Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Long-acting reversible contraceptives – or LARCs – are quietly revolutionising the way people manage their fertility. Unfortunately not everyone can afford them.
While LARCs are not new, the new generation options are proven to be highly effective, safe methods of contraception for all ages. LARCS are “fit and forget” methods, which are up to 20 times more effective than oral contraceptive pills. Increasing LARC use is thought to be a factor in decreasing teenage pregnancy and abortion rates.
Cost can be a significant barrier to people accessing LARCs. While research shows they are the most cost-effective form of contraception, high up-front costs can make them out of reach for some.
In New Zealand there are a number of approved LARCs. However only two types are funded (and therefore available at low or no cost) – the Jadelle implant and the copper IUD. The other LARC option - a hormonal IUD - is not funded for contraception and this leaves New Zealand women with fewer options than many women overseas.
“We have asked PHARMAC to fund a hormonal IUD,” says Jackie Edmond, Chief Executive of Family Planning New Zealand. “It’s not right that this highly effective form of contraception is only available to women who can afford it.”
While the funded implant and copper IUD work well for some women, for others the side effects make these options unacceptable. For example, a copper IUD is unlikely to work for someone with heavy or painful periods. While a hormonal IUD would likely be a much better LARC option for these people, it can cost between $275 to $600 depending on the provider. This cost is a significant barrier, making access inequitable.
“Everyone should be able to choose the type of contraception that works for them,” says Jackie Edmond, Chief Executive of Family Planning. “We know that when there are more options available, people are more likely to find something that works.”
“LARCs can be a great option because you don’t have to remember to take a pill everyday or visit the clinic every three months for an injection to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.”
LARCs are inserted by a trained health practitioner and can be left in place from 3 to 10 years – depending on the type - to prevent pregnancy. They can be removed at any time and fertility will quickly return.
Most women use some form of contraception for three decades of their life. Contraception is basic health care.
While New Zealand does not have current published data around contraceptive use, US researchers report that use of LARCs, “especially the IUD, more than tripled between 2007 and 2012, from 3.7% of all contraceptive users to 11.6%.”
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.