LARCs: what are long-acting reversible contraceptives?

Learn about the most effective methods of birth control: LARCS or long-acting reversible contraceptives.

LARCs: what are long-acting reversible contraceptives?

Whether you've heard about them on social media or from your gynaecologist directly there has been a lot of buzz about the category of contraceptives called LARCs or long-acting reversible contraceptives.

So what are LARCs?

The contraceptives that fit under the LARC category include the copper IUD (intrauterine device), the hormonal IUS (intrauterine system) and the implant. The long-acting part of LARC refers to the fact that all of these methods last a long time at preventing pregnancy especially compared to other methods of contraception. The reversible part of LARC refers to the fact that your fertility (or ability to have children) returns once you get the LARC removed.

graphics of copper iud, implant, hormonal ius left to right.

Let's breakdown LARCs according to UK guidelines*.

  • The copper IUD (also called copper coil) is a non-hormonal IUD that sits in your uterus protecting against pregnancy between 5-10 years.
  • The hormonal IUS contains the hormone progestogen and sits in your uterus protecting against pregnancy between 3-5 years.
  • The contraceptive implant also uses the hormone progestogen and remains in your arm preventing against pregnancy for up to 3 years.

Important LARC characteristics

These methods have more than just their long-acting nature and reversibility in common. Importantly, they are all greater than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. These methods require a procedure with a trained healthcare provider to have the method inserted. They're also referred to as "easy to use" methods because once you get them inserted you don't have to worry about them (i.e. you don't need to remember to take anything daily or need to get frequent checks from a healthcare provider to maintain them).

Similarly, LARCs are discreet methods meaning they're not very visible to friends, family or sexual partners. If discreetness is important to you, do note that sexual partners may sometimes feel IUD/IUS strings during sex. LARCs must be used together with condoms for STI prevention.


It's important to note that guidelines for how long certain methods can last preventing pregnancy may vary from country to country.

Interested in getting a LARC?

Contact your local GP, a sexual health clinic, a practice nurse or a young person's clinic to get an appointment for a fitting.