Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) is the most effective form of reversible birth control. There are two types of LARCs, IUDs and implants. IUDs are inserted into your uterus and implants are inserted into your arm. They can prevent pregnancy for several years. Your provider can remove your birth control if you decide to become pregnant.
Long-acting reversible conception (LARC) is birth control that provides long-term pregnancy prevention. LARCs provide protection for three to 10 years or more, depending on the birth control brand. LARCs come in two forms, a device your provider inserts into your uterus and a device your provider implants into your arm. Your provider can remove the device if you decide you’d like to become pregnant.
Unlike condoms, LARCs don’t protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
There are two types of LARCs, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants.
An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider inserts in your uterus. There are copper IUDs and hormonal IUDs. Various brands are FDA-approved to prevent pregnancy.
An implant is a matchstick-sized plastic rod that your provider places in the inner part of your upper arm.
Nexplanon® is the only FDA-approved implant currently used. It prevents pregnancy for three years. Nexplanon is the updated version of an earlier implant called Implanon.
LARCs prevent pregnancy 99% of the time. Some providers advise that you can wear them past the date they’re authorized to prevent pregnancy and still be protected from becoming pregnant.
Ask your provider how long you can safely wear your IUD or implant without risking pregnancy.
LARCs are the second most popular form of reversible birth control in the U.S., following birth control pills.
Increasingly, more people are turning to LARCs as their primary birth control method. In the U.S., IUD use increased from 2% to 14% between 2002 and 2014 among people who are designated female at birth (DFAB) and using contraception.
You should use an IUD or implant if you’re looking for the most effective pregnancy prevention available. Unlike other forms of birth control, like pills, patches and injectables, LARCs don’t require ongoing maintenance. If you know you’re likely to forget to take your pill or schedule an appointment with your provider to get your birth control shot — LARCs may be the best option for you.
You shouldn’t get an IUD or implant if:
In some instances, you may need to avoid a particular type of LARC. You shouldn’t use the copper IUD if you have a copper allergy or Wilson’s disease. Avoid hormonal IUDs or implants if you have:
Speak with your provider if you’re thinking of getting an implant and have a history of blood clots or if you have a high risk for developing blood clots.
LARCs cause changes in your uterus that create a toxic environment for sperm. They prevent sperm from traveling from your uterus to your fallopian tubes, where they could potentially fertilize an egg. Contraceptive implants also interrupt your menstrual cycle.
Many people choose IUDs and implants as their primary form of birth control because they’re:
Certain types of LARCs offer additional benefits, such as:
All LARCs may disrupt your period. Copper IUDs may lead to heavier bleeding and more painful cramping during your period. Hormonal IUDs lessen period bleeding and may cause you to miss periods (amenorrhea). Implants can have either effect. These irregularities may last for several months or even a year before your period returns to normal. Your period may be irregular for the entire time you have your IUD or implant.
Side effects may include:
LARCs are considered safe, with very little risk of complications. When they do occur, complications may include:
Your pregnancy may be considered high-risk if you do become pregnant. Given how effective implants and IUDs are, your chance of becoming pregnant is slim.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Long-acting reversible contraception is one of the most effective forms of birth control you can choose.
Talk to your provider about the potential benefits of LARCs, based on your health and lifestyle. Don’t forget to protect yourself from STIs, too. Using LARC with condoms can prevent pregnancy and decrease your risk of contracting STIs.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/14/2022.
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