Long-acting methods of birth control are devices or treatments that prevent pregnancy for months to years. These methods are the best choice for many people who want birth control, including teens. That’s because they work so well to prevent pregnancy. People who use them also like not having to think about their birth control every day, or every time they have sex.

Long-acting birth control methods include:

  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs) – An IUD is a small, T-shaped device made of flexible plastic. If you get an IUD, a doctor or nurse will put it into your uterus through the vagina and cervix. There are 2 types of IUD:
  • Copper-containing IUD – This device (brand name: Paragard) can stay in your uterus and keep working for up to 10 years.
  • Progestin-releasing IUD – There are several of these (brand names: Mirena, Liletta, Kyleena, Skyla). They all release levonorgestrel, which is a type of hormone called a progestin. They can stay in place and keep working for 3 to 6 years, depending on the device.
  • Birth control implant – This is a flexible plastic rod that is 1.5 inches long (about the size of a match). A doctor or nurse inserts the implant under the skin on the inside of your upper arm. It contains the hormone etonogestrel, a progestin, which is slowly released into the body. The implant (brand name: Nexplanon) can stay in for up to 3 years.

Of all birth control options, long-acting methods work the best to prevent pregnancy. Fewer than 1 in 100 people who have an IUD or birth control implant get pregnant during the first year of use.

The main benefit of long-acting birth control is that you do not have to remember to do anything or take any medicines on a regular basis.

The main downside of these methods is that unlike condoms, they do not protect against infections you can catch during sex (called “sexually transmitted infections” or “sexually transmitted diseases”).

Because of the cost of putting in an IUD or implant, these choices are best for people who do not want to become pregnant for at least 1 year. A doctor or nurse needs to remove the IUD or implant when you don’t want to use it anymore.

If you have an IUD or birth control implant, you can choose to have the device removed at any time. Once it is out, you can start trying to get pregnant right away.