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The following table compares the effectiveness of different birth control methods. The column on the right shows the number of women out of 100 who will have an unplanned pregnancy in the first year of using a method. These numbers represent studies of real-life usage.

You can improve on the real-life failure rate of birth control methods by consistently using birth control methods as directed. But even if used perfectly each time, a method will still fail to prevent a pregnancy in a certain number of women.

Effectiveness of birth control methods
Category Method Number of unplanned pregnancies out of 100 typical users1, 2 Number of unplanned pregnancies out of 100 people that used the method exactly as directed1, 2
Hormonal

Combination birth control pills

8

Fewer than 1

Hormonal implant

Fewer than 1

Fewer than 1

The shot

3

Fewer than 1

Transdermal patch

8

Fewer than 1

Progestin-only pills (mini-pills)

8

Fewer than 1

Vaginal ring

8

Fewer than 1

IUD

Hormonal IUD

Fewer than 1

Fewer than 1

Copper IUD

Fewer than 1

Fewer than 1

Barrier methods

Condom, male

15

2

Withdrawal

27

4

Condom, female

21

5

Diaphragm with spermicide

16

6

Spermicide alone

29

18

Sponge with spermicide (no previous vaginal childbirth)

16

9

Sponge with spermicide (after vaginal childbirth)

32

20

Cervical cap (no previous vaginal childbirth)

16

9

Cervical cap (after vaginal delivery)

32

26

Fertility awareness

Periodic abstinence and fertility awareness methods

25

5

Surgery

Vasectomy

Fewer than 1

Fewer than 1

Tubal ligation or tubal implants

Fewer than 1

Fewer than 1

No birth control

No birth control

85

85

The numbers shown in this table show the typical use rates for the average population, including people who use their birth control very carefully and those who do not.

  • Birth Control

Citations

  1. Trussell J (2007). Choosing a contraceptive: Efficacy, safety, and personal considerations. In RA Hatcher et al., eds., Contraceptive Technology, 19th ed., pp. 19–47. New York: Ardent Media.

  2. Abramowicz M (2010). Choice of contraceptives. Treatment Guidelines From the Medical Letter, 8(100): 89–96.


By: Healthwise Staff Current as of: May 3, 2012
Medical Review: Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Femi Olatunbosun, MB, FRCSC - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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