When you’re considering changing contraception, often the first step is to ask friends about their experience. However, it’s likely that few of your friends have used LARC (long-acting reversible contraception). That’s because LARC in Australia is still uncommon.

The introduction of the contraceptive pill transformed women’s lives. It changed how we planned our families, the structure of our society and provided greater control for women over their destinies. But while Australian women were early adopters of the Pill when it was released in 1961, we’ve been reluctant to modernise. Great strides have been made in more effective contraceptive options, yet as a nation, we seem to be stuck in the 60s.

Unplanned Pregnancies on Contraception

Of the 208 million pregnancies worldwide each year, roughly 41% are unplanned. The stats are similar in Australia, with just under half of all pregnancies being unplanned.

A file audit by Marie Stopes Australia found that more than one in three women accessing an abortion reported using the Pill at the time of conception. The audit comprised a random sample of women accessing medical and surgical terminations during Oct 2016 to April 2017 (N=1160) and found that “59% of women were using a form of contraception at the time of conception.”

The audit, which investigates the methods and failure of contraception, found that more than 40% were not using contraception at the time of conception.

Why is LARC great?

The Pill and Condoms are important and valid contraception methods. In fact, the condom is still the only form of protection (other than abstinence) against STIs. They do, however, rely on perfect use, which, as we know, is not always guaranteed.

Long-acting reversible contraceptives are less user-dependent forms of contraception. They include progesterone-only implants and Hormonal and Copper IUDs. They are often referred to as a set-and-forget method that lasts for a number of years and are over 99% effective.

Our contraception expert, Cynthia Pollard, says it’s important that medical professionals have more robust conversations about effective contraception options.

“We know that Long-Acting Reversible Contraception is the most effective form of contraception, yet take up in Australia has been low compared to other countries. We are keen to shift the conversation about contraception to include more methods like IUDs.”

The research project revealed that 37% of women accessing an abortion were using short-term contraception, including the Pill and 21% were relying on condoms. Despite all of this, take up of LARCs in Australia remains slow.