, and uses fewer hormones than the birth control pill.

Previously, we only used these methods with women who had children, but now there’s data that shows it’s a great option for anyone who is sexually active.

At the Women’s Center of South Shore Medical Center, women can, with their physician’s help, choose between two broad categories of LARC:

Non-hormonal LARC

The non-hormonal option, called Paraguard, is a small T-shaped intrauterine device (IUD) made of plastic and wrapped in copper. After a physician implants the IUD into the uterus, it prevents pregnancy for up to 10 years. The IUD can be easily removed in a doctor’s office if you do want to become pregnant.

Hormonal LARC

Women can choose between three types of hormonal IUDs at the Women’s Center: Kyleena, Mirena, and Skyla. Similar to Paraguard, all three devices are implanted in the uterus during a short procedure in the doctor’s office. Unlike Paraguard, these methods use the hormone Progestin to prevent pregnancy.

Each device uses different levels of Progestin. Kyleena and Skyla are smaller implants, designed for women who have never had children. Because of their smaller size, they have less progestin. Skyla is good for three years, and Kyleena and Mirena are good for five years. All three are 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy.

What to Consider When Choosing a LARC

There’s a lot for you and your provider to consider when choosing a LARC. If you want absolutely no hormones at all, Paraguard is the best choice. Another benefit of Paraguard is that it works as soon as its implanted, and it can be used as a form of emergency contraception for up to five days after unprotected sex.

But there are some downsides to Paraguard: Some women have heavier periods with more cramps when using it, and if you’re allergic to copper or any other type of metal, Paraguard is not an option.

Hormonal IUDs not only prevent pregnancy, but can also help alleviate heavy periods and cramping that women with endometriosis experience. We use progestin-containing IUDs, specifically Mirena, to help patients with heavy periods and control endometriosis and decrease cramps. Hormonal IUDs also decrease a woman’s risk of uterine, cervical and ovarian cancer.

For more information on the different long-acting contraception options available at South Shore Health, contact The Women’s Center of South Shore Medical Center at 781-682-8000.