About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland reports on the prescribing rate of long acting reversible methods of contraception (LARC) to women of reproductive age (15-49) in primary care and sexual health settings. This includes the contraceptive implant, intrauterine device (IUD) and intrauterine system (IUS).

Main points

In primary care and sexual health settings combined in 2019/20:

  • Prescribing of LARC generally remained stable in recent years at around 52 per 1,000 women but increased slightly to 54 per 1,000 women in 2019/20, which is the highest rate in the reported period (reporting from 2013/14).
  • The most common method of LARC was the contraceptive implant: prescribing rates were 26 per 1,000 women compared to 21 for the IUS and nearly 7 for the IUD. Both IUS and IUD have shown a steady increase in rates in recent years.
  • There is variation between which method is prescribed by age. Women under the age of 35 were more likely to be prescribed the contraceptive implant while women aged 35 and over were more likely to be prescribed the IUS.
Image caption LARC prescribing rate by age group, 2019/20
Bar chart showing the rates of each method of LARC (implant, IUS, IUD + combined total) by age group in 2019/20. Data show implants more commonly prescribed in younger age groups and IUS more so in older age groups.
  • NHS Dumfries & Galloway had the highest rate of prescribing amongst the mainland NHS Boards at 68 per 1,000 women.


This report focuses on very long acting methods of contraception; namely the contraceptive implant, IUD and IUS. Contraceptive injections are also reported on but are presented separately. As multiple contraceptive injections are required per year it is difficult with the current information to determine person level data. As such, while rates are shown to allow comparison between NHS Board areas, caution should be taken interpreting these rates. The overall data for LARC combined are given in Table 5.

In typical use, the ‘long acting’ methods of contraception have a lower failure rate than alternative reversible methods such as the contraceptive pill or condoms (external website).

In August 2011, the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework 2011-2015 (external website) was launched, followed in 2015 by the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework 2015-2020 Update (external website). Both of these support the use of LARC and the 2015-2020 update states that work has been carried out to improve access to such contraception.

Further information

Data from this publication are available from the data files section.

The next release of this publication will be September 2021.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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