Long-Acting Reversible Contraception for Adolescents: A Review

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Abstract

Importance

Adolescents have higher rates of unintended pregnancies than any other age group. Contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) that are known to be highly effective in preventing pregnancy. New devices have recently been approved for use in adolescents, yet pediatricians may be less familiar with how to counsel adolescents about implants and IUDs.

Observations

LARC methods should be described in basic terms to adolescents, including hormone dose, method of insertion, and method of pregnancy prevention. Clinicians should appreciate the developmental stages of adolescents, discuss the most effective methods of contraception, and ensure confidentiality from their parents. Short-acting contraception methods (eg, oral contraceptives) can be used as a temporary bridge to provide coverage until a LARC method can be placed. The most common adverse effect of LARC is nuisance bleeding, which can be managed with short courses of oral contraceptives or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Conclusions and Relevance

LARC devices constitute first-line contraceptive methods for adolescents. All clinicians, including pediatricians, can counsel about LARC even before suggesting an oral contraceptive or another less effective contraceptive method. Effective, confidential communication with sensitive language to inform adolescents of the different types of LARC is necessary to normalize offering LARC as a contraceptive option and improve its uptake among adolescents. Special clinical populations can also be offered appropriate contraceptive options inclusive of LARC.

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