By Eulimar Núñez
They’re highly effective and low maintenance. The use of long-acting contraceptives – such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants – practically doubled in recent years, according to a federal report released early last week.
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics states that 11.6% of women that used contraceptives between 2011 and 2013 chose long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods, but only 6% of women chose these between 2006 and 2010. In 2002 the percentage was even lower: 2%, which shows their use is rapidly increasing.
Nevertheless, the number continues to be low when compared with the pill, which remains the most popular contraceptive (26%), above sterilization (25%), and condoms (15%).
What‘s the reason for the increase?
LARC methods are more effective because they do not require action for years after being inserted. “They’re easier to use. Once inserted, it’s no longer necessary to remember to take a pill every day or change the patch or ring every week,” explains Liany Arroyo, director of partnerships at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
“Other methods' effectiveness depends on how they’re used, while with LARC mistakes are minimized. The person doesn’t have to do anything,” she says. In fact, the chance of failure with these devices is very minimal: 0.8% for IUDs and 0.05% for implants, compared with 9% for the pill and 18% for male condoms.
The historic lack of popularity of long-acting contraceptives, when compared with other contraceptive methods, stems from defective versions used in the 1970’s. The device known as the Dalkon Shield, for example, generated disastrous results. Its design complicated the insertion, causing infections and even cases of infertility.
“Today’s versions are very different", says Arroyo. "Some IUDs have been on the market for over 10 years, which indicates they do work. For the vast majority of women, it’s a very good option. That’s why more and more doctors are promoting these methods.” She warns: “They do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases.”
Another deterrent for use is the cost: between $600 and $1,000, including the consultation for the uninsured. “At the start, it's more money. But the monthly cost of pills and other methods may be similar. It is worthwhile to remember IUDs recommended for women with low income.”
A hit among Hispanic women
The report revealed that the use of long-acting methods is highest among Hispanic women: 15.1% of them use these methods, compared with 11.4% of white women and 8.6% of black women.
“It is interesting that this is the group that uses them the most. That means they’re receiving information about these contraceptive methods. We’re interested in having them understand all methods so that they can choose the one that works best for them,” the expert proposes.
Calculations made by her organization indicate that approximately 6 out of every 10 pregnancies in single women of Hispanic origin between the ages of 20 and 29 are unplanned.
For more information about the different contraceptive methods available on the market, visit