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    LARC: Long-Acting Reversible Contraception Types, Benefits, and Side Effects

    Updated 24 August 2021 |
    Published 25 August 2021
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    Medically reviewed by UNFPA, United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency
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    Many people choose to use long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) to prevent pregnancy. Not only are these methods highly effective over a long period of time, but they require little to no effort on your part. So, is LARC right for you? Below, learn about the various types of long-acting reversible contraception methods, who can use them, and their potential side effects to figure out if it could be a good fit for your body and lifestyle.

    What is LARC?

    Do you have trouble remembering to take your birth control pill, or are you interested in trying a different form of contraception? Long-acting reversible contraception, or LARC, could be a good option for you. It can prevent pregnancy for months or even years. There are a few different types of long-acting reversible contraceptives that range in how long they last, including:

    • Contraceptive injections given every 12 weeks
    • Intrauterine device (IUD) placed inside the uterus: copper (non-hormonal) and hormonal options last for 5–10 years depending on the type
    • A subdermal contraceptive implant placed under the skin in your arm that lasts for three years

    LARC vs. other types of contraception

    "Many studies have shown that the most effective [forms of contraception] are long-acting methods, namely IUDs and hormonal implants," according to Professor Johannes Bitzer in his Flo interview on contraception. In fact, fewer than 1 in 100 women who use LARC get pregnant. In comparison, around 9 in 100 who take birth control pills and 18 in 100 people who use male condoms for contraception get pregnant within one year.

    The major advantages of LARC over other types of contraception are that they don’t require an ongoing effort, and they prevent pregnancy for a long period of time. Unlike the pill, which you have to remember to take every day around the same time, you don’t have to do anything to make sure LARC works. Once it’s in, you’re protected. 

    Additionally, you can get pregnant almost immediately after having a LARC device (IUD or implant) removed. As for injections, fertility tends to come back within 9–10 months after the last shot, but it returns within four months for some people.

    LARCs are also estrogen-free and are suitable for people who can’t tolerate contraception that contains estrogen.

    Finally, LARCs don’t interfere with sex, and no one can see that you’re using it.

    However, it’s important to note that LARC doesn’t offer protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). No matter what type of LARC you choose, a condom is always a good idea and the only way to prevent the spread of STIs (other than abstinence).

    Let’s take a closer look at the different options for long-acting contraceptive methods.

    Types of long-acting reversible contraception