More Women Are Choosing Long-Acting Birth Control

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Of American women who use birth control, the number who choose to use long-acting versions like the intrauterine device (IUD) or implant has significantly increased, according to a new federal report.

New data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that 11.6% of women who used birth control in the U.S. in 2011-2013 chose long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC)—almost double the rate in 2006-2010, when 6% of women using birth control chose these methods. In 2002, the rate was 2%.

Among women using LARC in the most recent report, 10.3% reported using an IUD and 1.3% used an implant.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are highly effective and low maintenance. The failure rate for these methods is around 0.8% for the IUD and 0.05% for the implant—compared to 9% for the pill and 18% for the male condom.

The most popular birth control method in 2011-2013 remained the pill at 26% and female sterilization at 25%. The male condom came in at 15%.

MORE: The Second-Most Popular Form Of Birth Control Will Surprise You

The researchers point out that although practically all sexually active women in the U.S. have used contraception at some point, not everyone uses birth control consistently or correctly. LARC methods don’t require action by the user once inserted, the authors point out (though they don’t protect against sexually transmitted infections.)

One of the reasons LARC methods haven’t been as popular as other modes of contraception in the United States is due to flawed versions in 1970s that resulted in brands pulled from the market, as TIME previously reported. Today’s versions are considered safe and effective. LARC has also been expensive compared to some other methods, costing as much as $900 for uninsured women. But contraceptive coverage in the Affordable Care Act has made the IUD less expensive for women, reports the non-profit research group Guttmacher Institute.

MORE: Why The Best Form Of Birth Control Is The One No One Is Using

The researchers who conducted the new study note that a woman’s choice of birth control method can change over time due to availability and changes in societal fertility patterns. The report authors point out that women are having their first child later in life, and there’s a rise in the number of women having their first child after age 35. “This suggests potential changes over time in the use of contraception by age as first births are delayed,” they write.


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