When it comes to choosing a contraceptive, there are three questions that most people ask:
- Is it effective?
- Is it safe to use?
- Is it affordable?
Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are ideal for people wanting a contraceptive that ticks all three boxes.
Long-acting reversible contraceptives are birth control methods that provide protection against unplanned pregnancy for an extended period of time, without ongoing maintenance or user action. They include the intrauterine device/system (IUD/IUS, ‘the loop’), and the implant.
These protect against pregnancy for a number of years (but not permanently); however, they can be removed at any time if you want to fall pregnant, and your fertility will return to normal.
Are long-acting reversible contraceptives effective?
Yes. In fact, the IUD and the implant are the most effective forms of reversible birth control available. During the first year of use, more than 99% of women are protected against unplanned pregnancy. This is the same rate as for sterilisation.
LARCs are particularly good options for young women seeking safe, effective, affordable and reversible options that require little to no maintenance. It’s also much easier to use these than hormonal methods (such as the pill, injection or patch), which require ongoing user action, and can be forgotten or rendered ineffective if the user is ill or taking certain medicines.
Bottom line: although hormonal contraceptives are effective, human error can cause them to fail. Human error doesn’t come into play with LARCs.
Are LARCs safe?
Yes, they’re safe for almost any healthy woman to use, including teens and women who have not yet had children. Some LARCs are also safe to use during breastfeeding.
As with any other type of contraception, your doctor or nurse will give you a medical check-up before administering a LARC.
Are LARCs affordable?
Yes. Unlike hormonal contraception which is an ongoing expense, you only pay once for LARCs – when you have them administered. Although they cost more, upfront, than short-acting contraceptives, you’re paying for three to 10 years of protection. Now, think about how much your monthly contraceptive costs, multiply that by 12 (for the number of months in a year), and multiply the result by the number of years that LARCs can protect you for. That’ll give you an idea of the cost saving.
Are there other factors to consider before choosing birth control?
Apart from effectiveness, safety and cost, ask yourself the following questions:
- How long do I want to stay pregnancy free? If it’s for the medium or long-term, then LARCs are the way to go.
- How often can I visit the clinic? LARCs require only two visits: when you have them administered, and once for a check-up to make sure they’re working. With hormonal methods, you usually have to visit every month or two.
- Are you forgetful with medication? If so, short-acting contraceptives probably aren’t right for you.
Do you mind if your period is interrupted? LARCs may cause your periods to be irregular or stop altogether until you remove them.
Where can I go for long-acting reversible contraceptives?
You can visit any Marie Stopes centre to have LARCs administered. We can also offer advice on choosing the right kind of contraceptive to suit your lifestyle and future plans. All appointments are carried out in a confidential, zero judgement environment.
Try out our new contraception counselling app Choose My Method: https://www.mariestopes.org.za/choose-my-method/ to learn more about the contraceptive choices we have available and find the right fit for you. Please also take a minute to take the survey after and let us know what you think.