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LARCs! Worry-free Birth Control for Years

By , 17, Staff Writer Originally Published: July 1, 2015 Revised: July 1, 2015

It seems like using a condom during penile-vaginal sex is drilled into our heads from the start of “the talk” to our final sexuality education class. Condoms are a great way to prevent pregnancy. They are also a great back-up for hormonal birth control, and they even help prevent the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But what if you don’t use a condom in the heat of the moment? And you’re usually so good about taking the pill, but it just slipped your mind today. It can be so easy to forget a daily birth control method. And how can you schedule appointments for your birth control shot around finals and basketball practice and the spring musical? A more long-term method of birth control might be right for you.

LARCs—or long-acting reversible contraception—can prevent pregnancy for years, which means you can focus more on that big softball game next week than whether you took your pill!

And how great is it to have a method of birth control that you don’t have to worry about for years?

If you aren’t ready to get pregnant, LARCs are a great option. They can last as few as three years or as many as 12. And if you decide that you do want to get pregnant, they can be removed at any time with no lasting side effects.

I asked Lori O’Grady, R.N., A.P.N-C., a nurse practitioner from Advocare Burlington County Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates in New Jersey, her thoughts about LARCs for teens.

“One of the frequent punishments that I see for teenagers is having their phone taken away. And so all of a sudden your reminder system is gone. How are you going to remember to take your pill?” she tells me. “LARCs are a nice way to avoid having to take a pill every day.”

In Your Body and Off Your Mind

Perhaps you’ve heard of an IUD—an intrauterine device. Though there were issues with IUDs in the past, Lori O’Grady tells me that the safer IUDs of today are better than ever and gaining popularity among teens.

These small, T-shaped devices are inserted by a health care professional into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. They are some of the least expensive and most effective forms of long-term birth control available today. IUDs come in copper and hormonal forms, which work in similar ways.

A copper IUD, such as Paragard, makes the uterus inhospitable to a pregnancy and affects the way sperm move, so they can’t join with an egg. These IUDs are effective for up to 12 years. They do not protect against STDs, so you would still want to use a condom along with an IUD.

There are two popular hormonal IUDs. Mirena is effective for up to five years, and Skyla is effective for up to three. Hormonal IUDs work by releasing a small amount of synthetic progestin. This prevents ovulation and thickens the cervical mucus, which keeps sperm from getting into the uterus. Mirena is usually recommended for women who have had a child, but anyone can get it. Skyla, which is a little smaller in size, is perfect for those who have never been pregnant.

Another great option for teens is the implant—a thin, flexible plastic rod inserted under the skin of the inner, upper arm. These last up to three years and are no larger than a matchstick. Just like an IUD, the implant releases hormones to prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus.

All of these methods cost about the same, but with the Affordable Care Act, these methods are completely covered by insurance. Without insurance, however, teens can still get either method at a clinic for very low or no cost.

Birth Control That Lasts for Years

LARCs are a great option for teens with busy schedules. And how great is it to have a method of birth control that you don’t have to worry about for years? Remember these methods don’t protect against STDs, so using a condom is still important.

Lori O’Grady urges teens to consider birth control and STD prevention as two entirely separate things: “Just because you have a good birth control method doesn’t mean you can forego STD prevention.” Even still, with LARCs, you’ll never worry about forgetting your pill or the shot again!

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