Guest Blog: Getting the Word out about LARC Contraceptive Methods
Guest blog post by Cori DePue
Over the past five years, teen birth rates in the state of Colorado have dropped nearly 40%, in large part due to a government initiative that has greatly increased access to affordable contraception within the state. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment partnered with 68 clinics throughout the state to provide long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to young women at little or no cost. Five years into the program research has revealed great success, not only showing a decrease in unplanned pregnancies across the state, but also a large reduction in abortion rates.
What exactly is LARC?
LARC stands for long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), meaning that it isn’t permanent but can be effective for 3-12 years after a single insertion. There are two primary types of LARC available on the market today:
Intrauterine Devices (IUD’s) are small, plastic devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. There are two types of IUDs, copper and hormonal. Both work to prevent pregnancy by interfering with the way in which sperm moves toward an egg, so that the two cannot join together.
Contraceptive Implants consist of a thin rod made from flexible, plastic that is inserted just under the skin on a woman’s arm. This device releases a steady amount of progestin in order to prevent pregnancy by suppressing ovulation.
How effective and safe are these methods?
The use of long acting reversible contraceptives, including IUD’s and implants, have significant advantages for individuals desiring contraception. The failure rate for both devices lies within a low range of 0.1 to 0.3 pregnancies per year with regular use. They require only a single act to provide pregnancy prevention for an extended period (years at a time), whereas other methods of contraception require long-term, daily or weekly use. Implants and IUD’s can be used safely by nulliparous women those who have never given birth) and adolescents.
It is important to remember that while LARC can be very effective at preventing an unintended pregnancy, they do not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). LARC used in conjunction with condoms is a very way to prevent BOTH pregnancy and STIs.
Why aren’t more women using LARC?
LARC can be incredibly expensive and a financial burden, particularly for patients with expensive, up-front co-pays. However, under the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage will expand, guaranteeing access to all methods of birth control, including LARC. A study that removed common barriers to these methods and provided counseling on all methods of birth control, found that more than two thirds of young women (aged 14-20) chose methods of long acting reversible contraception.
Most women spend the majority of their reproductive lives desiring not to become pregnant, so its imperative to think of pregnancy prevention methods that address long term needs. When choosing a form of contraception, young women should be well educated on their options and encouraged to consider if LARC is right for them. Both IUD’s and implants are effective and reversible methods for preventing unintended pregnancy, rapid repeat pregnancy, and abortion. In addition, LARC methods partnered with condom use can prevent both unintended pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We can all work together to increase awareness of and make all contraceptive methods accessible to young people!
Cori DePue is a recent college graduate from the University of Iowa who moved to Denver in July 2013 to pursue a career in Public Health. She currently works as a yoga instructor at the Freyja Project, a camp counselor at Camp ArtReach, and a server at Highland Tap and Burger. She loves hiking, cooking, and being out in the sun. Cori is dedicated to encouraging youth and young people to be more engaged in their personal health!