Long-acting contraceptive options

A M Kaunitz
International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies 1996, 41 (2): 69-76
Long-acting contraceptive methods are appropriate choices for women who prefer the convenience and high contraceptive efficacy of methods not requiring frequent compliance, and women for whom contraceptive doses of estrogen are either medically contraindicated or associated with persistent intolerable side effects. Annual pregnancy rates for the three methods described below are less than 1 per 100 woman-years. As currently formulated, levonorgestrel implants (Norplant) consist of six 34 x 2.4 mm soft plastic implants, each filled with 36 mg of crystalline levonorgestrel. Irregular and often persistent menstrual bleeding and spotting constitute the most important side effects experienced by and leading to method discontinuation in implant users. Implant removal is technically more difficult and time-consuming than insertion. Depot-medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA or Depo-Provera) is injected as an aqueous suspension of microcrystals. Intramuscular injection of 150 mg of DMPA results in more than 3 months of contraception. Irregular bleeding and spotting followed by amenorrhea, constitute the most importance side effects experienced by DMPA users. Because DMPA use can result in prolonged (but not permanent) infertility, DMPA is not an optimum contraceptive choice for women who may want to conceive in the next one or two years. The Copper T380A intrauterine device (IUD) provides reversible contraception for up to 10 years. IUDs act as contraceptives, not early abortafacients. Recent epidemiologic data indicate that long-term IUD use does not increase the occurrence of pelvic inflammatory disease. Heavier menstrual flow and cramps constitute the main side effects experienced by women using the copper IUD. Intrauterine device insertion and removal are accomplished during brief office-based procedures.

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