LARC Trends and What’s Next for Colorado?

Date: March 12th, 2015

Kelly Connelly

Use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) increased nearly five-fold in the last decade, according to recent data from the National Survey of Family Growth. These contraceptives, which include intrauterine devices (more commonly known as IUDs) and subdermal hormonal implants, have gained popularity in recent years because of their high efficacy in preventing pregnancies. LARCs are recommended for adolescents and women of all ages by American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), as explained in a recent committee opinion: “With top-tier effectiveness, high rates of satisfaction and continuation, and no need for daily adherence, LARC methods should be first-line recommendations for all women and adolescents.”

Among the key findings included in the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Data Brief:

  • LARC use among women aged 15-24 increased from 0.6% to 5% between 2002 and 2013.
  • Women who have had at least one birth use LARCs at a higher rate than women who have had no previous births.
  • LARC use is highest among women aged 25-34 (11.1%)

These graphs below illustrate some of the data presented in the report:

Trends in current long-acting reversible contraceptive use, by device

Trends in long-acting reversible contraceptive use, by age

Trends in current long-acting reversible contraceptive use, by race & Hispanic origin

One recent success story of the benefits of LARC usage can be seen in Colorado, where the increased use of LARCs has been tied to huge drops in teen birth rates throughout the state, rates which exceed declines seen at a national level.

The cost of LARCS and lack of knowledge about them among providers and potential users often results in limited access to consumers. To address these barriers, The Colorado Family Planning Initiative (CFPI) trained providers, financed LARC method provision at Title X–funded clinics in the state, and increased patient caseload. LARC usage among 15-24-year olds in Colorado increased from 5% in 2008, when the CFPI program started to 19% in 2011, which is significantly higher than the national average for this age group, as mentioned earlier. (Read more about this in this article published in Guttmacher Institute’s Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.)

This work in Colorado was funded by a 23.6 million dollar private donation, but that money is running out. Plans to continue the work are being proposed by a bill (House Bill 15-1194) that would provide five million dollars in state funds. Although the bill has been met with some opposition in the state—despite the success and popularity of the program—the bill made its way through its first house committee two weeks ago. (One opponent of the bill made the claim IUDs are not contraception, but rather an abortifacient. This is incorrect.)

We know that LARCs demonstrate greater efficacy in preventing pregnancy compared with other contraceptive methods. We also know that despite this, there are barriers to access for many women. What we don’t know is what’s next for LARC access and use moving forward both nationally and in Colorado specifically. Time will tell.

What’s happening with LARCs in your states and communities? What barriers, if any, are you seeing to people receiving LARCs? Let us know in the comment section below!

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About the Author

Healthy Teen Network Senior Marketing and Communications Manager Kelly Connelly, BA, is a graphic designer, photographer, and videographer, and she is experienced at developing skills-building workshops and programs, for professionals as well as youth.

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