Long-acting Birth Control. Is it right for you?

Looking for birth control that is long acting and easily reversible? Consider an IUD or arm implant.

Long-acting Birth Control 

Are you seeking birth control but don’t want to be tied to taking a pill every day? Sometimes life is unexpected, and sometimes we forget. Luckily, there are birth control options out there that don’t rely on phone alarms and pill boxes. Long-acting birth control is one and done, with nothing you have to do after insertion.  

There are two common types currently available: intrauterine devices (IUDs) and the arm implant. 


Intrauterine devices are T-shaped pieces of plastic, about the size of quarter, that are placed in the uterus through the vagina that prevent fertilization of an egg. No egg fertilization = no pregnancy. 

How does it work?  

There are two categories of IUDs, hormonal and non-hormonal. 

  • The hormonal model releases a progestin hormone that makes the mucus in the cervix so thick that the sperm are unable to swim through it to reach the egg (think fly trapped in honey). 
  • The other model relies on copper rather than hormones to create a hostile environment for the sperm. 

Will the insertion hurt?  

It depends on the person. Some experience significant cramping, while others experience mild to moderate levels of pain. It is often recommended to take something beforehand, such as ibuprofen. 

What will happen to my period?  

Both the hormonal and copper IUDS can change the pattern of your normal cycle. 

  • Hormonal IUDS typically lighten your period or eventually cause you to get no period at all. 
  • Copper IUDs can increase bleeding and cramping when first inserted; this will likely decrease over time. 

How long does it last?  

There are several types to choose from, lasting between 3-10 years. 

Arm Implant

A discreet, small, flexible rod, the size of a matchstick, is inserted under the skin in the inner part of the upper arm.  A progestin hormone is released to stop ovulation. In other words, there is no egg to be fertilized. Like hormonal IUDs, the hormone in the implant also makes the cervical mucus thick so the sperm can’t swim through it. 

Will the insertion hurt?  

Unlike the IUD, it is easy to numb the skin where the implant is placed. It is for the most part painless, however it is common to have initial bruising at the insertion site. 

What will happen to my period?  

The most common side effect is a change in your bleeding pattern. Some people’s periods may become lighter, heavier, and some periods may stop coming all together. 

All of these long-acting birth control methods are completely reversible and do not affect your ability to get pregnant after they are removed. If you begin to experience any unwanted side effects (weight gain, acne, mood changes) they can be taken out as easily as they were put in. 

These methods of contraception do not prevent sexually transmitted infections. Use a condom, be transparent about STI status and get tested often if you’re having sex with multiple partners. 

In the end, everybody is different, and it is difficult to predict exactly how your body will react to any type of birth control.  

Schedule an appointment at NH + C’s Women’s Health Center to explore your options further.



Frequently Asked Questions

How effective are these methods?

Both IUDs and implants are extremely effective. Less than 1% of people become pregnant while using these methods. That’s 20 times more effective than taking the pill! 

How long does it last?

Up to 3 years. After 3 years, a new implant can be inserted at the same appointment where the old one is being taken out. 

When does it start working?

Depending on the type and where you are in your menstrual cycle, it can be safe to start having sex immediately or after 7 days. Talk to your provider.