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3 Long Term Birth Control Options

Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs for short) is a type of long term birth control that can prevent pregnancy for a number of years. There are both non-hormonal and hormonal long term birth control options out there. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at each long term birth control option, plus some alternative contraceptives to consider...

1. The copper IUD

The first long term birth control option on our list is non-hormonal, it’s also the longest lasting. The copper in the IUD (intrauterine device) sits in the uterus where it creates a hostile environment, stopping sperm survival, thickening cervical mucus, and preventing implantation of a fertilized egg cell into the uterine wall.

Once fitted, the copper IUD can prevent pregnancy for as long as ten years. It must be both inserted and removed by a doctor or nurse, in a quick procedure. As with all LARCs, the copper IUD is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Some users may experience side effects such as increased menstrual cramping or heavier periods after getting the copper IUD fitted.

2. The hormonal IUD 

Just like the copper IUD, the hormonal IUD is inserted into the uterus. However, the hormonal IUD contrains synthetic progesterone - a sex hormone that regulates our menstrual cycles. The hormones in the IUD are what makes it prevent pregnancy. 

The hormonal IUD can be effective for up to five years, after that period it should be removed or swapped out for a new one. More than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, the hormonal IUD can make a great long term birth control option. However, some may experience hormonal birth control side effects such as spotting and heavier bleeding.

3. The implant

The last LARC on our list is the implant. This small plastic rod is inserted into the fleshy part of the inside of the upper arm by a doctor or nurse. Like the hormonal IUD, the implant contains a dose of synthetic hormones that's gradually released into the body.

Once fitted, this type of long term birth control can be relied upon to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The implant is also highly effective at preventing pregnancy (also more than 99%), but like many other birth control methods there are potential side effects, including depression and decreased sex drive

Some alternatives to LARCs

Long-acting reversible contraceptives are great for some, but aren’t the right fit for everyone. While they require minimum work, they are invasive and have their own set of side effects. There are so many birth control options out there, and we always recommend you talk to your doctor before changing methods. In the meantime, let's take a look at a few LARC alternatives:

Permanent birth control: sterilization & vasectomy

When it comes to long term birth control options, you don’t get more long lasting than sterilization and vasectomy. These surgical procedures alter the female or male reproductive system to permanently prevent pregnancy. Sterilization is only really an option to consider if you’re sure you don’t want to get pregnant in the future.

As with all the options we talked about before, sterilization is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, it should always be viewed as a permanent option, this is because reversal (while possible) isn't guaranteed.

For the shorter term: the birth control shot

The depo injection, also known as the birth control shot, is a form of hormonal contraception that lasts for up to 13 weeks. It’s an option to consider if you’re looking for a hormonal birth control method that you don’t need to think about every single day, but isn’t as long lasting as the implant or hormonal IUD. 

The injection is usually given in the buttocks, upper arm, thigh or abdomen by a nurse or doctor - although you may be able to give yourself the shot at home. With perfect use the birth control shot is also more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, with typical use it’s 96% effective. Check out our post on birth control effectiveness to find out more on the difference between typical and perfect use. 

A birth control that adapts to you: Natural Cycles

Unlike the other birth control options on this list, Natural Cycles requires daily use. However, it is an option to consider if you’re interested in learning more about your body, and are looking for a long term fertility partner. Natural Cycles is completely hormone-free and non-invasive - it’s also prescription-free.

Natural Cycles uses body temperature data paired with an algorithm to find out what days in your cycle you are fertile. You can then use this information to prevent pregnancy, or if you want a family in the future, you can use the same science to plan pregnancy. Natural Cycles is 98% effective with perfect use and 93% effective with typical use.

Why do we need birth control choice?

The chances are, if you’ve used birth control you’ll have your own birth control story to tell. From unwanted side effects to unexpected bonuses, your experience won’t be the same as your friend’s, as all our bodies are different and we experience side effects differently. 

What we want from our contraception also varies from person to person and throughout our lifetimes. For example, if you want to be sure you’re protected from STIs, then condoms are a sensible choice, but if you want a method you don’t have to think about for years, maybe you want to try a long term birth control option. This is why birth control choice is so important.

At Natural Cycles, we’re committed to broadening awareness when it comes to reproductive health and we also believe in promoting birth control choice. Natural Cycles is the brainchild of a scientist who couldn’t find the right contraceptive method out there for her, so she invented it. Today we’re the first FDA cleared birth control app. Why not find out if Natural Cycles could work for you?

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Written By

Jennifer Gray

Jennifer Gray is an award-winning writer with more than five years’ experience covering reproductive topics ranging from birth control to planning pregnancy. She is passionate about providing women with accurate information grounded in science they can use to take charge of their own health - while also dispelling myths that exist within the field of women’s health. She holds a Master of Science from the University of Edinburgh and currently lives in Ireland.

Jack in a suit and tie holding a microphone and giving a presentation.

Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

Dr. Jack Pearson is a previously HCPC registered Embryologist with a PhD in reproductive medicine. Prior to joining Natural Cycles leading Medical Affairs, he worked for more than 10 years in a clinical setting working at some of the busiest fertility clinics in the UK. Today he spends most of his time working with experts at the world’s leading institutions to carry out important research with the vision to further the field of female health. He earned his PhD from the University of Sheffield specializing in Sperm Metabolism and currently lives in London.

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