Taking control of your reproductive health is an empowering tool that all women should embrace, as it allows you to determine the best form of birth control and family planning for your lifestyle. Several methods of birth control are available for your application, depending on your routine life and your body’s compatibility with the hormones used in most of these methods. One of the most significant challenges that women face when using birth control methods is the inconsistency in taking the prescribed form of birth control, which ultimately creates a massive risk of pregnancy. Using the available types of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARC), you get to enjoy your life worry-free, to help you achieve your short and long term goals without any interruptions caused by unplanned pregnancies and other severe complications.
Choosing the best LARC method to use as a form of birth control may be challenging to decide, mainly because most patients lack enough information about each process to make an informed choice. Moreover, once you settle for one way, you need professional medical personnel working with a legally licensed health clinic to ensure that your introduction to your preferred method of birth control is safe and efficient. At All Women’s Care, we dedicate ourselves to providing the best services to you, including information on different types of contraceptives. With our friendly, engaging, and skilled medical professionals, you are assured of quality services to empower you to take charge of your reproductive health.
Types of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives
Different birth control types offer you varying benefits and methods of preventing pregnancies, including hormonal and non-hormonal methods. Similarly, the Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives include three various forms of birth control, all geared towards providing highly effective solutions to prevent pregnancy until you are ready. As the name states, these methods are reversible at any time, meaning that you can stop using birth control in case of any emerging health issues. Nevertheless, you can expect lasting services from each of the methods, especially if you do not exhibit any extreme reactions or complications from their use.
The three types of LARC methods are:
- The intrauterine device (IUD)
- The Implant
- The Depot injection
Each patient has the liberty to choose whatever method she sees fit for her body, provided that there are no severe allergic reactions to the product recorded. Additionally, each plan gives you practical ways that significantly lower the risk of pregnancy, meaning that you do not expose yourself to pregnancy by choosing one form of LARC over another.
Since each method incorporates different forms of introduction to the body, application in preventing pregnancy, and various sets of side effects, it is crucial to understand them individually, to help you make a well-informed choice.
The Intrauterine Device (IUD)
Commonly known as an IUD, the device is fitted into your uterus to prevent sperm cells from fertilizing an egg cell or preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus if the sperm cells manage to reach the egg. It is the most effective form of birth control, as only less than 0.1% of women who choose it as a contraceptive method fall pregnant.
The design of an intrauterine device includes a small T-shaped appliance that measures around six centimeters. The main structure is a short rod, where the hormones or the copper metal is embedded and released gradually once the device is fitted inside your uterus. The IUD also has two arm-like extensions from the rod that fit your uterine walls for extra support. In copper IUDs, the T-shaped extensions also have a copper layer embedded to further help with the prevention of pregnancy. Lately, the intrauterine device has long strings at the end of the rod, that come in handy when removing the IUD from your womb. The doctor will, therefore, use the strings to pull the IUD out when the time comes.
There are two types of IUDs available for your use, depending on whether you prefer the use of hormones to regulate your chances of getting pregnant. Therefore, the IUD is an excellent choice for women who prefer an all-natural form of birth control that excludes the introduction of hormones. Such preferences often arise from previous health risks and challenges you may have faced with last hormonal birth control methods or a natural allergic reaction to specific hormones that must be present in the contraceptive for it to be effective.
The Non-Hormonal IUD (Copper IUD)
The non-hormonal IUD incorporates copper in the prevention of pregnancy, as it is coated around the rod and the arm extensions of the device. The copper element creates highly toxic conditions in the womb that are unsuitable for sperm cells to survive. Consequently, even if sperm cells manage to enter the uterus through the cervix, they will die off quickly from the toxic emissions by the copper on the IUD. Alternatively, if the perm cells manage to swim up to the released egg cell, the IUD prevents the fertilized egg's implantation, therefore avoiding the occurrence of a pregnancy.
The non-hormonal IUD is beneficial to women who prefer to have a constant menstrual cycle because the device does not interfere with normal processes like ovulation. Thus, you will receive periods regularly when on the copper IUD, compared to other forms of birth control. You can rely on a copper IUD to prevent pregnancy for five to twelve years continuously, mainly because the copper metal lasts long on the device.
The Hormonal IUD
On the other hand, you can also choose a hormonal IUD, that serves the same purpose as a non-hormonal device, by preventing fertilization of your egg cell or preventing the sperm cells from reaching your egg cell in the uterus. In this case, the hormone progesterone present in the IUD is responsible for effecting these changes that prevent the fertilization of an egg cell and prevent pregnancy. The main effect of the hormone is the thickening of the cervix's mucus layer, to prevent sperms from swimming into your uterus, thereby avoiding the possibility of a pregnancy. Moreover, the hormone prevents your ovaries from releasing egg cells every month in the process called ovulation. Thus, the sperm cells that may manage to swim through the thick cervical mucus will have no egg cell to fertilize, meaning that pregnancy will be avoided.
