Dr Caitriona Henchion
Medical Director, Irish Family Planning Association.
If taking a pill every day isn’t ideal, a “fit and forget” method of contraception could be right for you. They’re highly effective – and last for up to ten years.
A social media storm broke out recently after confirmation that women who take the contraceptive pill can continue the active pills without a break – and skip their period.
It was clear from the online reaction that, for thousands of women, avoiding periods would be a welcome relief.
But there are already contraceptive methods that can do this without a daily pill.
The most effective contraception available
They’re known as long-acting reversible contraceptives or LARCs – what we call “fit and forget” methods. They last for up to ten years and, because there’s no chance of user error, they’re the most effective forms of contraception available – more than 99% effective.
Three types – the hormonal coil, the injection and the implant – work by slowly releasing hormones into the body. They can make your periods lighter or less frequent, or stop them altogether.
There’s also a LARC that may be suitable for women who are looking for alternatives to hormonal contraception. The copper coil is just as effective as the other LARCs and can also be used as emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex.
It’s a myth you can’t get the coil unless you’ve had a baby
Some myths around LARCs persist – like you can’t get a coil if you haven’t had a baby (not true); or that they’re not suitable for teenagers (also not true).
In the future, contraception may be free
One disadvantage is cost. Though LARCs are highly cost-effective over time, women who don’t have medical cards may find the upfront cost beyond their means – it can amount to a few hundred euro. But we hope that barrier will fall; the Department of Health is working on plans for the provision of free contraception for anyone who needs it.
You can speak to your GP or practice nurse or visit your local family planning clinic to discuss your options. You can also find information on all types of contraception on the IFPA website.