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What are LARCs?

Long acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), which include both birth control implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs), last for 3 to 10 years and are easy to use. LARCs can be removed at any time and you can become pregnant as soon as they are out. They are the most effective forms of reversible birth control.

There are currently 4 types of hormonal IUDs approved for use in the United States (Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla). They are effective for 3 to 5 years depending on the type. Hormonal IUDs gradually release the hormone progestin that prevents ovulation and thickens cervical mucus. The copper IUD (ParaGard) is non-hormonal and is approved for use up to 10 years. Sperm do not like copper and are unable to swim to an egg. ParaGard can also be used as emergency contraception. If it is inserted within 5 days after unprotected sex, it is more than 99.9% effective at preventing a pregnancy. All IUDs are over 99% effective, which means that fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant each year. To insert an IUD, a health care professional will guide it through the vagina and cervix up into the uterus. Once in the uterus, the ‘arms’ of the IUD will open and two strings will hang out of the cervix. This insertion process usually takes less than five minutes. To remove an IUD, a health care professional will pull on the strings, making the IUD fold up and come out.

The birth control implant (Nexplanon) is a small rod the size of a matchstick that is inserted into the upper arm by a health care professional. The area is numbed by a local anesthetic so you do not feel anything during the insertion. Like the IUD, the implant slowly releases progestin and is over 99% effective. To remove the implant, a health care professional will once again use a local anesthetic to numb the area and make a small incision to pull the rod out.

The cost for these methods ranges from $0 to over $1,000. Luckily, most insurance companies cover most if not all of the cost. If your insurance does not cover your choice of birth control, or you do not have insurance, you may qualify for programs that help pay.

For more information, visit https://www.sexfyi.org/.

 – Erica Freese, MPH student intern
ebfreese@email.arizona.edu

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