Embedding LARC education in other contraceptive lessons

While today’s lesson plan isn’t focused specifically on LARCs, as the rest of the week has been, the organization of the lesson definitely focuses on the differences between LARCs and other common hormonal contraceptive methods. LARCs stand in a class of their own regarding ease of use and effectiveness – something students benefit from knowing, but are rarely told. The ease of use with an IUC or an implant are so remarkable – nothing to remember? No way to do it wrong? Wow! Why do LARCs remain such an untapped resource in the contraceptive world anyway?
Oh. That’s right. Because people don’t know about them.
So let’s get out there and change that!
By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:
1. Identify the characteristics of each of the currently available hormonal contraceptives.
2. Describe the personal characteristics that would make an individual a good or a poor candidate for use of a particular hormonal method.
3. Discuss the fact that these highly effective methods of contraception do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
Although hormonal contraceptives are highly effective, rumors and misinformation about them can prevent young women from making educated decisions regarding their use. Unwarranted fears may discourage use, and, in the case of the Pill, lead to poor compliance. On the other hand, lack of knowledge about side effects may lead to dissatisfaction after a method has been initiated. This lesson presents the facts about hormonal contraceptives and leads to the recognition that each woman needs to examine her own feelings in order to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a particular method as a possible choice for herself. This also includes building awareness that hormonal methods alone do not provide protection against STIs.
The objectives for this lesson are, I think, way too ambitious for one lesson plan.
The first one, alone, asks for a higher level of recall than most participants are going to be able to achieve after one session on contraception. The lesson plan goes over twenty topics as they relate to six contraceptive methods (the pill, the patch, the ring, Depo, the implant, and Mirena). This means there are 120 discrete pieces of information included in the handout – to say nothing of the discussion around these issues!
Nevertheless, while the objectives aim for the moon, and the lesson plan is just too short to manage it, it does provide an incredibly useful activity handout and a nice series of discussion questions that will get participants considering all sorts of things about contraception. For example: How can a male partner share responsibility with a woman who chooses any one of these methods? It’s a good question, and can bring up a whole host of conversation threads in the classroom. I love using questions like these and having groups of participants come up with a large number of answers (usually 10 of them) because it helps to expand their initial thinking on the subject. When we allow participants to consider only one or two of the more obvious answers, we fail to provide the best possible education!