Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)

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

This information is about four methods that don’t depend on you remembering to take or use them to be effective.

The figures given for how well each method works are based on independent research.

Read on to find out about the:

Your Guide to LARC (PDF)

Contraceptive implant

A contraceptive implant

Effectiveness

Over 99% effective once fitted.

Less than 1 in 100 implant users will get pregnant in a year.

How it works

A small, flexible rod is put under the skin of your upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen.

It stops ovulation (releasing an egg), 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 3 years but can be taken out sooner.

How it affects periods

Your periods may stop, be irregular or longer.

How it affects fertility

Your fertility returns to normal as soon as the implant is removed.

How it is inserted/removed

A doctor or nurse numbs the 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 small cut and gently pulls the implant out.

Further information

Find out more about the contraceptive implant at our Sexwise website.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An IUD (intrauterine device) in a hand

Effectiveness

Over 99% effective once fitted. Less than 1 in 100 IUD users will get pregnant in a year.

How it works

A small plastic and copper device is put into the uterus (womb). The copper prevents sperm from surviving, and alters your cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg.

An IUD may also stop a fertilised egg implanting in the uterus.

How long it lasts

Works for 5 or 10 years, depending on type, but can be taken out sooner. If fitted after age 40, it can stay in place until after the menopause when contraception is no longer needed.

How it affects periods

Your periods may be heavier or longer or more Your periods may stop, be irregular or longer or more painful.

How it affects fertility

Your fertility returns to normal as soon as the IUD is taken out.

How it is inserted/removed

A doctor or nurse will insert the IUD. Your appointment will last around 20–30 minutes. Inserting the IUD usually takes around 5 minutes. It can be uncomfortable or painful for some people and you may be offered a local anaesthetic.

The IUD has threads which hang through the cervix (opening of the uterus) into the top of your vagina. A doctor or nurse can remove the IUD by pulling gently on the threads.

Further information

Find out more about the IUD at our Sexwise website.

Intrauterine system (IUS)

An IUS (intrauterine system)

Effectiveness

Over 99% effective once fitted. Less than 1 in 100 IUS users will get pregnant in a year.

How it works

A small, T-shaped plastic device, which releases the hormone progestogen, is put into the uterus (womb).

This thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting and thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg.

How long it lasts

Works for 5 years (Mirena) or 3 years (Jaydess and Levosert) but can be taken out sooner. If fitted after age 45, Mirena can stay in place for contraception until after the menopause, when contraception is no longer needed.

How it affects periods

With Mirena and Levosert, your periods usually become lighter, shorter and often less painful. They may stop altogether.

With Jaydess, your periods may become lighter, shorter or sometimes stop.

How it affects fertility

Your fertility returns to normal as soon as the IUS is taken out.

How it is inserted/removed

A doctor or nurse will insert the IUS. Your appointment will last around 20–30 minutes. Inserting the IUS usually takes around 5 minutes. It can be uncomfortable or painful for some people and you may be offered a local anaesthetic.

The IUS has threads which hang through the cervix (opening of the uterus) into the top of your vagina. A doctor or nurse can remove the IUS by pulling gently on the threads.

Further information

Find out more about the IUS at our Sexwise website.

Contraceptive injection

Depo-Provera is one of three types of contraceptive injection

Effectiveness

With perfect use, over 99% effective. Less than 1 in 100 injection users will get pregnant in a year. Perfect use means that you always use the injection exactly as instructed.

With typical use, around 94% effective. Around 6 in 100 injection users will get pregnant in a year. Typical use means that you don’t always use the injection as instructed, for example if you have an injection late.

How it works

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

The injection can’t be removed from the body so any side effects may continue for as long as it works and for some time afterwards.

How long it lasts

Works for 13 weeks (Depo-Provera and Sayana Press) or eight weeks (Noristerat).

How it affects periods

Your periods may stop, be irregular or longer.

How it affects fertility

Your periods and fertility may take up to one year to return after stopping the injection. It may take longer for some people.

How it is inserted/removed

Depo-Provera and Noristerat are injected into a muscle, usually in your buttocks. Depo-Provera can sometimes be given in your arm. Noristerat is a thicker solution so you may find the injection is slightly more painful.

Sayana Press is injected beneath the skin at the front of your thigh or abdomen. It’s possible for you to be taught how to inject Sayana Press yourself at home. Ask your clinic or general practice about this.

Further information

Find out more about the contraceptive injection at our Sexwise website.


This website can only give you general information about contraception. The information is based on evidence-guided research from The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the World Health Organization. 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 SEPTEMBER 2017. NEXT PLANNED REVIEW BY SEPTEMBER 2020.

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