Did you know that despite a decline, teen pregnancy in the United States is higher than most other nations? By age 15, 20 percent of U.S. females have had sex. By age 17, almost half have had sex.

Even though many teens are sexually active, a study by HealthPartners Institute recently found that only 35 percent of female teens used birth control in the year before they became pregnant. And less than half had received sexual health counseling from a doctor. The study confirmed that talking with teens about sexual health at every primary care visit can help to prevent teenage pregnancy.

One focus of our Children’s Health Initiative is to reduce teenage pregnancy. To reach this goal, we matched our practices with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). Both recommend long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) as a standards birth control method, even for teens.

What are LARCs? And what should you know if you’re considering them for yourself or your teen? Here are five questions you might have.

  1. What are LARCs?LARCs are a form of birth control. They provide contraception for an extended period of time. They come as injections, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and progestin implants, a small thin rod.

    Injections are given in the arm or butt to prevent pregnancy. IUDs are inserted into the uterus. Progestin implants are inserted in the inside of the upper arm. IUDs and progestin implants can be removed at any time.

  2. How do LARCs work?Each LARC works a little differently. But they all prevent an egg from leaving your ovaries and thicken your cervical mucus.
  3. Why are LARCs recommended over other types of contraception? LARCs are more effective at preventing pregnancies than any other form of birth control. The failure rate for LARCs is less than one percent. The failure rate for condoms is 21 percent and for birth control pills is nine percent.

    The most common contraceptive methods for teens are condoms, withdrawal and birth control pills. These are all less effective than LARCs. Other advantages of LARCs include:

    • Patients don’t need to do anything, such as remember to take a pill each day.
    • Most people continue using LARCs over other types of birth control – 86 percent of patients using LARCs were still using them a year later.
    • Higher user satisfaction and reduced need for follow up visits with your doctor.
    • Cost-effective.
    • Easily reversible, allowing the patient to quickly return to fertility when needed.
  4. Are LARCs safe for teens?LARCs are safe for teens, even if they haven’t previously had a child.

    In the past, LARCs were only offered to women who had a child. But now the ACOG says complications are rare and don’t differ between mothers and teens. There is no evidence of an increased risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. And LARCs don’t cause infertility.

    “The risks of an IUD are small, but I do like patients to know what to expect and what we are careful to avoid. Irregular cramping and bleeding are common. But they usually stop in four to eight weeks,” said Erica Berven, MD, OBGYN physician at Park Nicollet. “More rare complications include malposition or perforation. Malposition is when the IUD has an abnormal position in the uterus. Perforation is when the IUD passes through the wall of the uterus into the abdominal cavity. Care with placement helps us avoid these issues. If there are any concerns, an ultrasound can be used to help reassure patients and providers of the IUD location.”

  5. Do LARCs protect against sexually transmitted diseases?No. LARCs are a “non-barrier” method of birth control. This means they don’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Teens should be reminded to continue to use condoms.

“LARCs are a highly effective and convenient form of birth control,” said Dr. Berven. “They are safe for women of all ages, even those who have not yet had a pregnancy.”

For information specifically on IUDs, check out this blog.

If you have questions or would like to get an LARC, schedule an appointment with an OBGYN today: