Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)

There are many different contraceptive methods available in the UK and you should choose one that suits you.

This page provides information about four methods of long-acting reversible contraception that do not depend on you remembering to take or use them to be effective.

The figures quoted on this page for how well each method works are based on extensive independent research.

Read this information to find out about the:

Your Guide to LARC (PDF)

Contraceptive implant

A contraceptive implant

Effectiveness

Over 99 per cent effective. Less than one woman in 1,000 will get pregnant over three years.

How it works

A small flexible rod is put under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen. It stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to stop sperm reaching an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus (womb) to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

How long it lasts

Works for three years but can be taken out sooner.

How it affects periods

Your periods may stop, be irregular or longer.

How it affects fertility

When the implant is removed your fertility will return to normal.

How it is inserted/removed

A doctor or nurse numbs your skin in the inner area of your upper arm with a local anaesthetic and inserts the implant. It takes a few minutes and feels similar to having an injection. To remove it, the doctor or nurse uses a local anaesthetic, makes a tiny cut and gently pulls the implant out.

Further information

Find out more about the contraceptive implant.

Contraceptive injection

Depo-Provera is one of three types of contraceptive injection

Effectiveness

Over 99 per cent effective. Less than four women in 1,000 will get pregnant over two years.

How it works

It releases the hormone progestogen which stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

How long it lasts

Lasts for 12 weeks (Depo-Provera) or eight weeks (Noristerat), or 13 weeks (Sayana Press).

How it affects periods

Your periods may stop, be irregular or longer.

How it affects fertility

Your periods and fertility may take time to return after you stop using the injection.

How it is inserted/removed

Depo-Provera is injected into a muscle, usually your buttocks. It can also be injected into the arm. Noristerat is a thicker solution so may be more painful to receive. Sayana Press is injected into the front of the thigh or abdomen. The injection cannot be removed from the body so any side-effects may continue for as long as it works and for some time afterwards.

Further information

Find out more about the contraceptive injection.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An IUD (intrauterine device) in a hand

Effectiveness

Over 99 per cent effective. Less than two women in 100 will get pregnant over five years. Older IUDs have less copper and are less effective.

How it works

A small plastic and copper device is put into the uterus. It stops sperm reaching an egg, and may also stop a fertilised egg implanting in the uterus.

How long it lasts

Can stay in 5–10 years depending on type but can be taken out sooner.

How it affects periods

Your periods may be heavier or longer or more painful.

How it affects fertility

When the IUD is removed your fertility will return to normal.

How it is inserted/removed

A doctor or nurse will insert the IUD. This takes 10–15 minutes. It can be uncomfortable or painful and you may want to use a local anaesthetic. The IUD has one or two threads which hang through the opening of the uterus. A doctor or nurse can remove the IUD by pulling gently on the threads.

Further information

Find out more about the IUD.

Intrauterine system (IUS)

An IUS (intrauterine system)

Effectiveness

Over 99 per cent effective. Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant over five years.

How it works

A small, T-shaped plastic device, which releases the hormone progestogen, is put into the uterus. This thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg, and may stop ovulation.

How long it lasts

Works for five years but can be taken out sooner.

How it affects periods

Your periods usually become lighter, shorter and sometimes less painful. They may stop altogether.

How it affects fertility

When the IUS is removed your fertility will return to normal.

How it is inserted/removed

A doctor or nurse will insert the IUS. This takes 10–15 minutes. It can be uncomfortable or painful and you may want to use a local anaesthetic. The IUS has two threads which hang through the opening of the uterus. A doctor or nurse can remove the IUS by pulling gently on its threads.

Further information

Find out more about the IUS.


This website can only give you general information about contraception. The information is based on evidence-guided research from the World Health Organization and The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance. All methods of contraception come with a Patient Information Leaflet which provides detailed information about the method.

Remember – contact your doctor, practice nurse or a contraception clinic if you are worried or unsure about anything.

INFORMATION LAST UPDATED JANUARY 2014. NEXT UPDATE DUE 2015.

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