Levonorgestrel Intrauterine Device for Emergency Contraception

Levonorgestrel IUD for EC

A New Emergency Contraception Option

A recent study set out to assess the one-month pregnancy risk with the levonorgestrel 52-mg intrauterine device (IUD, Liletta®) as compared with the copper IUD (Paragard®) for emergency contraception (EC). The study included adults up to 35 years old who requested EC after unprotected sexual intercourse. Unprotected sexual intercourse must have occurred within the previous five days, but participants were not excluded if unprotected sexual intercourse also occurred up to 14 days prior. Participants were instructed to follow-up one month after IUD insertion for a urine pregnancy test, but even if they did not follow-up, their medical records for the following six months were reviewed to verify if a pregnancy was ever detected.1

 

Why the Levonorgestrel IUD?

Although not currently approved by the FDA for EC, the copper IUD, has substantial evidence supporting its use for EC. The failure rate of the copper IUD as EC is much lower than that of oral EC options.2-4 However, when compared to the copper IUD, the levonorgestrel IUD is more popular for long-term contraception, likely due to its other benefits, including decreased menstrual bleeding and pain.5-7

 

Failure Rates and Adverse Events

Of 638 total participants who received an IUD, only one patient experienced an EC failure. The patient had received a levonorgestrel IUD and the pregnancy ended in a spontaneous abortion at ten weeks with the IUD still in place. Statistical analysis of the data showed that the levonorgestrel 52-mg IUD was non-inferior to the copper IUD as EC. Rates of adverse events that required medical attention during the first month of IUD use were similar among both groups and very low overall.1

 

What Does This Mean for Patients?

This evidence means there is a new highly effective option for patients seeking EC and ongoing long-term contraception within five days of unprotected sexual intercourse. Although Liletta® was the levonorgestrel IUD used in this study, Mirena® is another levonorgestrel 52-mg IUD that releases the same daily dose of levonorgestrel. Other levonorgestrel IUDs release varying amounts of levonorgestrel, so we cannot necessarily expand these results to other options at this time. It is also possible the levonorgestrel IUD could be effective in preventing pregnancy when used up to 14 days after unprotected sexual intercourse, but more research is needed in this patient population.1

 

What Does This Mean for Pharmacists?

Pharmacists should be aware of this new option when counseling and referring patients who request EC after unprotected sexual intercourse. Of course, pharmacists should also know when it would be appropriate to utilize other EC options and if their state allows them to prescribe oral EC.

 

For more information: 

References

  1. Turok DK, Gero A, Simmons RG, et al. Levonorgestrel vs. copper intrauterine devices for emergency contraception. N Engl J Med. 2021; 384:335-44.
  2. Cleland K, Zhu H, Goldstuck N, et al. The efficacy of intrauterine devices for emergency contraception: a systematic review of 35 years of experience. Hum Reprod. 2012; 27:1994-2000.
  3. Glasier AF, Cameron ST, Fine PM, et al. Ulipristal acetate versus levonorgestrel for emergency contraception: a randomized non-inferiority trial and meta-analysis. Lancet. 2010; 375:555-62.
  4. von Hertzen H, Piaggio G, Ding J, et al. Low dose mifepristone and two regimens of levonorgestrel for emergency contraception: a WHO multicenter randomized trial. Lancet. 2002; 360:1803-10.
  5. Diedrich JT, Desai S, Zhao Q, et al. Association of short-term bleeding and cramping patterns with long-acting reversible contraceptive method satisfaction. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2015; 212:50-8.
  6. Sanders JN, Myers K, Gawron LM, et al. Contraceptive method use during the community wide HER Salt Lake contraceptive initiative. Am J Public Health. 2018; 108:550-6.
  7. Peipert JF, Zhao Q, Allsworth JE, et al. Continuation and satisfaction of reversible contraception. Obstet Gynecol. 2011; 117:1105-13.


About the AuthorKatie Hood

Katie Hood, PharmD Candidate is a pharmacy student in the Class of 2021 at Shenandoah University Bernard J. Dunn School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Katie completed an elective APPE rotation with Birth Control Pharmacist.

Clinical Considerations for Contraception During COVID: Extended Duration of IUDs and Implants

Contraceptive care should not be compromised during this global pandemic. As many providers transition to contactless care methods via telehealth, patients that utilize long-acting reversible contraception may be worried if their intrauterine device (IUD) or implant has reached its expiration and needs to be removed or replaced. Pharmacists play an important role in educating patients about birth control, including what options are available to them when in-person appointments are not available at their regular clinic or doctor’s office. 

Expiration Dating 

The expiration date listed on the IUD and implant packaging should not be confused with the duration of use. The date stated on the packaging refers to the date by which the implant and IUD should be inserted.  Therefore, as long as the contraceptive device is inserted before the expiration date listed on the package, the IUD or implant will be effective for the entire duration indicated for each method. If the expiration date listed on the package has passed, the device is considered expired so it should not be used for a patient and should be discarded.  

Duration

Studies have demonstrated that IUDs and implants are effective past the FDA-approved duration. This evidence can help minimize concerns about ineffective devices that cannot be replaced due to cancelled doctor’s appointments due to COVID-19 or patient inability to go in due to exposure concerns, insurance loss, or any challenges. See table below to view extended evidence-based durations. 

Table modified from Reproductive Health Access Project

If the IUD or implant usage extends beyond the evidence-based duration, the patient should utilize an alternative birth control method until she is able to resume in-person visits with their provider to remove the device and possibly replace it with a new one if the patient desires. Providers should inform patients that leaving an IUD or implant in place past the evidence-based duration will not cause harm. While there are no safety concerns, there is no benefit as the device is not expected to be effective.

Pharmacists Roles

Pharmacists cannot prescribe or insert IUDs or implants, however, pharmacists have the ability to prescribe self-administered hormonal contraceptives in some states and can always provide over-the-counter barrier and emergency methods. If patients want an implant or IUD, pharmacists are able to initiate an alternative method in the meantime until patients are able to visit their clinic or doctor’s office for IUD or implant insertion. See our COVID page for more on providing contraceptive care during COVID-19. 

For patients not satisfied with their current birth control regimen who are interested in switching to an IUD or implant, pharmacists can refer the patient to a provider and educate the patient on proper bridging methods to prevent pregnancy during the transition to an IUD or implant. 

It is important that pharmacists stay up to date on birth control recommendations and clinical updates in order to provide guidance for patients and providers during a public health emergency. Pharmacists play an integral role in providing patients with the resources and education needed to make informed decisions on their contraceptive options. See the ACCP Women’s Health PRN Opinion Paper on the pharmacist’s role in safe and effective use of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods. 

If a patient is having symptoms related to their IUD or implant, they should be seen for this at a local clinic or doctor’s office. To find a clinic that provides contraceptive devices, visit Bedsider’s clinic finder.

References


About the Author

Kailey Hifumi is a student pharmacist at the Pacific University School of Pharmacy.

Photograph of Kailey Hifumi