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What are long-acting contraception methods?

Posted on: July 28, 2020

So what's with long-acting contraceptives methods? Could be you've never even heard of this particular term when it comes to some contraceptive methods. However, you maybe have heard about their mates, the short-acting contraceptives like the pill and the injection. In fact, when it comes to the interval in which you need to take them and their reliability for preventing pregnancy the long-acting options have better ratings. Of course, there are differences in their characteristics and methods of use. But don’t worry, it won’t take long to tell you about them!


First and foremost, the aim of long-acting contraceptive methods is to keep you from getting pregnant and to enable you to plan your life. They share this goal with their short-acting buddies, but they work differently than their short-term relatives because they keep you from getting pregnant over an extended period of time: The main difference here is that you don't need to remember to take or use them on a daily or weekly basis, plus they're easy to hide––or even invisible. The following methods all have one very important thing in common: they all have efficacy of 99% at keeping you from getting pregnant, meaning that approximately 1 woman or fewer out of 100 still got pregnant in one year using this particular method.

Long acting contraceptive methods

Before we take a closer look at each of them, we'd like to point out that they are all reversible (except sterilization). The hormonal implant and the two intrauterine methods offer equally high protection against pregnancies for 3, 5, or 10 years, so the choice is up to you. And all these methods except sterilization allow you to become pregnant after you stop using them because their effects will wear off quickly. Decide for yourself which method will suit you best and make sure you talk over the next steps with your healthcare provider. To prepare yourself, take a look at our overview of long-term contraceptive methods:

1. Contraceptive Implant (reversible)
This hormonal method is placed under your skin by your healthcare provider once every 3–5 years and releases small doses of progestin into your bloodstream. The implant is about the size of a matchstick and is placed right under the skin of your upper arm. The effect of progestin on your body is to keep your ovaries from releasing eggs; it also thickens your cervical mucus, so that sperms need to really struggle to move around in the womb in order to reach an egg. If you and your healthcare provider go for this method, your healthcare provider will numb a small area of your inner upper arm with a local anesthetic and insert the implant just underneath the surface using a special needle. Once the implant is in place, there's little or nothing left for you to do or remember.

2. Copper Coil – Intrauterine Device (IUD) (reversible)
Here comes the first of our two "cousins." This little T-shaped device with a copper thread or cylinder is placed in the uterus by your healthcare provider and can remain there for 5–10 years. To make the insertion most comfortable for you, your healthcare provider will use local anesthesia on your uterine cervix before the IUD is carefully put in place. After that, it releases copper ions which immobilize the sperm and make it really hard for them to move around in the uterus, although they do not stop the ovaries from releasing an egg every month. Just in case a sperm does get through, the copper stops a fertilized egg from implanting itself in the uterine lining, too. And if you change your mind, your healthcare provider can naturally remove it any time.

3. Hormonal Coil - Intrauterine System (IUS) (reversible)
…And here's the second "cousin." It looks similar to an IUD, it's is also placed in the uterus by your healthcare provider, and it's also a little T-shaped device, but this one doesn't have a copper thread. Instead, it has a reservoir that continuously releases the hormone progestin. As you might already know, the effect of this hormone is to thicken the mucus of your cervix, which makes it harder for sperm to move freely and reach the egg. Furthermore, it thins the lining of your uterus. Just like the IUD, it can be removed by your healthcare provider any time. This contraceptive method can stay in place for either 3 or 5 years and it's also completely undetectable from the outside. Isn’t that cool?

4. Sterilization (irreversible)
This permanent method is very different to all other methods listed above. If you decide to go for this, you take away your body’s ability of reproduction––so no kids at all, unless you go for adoption. It's done as a minor or minimally invasive surgical procedure and works for women and men. As there is no going back, you should consider very carefully whether this step is the right one for you; there are other highly effective long-term and short-term forms of contraception with less permanent repercussions. There is a possibility of reversing sterilization, but this is not guaranteed to work.

If you are still unsure about the best contraceptive method for you, go ahead and do our “Which contraception is right for me – Quiz” or/and read all about the short acting contraceptive methods. Although you have to take the “shorties” at more frequent intervals and mustn't forget to take them regularly, they are easier to get because some of them don't even require you to see your doctor.


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