Educating Teens About Long-Acting Birth Control

Long acting birth control options for use with teens and young women to prevent unplanned pregnancies. Specialties Advanced Article


Educating Teens About Long-Acting Birth Control

US News and World Report recently reported a sharp increase in the number of teenagers seeking more reliable forms of birth control due to the overturning of Roe versus Wade by the Supreme Court. As many states change laws banning or severely restricting abortions, teens just do not want to risk an unplanned pregnancy with the use of less reliable birth control methods. Additionally, the US News article also notes teens and young women are concerned about pregnancies from sexual assault or rape because their state may no longer allow abortions in these instances. As health care providers, we know teenagers' bodies are still developing and carry a higher risk with pregnancy. We can provide a valuable role in counseling teens on the most reliable birth control methods available, known as LARCs (long-acting reversible contraceptives).

What are LARCs?

There are two types of LARCs currently available in the United States, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the single-rod implantable device. These forms of birth control are frequently referred to as “forgettable methods” as there is nothing routinely done by the user to keep them effective. This lack of daily or weekly maintenance of the birth control method is why the LARCs are considered more effective than other methods. Once placed, these methods provide dependable birth control for 3-12 years, depending on the method, with greater than 99% efficacy.


IUDs were first introduced in 1909 and have undergone many design changes to the highly effective, safe options in use today. The current devices available are all T-shaped and are either hormonal or non-hormonal. IUDs are placed in the uterus through the vagina by a trained medical provider, including midwives and nurse practitioners. The hormonal IUDs release levonorgestrel which prevents pregnancy by significantly increasing the amount and thickness of mucous in the cervical canal, making it nearly impossible for sperm to penetrate. The four IUDs available release different amounts of levonorgestrel which affects the duration of use:

  1. Mirena - 20 mcg per day is FDA approved for five years of use
  2. Kyleena - 17.5 mcg per day is approved for five years of use
  3. Liletta - 18.6 mcg per day is approved for four years of use
  4. Skyla - 14 mcg per day is approved for just three years due to its smaller size

The amount of the levonorgestrel hormone released daily with these devices is small, but some women will still experience side effects of the hormone. These include:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Mood changes
  • Breast tenderness
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Decreased menstrual bleeding

The Paragard is the only non-hormonal IUD. The device is made with copper, and the copper itself is the birth control. It works by decreasing sperm mobility keeping the sperm from reaching eggs. Because it does not contain hormones, women do not experience negative hormonal side effects. However, the Paragard has side effects of its own. Commonly women using the Paragard will experience heavier menstrual bleeding and cramping. This device has FDA approval for ten years of use, but is shown to be effective for up to 12 years of use.

Complications with the IUDs are uncommon. Risks include pelvic infection, expulsion of the device, failure of the method, and perforation of the uterus. None of the IUDs induce abortion.


The implant is considered the most effective method of birth control as it cannot be forgotten or accidentally removed. Hormonal implants were first developed in 1966 and, like the IUDs, have gone through design modifications. The current devices are Nexplanon and Implanon. They consist of a porous vinyl rod encapsulating etonogestrel. The porous nature of the vinyl rod allows the release of the hormone slowly over three years. The implant prevents pregnancy by suppressing ovulation and possibly some thickening of the cervical mucus. The matchstick-sized device is placed subdermally in the upper inner arm. Like the IUD, the implant must be inserted by a trained medical provider. Unlike the IUD, providers are required to go through training from the manufacturer before inserting or removing these devices. Complications with insertion and removal are very rare. The commonly reported side effects include:

  • Changes in menstrual bleeding
  • GI upset
  • Headache
  • Breast pain
  • Vaginitis

LARC methods have few contraindications and are safe to use. With their high efficacy and low risk, the LARC birth control methods are ideal for helping teens and young women prevent unplanned pregnancies.  As healthcare providers, we are in a unique position to help educate teens and young women on these highly effective birth control options and can guide teens and young women in making informed decisions regarding their reproductive health. Additional information regarding reproductive health to help guide your counseling is available through the CDC.


Teen Interest in Long-Lasting Birth Control Soars After Roe

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception: Implants and Intrauterine Devices

Leanna Coy, FNP-C works in family medicine specializing in women's health and is a freelance writer.

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1,499 Posts

What counseling is given to these young women about choosing honorable men  that won't abandon them when they find some other woman that will surrender their bodies to them that they are attracted to? I'm always left breathless at the confusion young women experience at the infidelity of the men they choose who have been benefiting from obligation free sex that feel no hesitation of seeking obligation free sex else where. Enabling this phenomenon is not in the interests of these young women. Encouraging virtue and character in living one's life and hanging around others that do the same is. Anything else is perpetuating the cycle of poverty and fatherlessness.

Specializes in OB.

Long acting contraceptives perpetuate the cycle of poverty and fatherlessness?  Do explain.  I'm pretty sure the actual research, as well as common sense, says otherwise.


1,499 Posts

Counter intuitive, right?

And as a result:

My question stands. What guidance is being given to these young women about choosing men of virtue and character to become intimately involved with?

Specializes in OB.


What evidence do you have that young women who can access LARCs are somehow doomed to relationships with men who are not "virtuous?"  What does "virtuous" mean to you?  Why do you feel that the ability to prevent pregnancy causes women to "surrender" or "abandon" themselves to a man?


1,499 Posts

Just look at the data. For the past 5 decades there has been  unprecedented access to abortion and birth control, especially in lower socio-economic, minority areas of the country. Yet the rates of out of marriage births and single motherhood have increased in these groups  meteorically. Several generations of boys have become men habituated to consequence free, obligation free sex. Do these boys and men lie to their girlfriends about staying with them? I don't know. I know that vast numbers do not stay with them to raise the children they helped create. So, "virtuous" means having the decency, courage and fortitude to deny one's own interests for the sake of raising a son or daughter one has helped create. Something demonstrably lacking in large swaths of American society. That kind of 'virtue' not a good thing? Since that kind of virtue won't become common anytime soon, maybe the best thing to do is teach girls that there is no such thing as sex without obligation and consequences regardless if they think they can't get pregnant. 


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Specializes in Hospice, LPN.

The AJOG article was written in 2020 and the NPR article was written in 2017. So no link there. The author of the AJOG article is a researcher with The Turnaway Study, which is an organization that advocates for access to abortion. The point of the AJOG study was to open the discussion to the fact that LARC is less impactful on poverty levels than lack of access to abortion. In other words, lack of abortion is more of a pathway to poverty than using LARC, which assumes that women are making informed reproductive choices and so not being forced to have children that they can't care for.

Based on the articles you posted it seems that you are in favor of access to legal abortion.

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