Since the hormones on the IUD rod are manufactured, they require replacement after some time. As a result, your hormonal IUD will serve you for about five years before having it replaced for continuous prevention of pregnancy.
The Process of Inserting an Intrauterine Device
Before your doctor approves you for the insertion of the IUD, he/she needs to run several tests, to ensure that your body is healthy, and will be receptive to the device. One of the crucial tests to run is a pap test that checks on your cervix for any irregular cysts or other complications. Typically, the pap test is a quick and painless test that involves your doctor collecting some cervical cells using swabs to use in experiments. Moreover, you will undergo a pregnancy test to ensure that the doctor does not interfere with any fertilized and implanted egg cells. The pregnancy test is also essential. It will help you determine whether you need to undergo any additional preparational procedure to terminate an existing pregnancy before the IUD insertion. Lastly, your doctor will request any medical history information that may help you know what to avoid as the procedure continues.
After the collection of all necessary data, you will be ready to undergo the insertion procedure. Some patients prefer having all tests, and the IUD insertion performed simultaneously. In contrast, others prefer scheduling a different appointment to have the IUD fitted. We are open to any of your plans and are happy to work on your schedule. Before going in for the insertion, we will advise you to take some pain medication like Ibuprofen to reduce the discomfort you may feel during the process. We may also prescribe medication to help with the dilation of your cervix, mainly in cases where we have identified a difficulty in natural cervical dilation.
Another important detail is that it is easier for you to have the insertion process done when you are on your period, as your cervix is naturally more dilated. In this case, you will feel much less pain when undertaken at any other point in your cycle. However, you are free to insert the insertion at any point in your cycle, as long as you are not pregnant.
The Insertion Procedure
First, your dentist will use a speculum to dilate your vagina, and therefore create open access to your cervix. After carefully positioning the speculum in place, he/she will then clean your cervix using iodine solution, or any other approved cleaning solution, to prevent the risk of bacteria entering your uterus. Afterward, the cervix is held in place using a particular appliance that gently holds the cervix at two points. Your doctor needs to ensure that the instrument firmly holds the uterus. It has a direct effect on positioning your womb at the desired angle for efficient IUD insertion. Thus, your doctor will perform an external physical exam to ensure that your uterus falls in the desired position for easier insertion.
Upon holding the cervix firmly, the doctor will gently insert a narrow measuring rod into your womb to determine the proper length before the IUD is inserted. Once the doctor obtains the correct measurement, he/she will enter the IUD using a small syringe that deposits the IUD securely onto the uterine walls. Lastly, your doctor will cut off the external, visible IUD strings to ensure that your partner does not feel them during sex. The recommended length should be two to three centimeters, to ensure that the doctor has easy access to the strings if you need the IUD removed later.
Since the procedure is slightly invasive, you may experience sharp pain, mainly when the measuring and insertion tubes penetrate your cervix. However, the process takes a short time to complete so that the pain will be bearable. However, your doctor can apply some numbing cream on your cervix before the procedure, to ensure that the insertion is comfortable for you.
Two weeks after the insertion, your doctor will schedule an ultrasound appointment to ensure that the IUD is still firmly in place and that your body is slowly adapting to the new device. It is essential to follow through with the appointment to avoid complications from uterine perforation from the IUD displacement. Although the risk is rare, your body may reject the IUD, which causes it to fall out of the uterus and into the vagina. If this happens to you, we advise you to contact us immediately for adequate medical attention.
Side Effects of Intrauterine Devices
While the IUD is one of the most effective and convenient forms of birth control, you may suffer some initial side effects that should disappear within a year of IUD insertion.
For women who choose non-hormonal/copper IUDs, you may experience:
- Heavy cramps
- More substantial period bleeding that before
- Spotting in between periods
However, the effects subside after six months to a year and rarely cause any severe complications.
For hormonal IUD users, the effects may vary depending on your body’s reception of the hormone Progesterone. Some common effects are:
- Lighter periods
- No periods at all for some women
- Lighter cramp pains than before
- More substantial periods, depending on your body
Overall, the intrauterine device is an excellent LARC choice, as it has a highly successful record in preventing pregnancy and maintaining proper reproductive health for its users.
You may also choose the implant as your preferred LARC choice, for its simple, but an active mode of insertion and use. The implant is a small flexible rod, often measuring between three to four centimeters. The rod is coated with a specific amount of hormone progesterone that works to prevent pregnancy when in use. The small implant rod is inserted in your upper arm, where it embeds itself on the surrounding muscle and fat for proper anchorage. If placed correctly, the hormonal implant will serve you for three to five years, depending on the brand you choose.
