This article was previously published on Atrium Health's Daily Dose.
Do you find taking a daily birth control pill to be tedious and time consuming? If your answer is "YES!" then consider a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC). LARCs are increasingly becoming the birth control of choice for women.
Historically, birth control was a wheel of pills, one for each day of the week. The iconic image of the circular pill pack comes to mind for most when they hear someone mention birth control. Technology has eclipsed the traditional pill, and now women can choose from a variety of birth control options. Today, women have numerous options. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) include: the Intrauterine Device, Progestin subdermal implant and Depo Provera. The beauty of LARCs is that they serve as birth control for a long duration but can also be discontinued immediately. The important question is: which birth control option is best for you?
LARC, like the Intrauterine Device (IUD), is efficient and growing in popularity among women searching for alternatives to a daily pill. As more women seek alternatives to the pill or patch, we asked a medical expert, Karroll McGregor MD, OB/GYN at Atrium Health Women's Care Creek Pointe, to shine some light on the increasingly popular birth control methods.
Answer 1 | Dr. McGregor: An intrauterine device (IUD) is a type of long-acting reversible birth control. IUD's are small plastic T-shaped devices placed in the uterus. There are two types of IUD's available in the United States. One type has copper and the other form releases the hormone progesterone.
A2 | Dr. McGregor: The copper IUD works by interfering with sperm movement, egg fertilization, and possibly prevents implantation.
Progestin IUD's work by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering into the uterus, thinning the lining of the uterus, and inhibiting sperm from fertilizing the egg. The progestin can also prevent ovulation (same mechanism of action as the pill).
A3 | Dr. McGregor: Both types of IUDs are over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy when placed properly.
A4 | Dr. Sosa: After an IUD is placed in the uterus, some patients feel discomfort and cramping. Over the counter medication can help reduce the intensity and duration of cramping.
A5 | Dr. McGregor: The copper IUD may cause some women to have heavier bleeding and a longer menstrual cycle. Progestin IUD's, on the other hand, usually diminish or stop a woman's menstrual bleeding. Some women may have irregular spotting and bleeding. IUD's do not protect women from, or, prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
A6 | Dr. McGregor: Women should discuss with their physician the benefits of an IUD. There are several different kinds of IUD's available and vary from 3 - 10 years of effectiveness.
A7 | Dr. McGregor: A progestin subdermal implant (Nexplanon) is a small rod-shaped device that is 1.6 inches in length. It is placed under the skin in the right or left medial arm. This method of birth control is quickly gaining popularity as it usually takes 1-2 minutes to place and lasts for three years.
We inject the skin with numbing medication (Lidocaine) and then place the rod with a small needle device. Most patients note minimal pain with placement. The most common side effect is spotting (small bleeding between periods).
A8 | Dr. McGregor: The Depo-Provera injection continues to show popularity. It is an intramuscular injection placed in the arm or gluteal region every three months. The benefit of the Depo shot is that it can completely take away a period. For women with heavy and painful periods, or, for women who want to avoid monthly bleeding then the Depo-Provera shot is a great option. The most common side effect is spotting.
A9 | Dr. McGregor: I reassure my patients that the LARCs simply prevent pregnancy while in use but do not negatively affect fertility.
A10 | Dr. McGregor: It is rare that an IUD will cause pain, but can if it is placed in the wrong location. If there are any concerns, the IUD and rod can be readily removed.