FEATURE — The term “LARC” — which stands for long-acting reversible contraceptives — isn’t really one you need to put into your medical vocabulary, but it is important to know about when choosing birth control.
Specifically, LARCs refer to intrauterine devices and subcutaneous implants such as Nexplanon. Looking at the topic on the internet, it is next to impossible to get accurate information about these.
Like all things medical, we are best served by looking for consensus opinions of large numbers of professionals or surveys and studies of large numbers of patients. Here are seven facts about LARCs that may help you choose a contraceptive that works for you:
1 – LARCs are highly effective. In fact, they are the most effective form of reversible contraception, and all have over a 99 percent success rate.
2 – Full fertility returns very quickly after removal.
3 – Aside from the Copper-T IUD, the other LARCs have some hormone (progesterone) in them that can make headaches, acne and depression worse in a small number of patients. These conditions are typically very treatable and do not require removal of the device.
4 – Women who have not had a baby and even women who have never been sexually active can have an IUD inserted. If the practitioner is experienced, it can be done very quickly with minimal discomfort.
5 – LARCs last from three to 10 years, depending on the type. In a survey, women who only wanted protection for one to two years and desired a LARC for contraception were found to be “highly satisfied.”
6 – Abnormal bleeding is the most common reason to discontinue a LARC. There are ways to iron out some of these annoyances with low-dose estrogen or even a short-term, low-dose birth control pill. The key is to let your doctor know early on about abnormal bleeding that is annoying you.
7 – IUDs don’t suppress ovulation, but Nexplanon does. If ovulation pain is an issue, Nexplanon is the best LARC for that.
If you are very sensitive to any hormones at all, the Copper-T may be your best choice, though progesterone IUDs have a very low systemic level of progesterone. And the progesterone IUDs will almost always make cycles either scant or gone altogether.
Hopefully these facts help make your decisions easier. When it comes to birth control, be careful reading blogs or watching videos from individuals or friends.
- Dr. Sean Lynn practices at St. George Women’s Health Center in St. George | Telephone: 435-218-7770.
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