Choosing the implant as a form of long-acting reversible contraceptives is beneficial if you do not mind the application of hormones to prevent pregnancy. It is also an excellent method if you would like to evade the invasive IUD insertion procedure while receiving a lasting contraceptive method. Thus, the implant releases the hormone progesterone in small doses into your bloodstream to affect the thickening of your cervical mucus, and prevent ovulation from pregnancy risks. Subsequently, sperm cells will not penetrate your cervical layer, thanks to the thickness of the mucus surrounding it. Also, with your ovulation paused, sperm cells that make it into the uterus will not have an egg cell to fuse with to prevent you from getting pregnant.
The Implant Insertion Process
Placing the hormonal implant under your skin is a quick and painless procedure that may take two to three minutes. However, before undergoing the process, we need to capture specific data to provide the green light for the insertion. Firstly, we will require you to take a pregnancy test that affirms you are not pregnant. We will also request any vital information regarding your medical history to raise any critical issues that may interfere with the implant's effectiveness.
Once we clear you for the implant procedure, we will clean the part of your arm using iodine solution to prevent disease-causing microbes from affecting the small open wound we create. After the cleaning is complete, we will inject a low dose of local anesthesia on the upper arm to ensure that you undergo a comfortable and painless insertion procedure. In most cases, your doctor will wait for the anesthesia to kick in on the identified area before inserting the implant. Once you are ready, the doctor makes a small incision using a special needle that delivers the hormonal implant rod under your skin. The needle is wider than usual, to contain the rod right before it is inserted. When the doctor pricks the wide needle into your skin, he/she will then click on the needle handle to release the implant under your skin. The entire process is very quick, often taking seconds to place the implant safely into your arm.
When the insertion is complete, your doctor will then cover up the small wound with a bandage to prevent bleeding as scarring. We recommend you to have the dressing on for at least twenty-four hours after insertion, to ensure that your wound heals evenly. After the local anesthesia wears off, you can gently press your fingers against your arm to feel the implant. When placed correctly, you can feel the hormonal implant under your skin. However, you should not see it pressing against your skin, as that may be a sign of inflammation caused by infections around the wounded area. Consequently, we advise you to check with us if the implant protrudes significantly and is visible directly under the skin, to allow us to correct its placement.
Moreover, we recommend avoiding straining the arm used to fit the implant by engaging in intense workouts or lifting immediately after the insertion procedure. After the wound heals completely, you can resume normal activities, without even remembering that the implant is present.
Common Side Effects of the Implant
Due to the use of hormones to prevent pregnancy, you may experience several side effects that often fade as your body adapts into regular use of the hormone progesterone. Common effects include:
- Mood swings
- Irregular periods for the first six months to a year
- Change in libido
- Weight gain or loss, depending on your body
It is important to note that these effects are unique to each patient, and may vary in severity. Therefore, we discourage relying on other users’ experiences with different side effects to decide whether to choose the implant as your method of birth control.
The Depo Injection
If you prefer making regular appointments to restart your birth control method, the Depo injection will serve you adequately. Using this LARC method, you will receive a shot of progesterone every three months to prevent you from getting pregnant. The technique falls under the LARC category because of the extended period of twelve weeks that the hormone injected in your bloodstream actively works to thicken your cervical mucus lining while preventing ovulation.
Once you come into the clinic to receive a Depo injection, we will provide all the necessary information to understand the effects and functions of the hormone in your body. For example, we will make it clear that the injection is irreversible for the three months it lasts in your bloodstream. Consequently, the information should help you choose alternate birth control methods, especially when you are uncertain about handling side effects and allergic reactions from the Depo shot.
Nevertheless, the injection is a popular type of LARC, mainly because it is straightforward to administer. With proper training from a skilled medical provider in our clinic, you will learn how to deliver the shot yourself, meaning that you can save yourself from making regular trips for appointments every three months. We will teach you how to identify a suitable spot on your buttocks, arm, or abdomen when injecting the Depo shot into your body. However, if you prefer to handle the injection process for you, we are happy to create appointments for you to receive your shot every twelve weeks.
Side Effects of the Injection
One of the unique effects of the injection as a type of LARC is that your fertility takes up to a year to return to normal after getting off the birth control method. The effect is because of the time needed for your bloodstream to utilize the entire dosage of hormones. However, this effect is not hazardous to your health, and you will notice a more consistent period pattern with time. Other common effects are:
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Change in sex drive
With over 97% effectiveness on the Depo injection, you are assured of a reliable LARC method to prevent birth, giving you peace of mind and confidence to carry on with your life.
It is important to note that none of these three types of Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives prevent you from contracting STDs. Therefore, we advise you to use condoms to protect yourself from infections and viruses, especially when getting together with a new partner.
Find a Women’s Reproductive Clinic Near Me
Nothing beats the confidence of taking control of your reproductive well-being by starting on Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptives. You get to enjoy a discrete form of birth control that does not require constant reminders to use other forms of contraceptives. With services from the All Women’s Care clinic, we can get you started on your preferred LARC method, thanks to our years of experience and quality service. Call us today at 213-250-9461 to schedule an appointment.