8 Things Everyone Should Know About Contraceptive Implants & IUDs

—And Why They’re Great Options for Young People—

The largest generation of young people in history is coming of age. 
A significant number of the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents and youth are sexually active and want to prevent or delay a pregnancy for multiple 
years — until they finish school, gain employment, get married, or to 
space their children.

Contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices (IUDs) are great options. They can prevent against pregnancy for 3–5 years (implant) and 5–12 years (IUD), depending on the type. And when your contraceptive is removed, you’re able to become pregnant immediately.

Yet for millions of young people across the globe, these highly effective contraceptive methods are out of reach.

This World Contraception Day help us share the facts. Because real contraceptive choice for young people includes all methods, here are 
8 things everyone should know about implants and IUDs:

1. If given a choice, many young people choose implants and IUDs

When adolescents are truly given their choice of contraceptive method, and barriers like cost are removed, a significant number choose implants and IUDs. A recent study in the United States showed that when counseled on all of their options, nearly 70% of young people 14–25 enrolled in the project chose a long-acting reversible method.

2. These methods are low maintenance and extremely effective

Implants and IUDs are among the most effective contraceptive methods available, and they are reversible.

“Implants and IUDs are low maintenance,” says Worknesh Kereta Abshiro, a senior expert in adolescent sexual and reproductive health for Pathfinder International in Ethiopia. “There’s no daily pill to forget to take. That’s something we hear a lot from adolescents we serve. Uninterrupted use means fewer unintended pregnancies.”
Source: Trussell, J. “Contraceptive failure in the United States.” Contraception 83, no. 5 (2011)
More than 50% of young people starting contraception for the first time are choosing implants or IUDs through one of Pathfinder’s latest programs in Tanzania

3. Benefits go beyond contraception

Hormonal IUDs and implants often decrease menstrual flow and pain, making them useful when treating conditions like endometriosis and excessively heavy menstrual cycles leading to anemia. These contraceptive methods can also lead to higher hemoglobin levels and help reduce anemia, which is common in developing countries, especially for adolescent girls.

4. Within 3 years, implants and IUDs save money

Even if implants and IUDs aren’t used for their full duration of efficacy,
 a recent study showed that within just three years of use, they are less expensive than short-acting methods, such as contraceptive pills, a ring, patch, or injection.

5. We’re seeing a global surge in use

Worldwide, the use of contraceptive implants is growing faster than almost any other method. In the last decade, use of the contraceptive implant has more than doubled in Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Malawi. Among countries that are part of the global Family Planning 2020 initiative, three countries have the highest increases in the percentage of women ages 15–49 using implants. Pathfinder works in two of them — Kenya and Ethiopia.

“I received a special training on implants and IUDs. I became aware that long-acting methods are appropriate for adolescent girls. More girls, especially the ones who go to the university, prefer these options. They can avoid the burden of traveling to the health center again and again. And I think they choose this method because they know it won’t affect their fertility in the future.” — Fantu Tebike, a health provider trained by Pathfinder in Ethiopia

This surge in use of long-acting reversible contraception extends to the United States, where use of implants and IUDs has increased nearly 5-fold 
in the last decade
. Planned Parenthood reported a 91% increase in 5 years.

6. Young people are being discriminated against

The World Health Organization, the International Confederation of Midwives, and the United Nations Population Fund have all issued statements affirming that long-acting, reversible contraceptives are safe and appropriate to offer to young people. So what stands in young people’s way?

“It’s very common for health providers to deny young people implants and IUDs. Some don’t have correct information and fear these methods could harm adolescents. There is also real bias — because of the adolescent’s age, because she’s not married, or because she hasn’t had a child yet.” — Anna Temba, Assistant Clinical Technical Advisor, Pathfinder Tanzania

Barriers young people face include a lack of knowledge about contraceptive options; myths and misconceptions; a lack of family, partner, and community support; negative social norms; provider bias, the absence of comprehensive and high-quality contraceptive services; and restrictive laws and policies.

You can help change this.

Sign the global consensus statement — demand full contraceptive choice for adolescents and youth, including long-acting reversible methods.

7. More removal services are needed

Across the globe, removal services for implants and IUDs are not keeping pace with insertion. In Kenya, 86% of government health facilities offering contraception services provided implants in 2015. Only 67% provided removals. In 69 FP2020 focus countries, the projected number of removals that will be needed in 2018 is more than twice what was needed 2015 — an increase of over 3.5 million removals.

The right to stop using contraception is equally as important as the right to access contraception in the first place. We’re making sure women get the full services they need.

“Efforts to increase access to contraceptives don’t fully serve women in need unless there is equal emphasis on accessible removals. That’s why we are proud to be leading the way in both insertion and removal.” — Candace Lew, Senior Technical Advisor for Contraception, Pathfinder International

8. You can take action

Share the facts about contraceptive implants and IUDs — if you believe that young people everywhere should have full and informed choice for contraception, including implants and IUDs.

Informed choice starts with information. Share this blog today!

Ethiopia: Pathfinder Ethiopia & Sala Lewis
Tanzania: Maren Vespia & Sala Lewis

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