Prolonged use of the etonogestrel implant and levonorgestrel intrauterine device: 2 years beyond Food and Drug Administration-approved duration

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jun;216(6):586.e1-586.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2017.01.036. Epub 2017 Jan 29.


Background: The subdermal contraceptive implant and the 52-mg levonorgestrel intrauterine device are currently Food and Drug Administration approved for 3 and 5 years of use, respectively. Limited available data suggested both of these methods are effective beyond that time. Demonstration of prolonged effectiveness will improve the cost-effectiveness of the device, and potentially patient continuation and satisfaction.

Objective: We sought to evaluate the effectiveness of the contraceptive implant and the 52-mg hormonal intrauterine device in women using the method for 2 years beyond the current Food and Drug Administration-approved duration.

Study design: We initiated this ongoing prospective cohort study in January 2012. We are enrolling women using the contraceptive implant or 52-mg levonorgestrel intrauterine device for a minimum of 3 and 5 years, respectively (started intrauterine device in ≥2007 or implant in ≥2009). Demographic and reproductive health histories, as well as objective body mass index, were collected. Implant users were offered periodic venipuncture for analysis of serum etonogestrel levels. The primary outcome, unintended pregnancy rate, was calculated per 100 woman-years. We analyzed baseline demographic characteristics using χ2 test and Fisher exact test, and compared serum etonogestrel levels stratified by body mass index using the Kruskal-Wallis test.

Results: Implant users (n = 291) have contributed 444.0 woman-years of follow-up. There have been no documented pregnancies in implant users during the 2 years of postexpiration follow-up. Calculated failure rates in the fourth and fifth years for the implant are calculated as 0 (1-sided 97.5% confidence interval, 0-1.48) per 100 woman-years at 4 years and 0 (1-sided 97.5% confidence interval, 0-2.65) per 100 woman-years at 5 years. Among 496 levonorgestrel intrauterine device users, 696.9 woman-years of follow-up have been completed. Two pregnancies have been reported. The failure rate in the sixth year of use of the levonorgestrel intrauterine device is calculated as 0.25 (95% confidence interval, 0.04-1.42) per 100 woman-years; failure rate during the seventh year is 0.43 (95% confidence interval, 0.08-2.39) per 100 woman-years. Among implant users with serum etonogestrel results, the median etonogestrel level was 207.7 pg/mL (range 63.8-802.6 pg/mL) at the time of method expiration, 166.1 pg/mL (range 67.9 25.0-470.5 pg/mL) at the end of the fourth year, and 153.0 pg/mL (range 72.1-538.8 pg/mL) at the end of the fifth year. Median etonogestrel levels were compared by body mass index at each time point and a statistical difference was noted at the end of 4 years of use with overweight women having the highest serum etonogestrel (195.9; range 25.0-450.5 pg/mL) when compared to normal (178.9; range 87.0-463.7 pg/mL) and obese (137.9; range 66.0-470.5 pg/mL) women (P = .04).

Conclusion: This study indicates that the contraceptive implant and 52-mg hormonal intrauterine device continue to be highly effective for at least 2 additional years of use. Serum etonogestrel evaluation demonstrates median levels remain above the ovulation threshold of 90 pg/mL for women in all body mass index classes.

Keywords: Food and Drug Administration–approved duration; effectiveness; implant; intrauterine device; prolonged use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female*
  • Desogestrel / administration & dosage*
  • Desogestrel / adverse effects
  • Drug Implants*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intrauterine Devices, Medicated*
  • Levonorgestrel / administration & dosage*
  • Levonorgestrel / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Unplanned
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration
  • Young Adult


  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Drug Implants
  • etonogestrel
  • Levonorgestrel
  • Desogestrel