Strategies to prevent unintended pregnancy: increasing use of long-acting reversible contraception

Hum Reprod Update. 2011 Jan-Feb;17(1):121-37. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmq026. Epub 2010 Jul 15.


Background: Despite increasing contraceptive availability, unintended pregnancy remains a global problem, representing as many as 30% of all known pregnancies. Various strategies have been proposed to reverse this disturbing trend, especially increased use of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods. In this review we aim to discuss the role of LARC methods and importance of contraceptive counseling in reducing unintended pregnancy rates.

Methods: References/resources cited were identified based on searches of medical literature (MEDLINE, 1990-2009), bibliographies of relevant publications and the Internet.

Results and conclusions: LARC methods-copper intrauterine devices (IUDs), progestogen-releasing intrauterine system and injectable and implantable contraceptives-are safe and effective contraceptive options (unintended pregnancy rates with typical versus perfect use: 0.05-3.0 versus 0.05-0.6%) that are appropriate for a wide range of women seeking to limit or space childbearing. Despite their safety and efficacy records, these methods remain underutilized; injectable and implantable methods are used by an estimated 3.4% and intrauterine methods by 15.5% of women worldwide. LARC methods require no daily or coital adherence and avoid the adverse events and health risks of estrogen-containing contraceptives. The copper IUD and progestin-only injections and implants have been shown to be more cost-effective than more commonly used methods, such as condoms and the pill (5-year savings: $13,373-$14,122, LARC; $12,239, condoms; $12,879, pill). Women who are considering use of LARC methods should receive comprehensive contraceptive counseling, as women who receive counseling before use demonstrate higher rates of after-use method satisfaction, continuation and acceptance than those who do not.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Contraception / methods*
  • Contraception / psychology
  • Contraception Behavior / trends*
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female / pharmacology
  • Counseling
  • Family Planning Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices / economics
  • Intrauterine Devices / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Rate
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female