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Contraceptive Options and Effectiveness

The chart describes types of contraception from the most to the least effective.

Contraception resulting in less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women in a year

  • Reversible contraception
    • Implant: 0.05% of women using an implant experienced an unintended pregnancy.
    • Intrauterine device (IUD): 0.2% of women using an LNG intrauterine device experienced an unintended pregnancy, and 0.8% of women using a Copper T intrauterine device experienced an unintended pregnancy.
  • Permanent contraception
    • Male sterilization (vasectomy): 0.15% of women whose partners had male sterilization experienced an unintended pregnancy.
    • Female sterilization (abdominal, laparoscopic, or hysteroscopic): 0.5% of women who have had female sterilization experienced an unintended pregnancy.

How to make your method most effective

After the procedure there is little or nothing to do or remember. For vasectomy or hysteroscopic sterilization, use another method of the first 3 months.

Contraception resulting in 6-12 pregnancies per 100 women in a year

  • Injectable: 6% of women using injectable contraception experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Pill: 9% of women using a pill experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Patch: 9% of women using a patch experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Ring: 9% of women using a ring experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Diaphragm: 12% of women using a diaphragm experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.

How to make your method most effective

  • Injectable: Get repeat injections on time.
  • Pills: Take a pill each day.
  • Patch, ring: Keep in place, change on time.
  • Diaphragm: Use correctly every time you have sex.

Contraception resulting in 18 or more pregnancies per 100 women in a year

  • Male condom: 18% of women whose partners used a male condom experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Female condom: 21% of women who used a female condom experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Withdrawal: 22% of women who used withdrawal experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Sponge: 24% of parous women and 12% of nulliparous women using a sponge experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Fertility-Awareness Based Methods: 24% of women using fertility-awareness based methods experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.
  • Spermicide: 28% of women using spermicide experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use.

How to make your method most effective

  • Condoms, sponge, withdrawal, spermicides: Use correctly every time you have sex.
  • Fertility-awareness based methods: Abstain or use condoms on fertile days. The newest methods (Standard Days Method and TwoDay Method) may be the easiest to use and, consequently, more effective.

Other methods of contraception

  • Lactational amenorrhea method: LAM is a highly effective, temporary method of contraception.
  • Emergency contraception: Emergency contraceptive pills or a copper IUD after unprotected intercourse substantially reduces risk of pregnancy.

Condoms should always be used to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

Adapted from World Health Organization (WHO) Department of Reproductive Health and Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communications Programs (CCP). Knowledge for health project. Family Planning: a global handbook for providers (2011 update). Baltimore, MD; Geneva, Switzerland; CCP and WHO; 2011; and Trussell J. Contraceptive failure in the United States. Contraception 2011;83:397-404.

Content created by Office of Population Affairs
Content last reviewed on May 2, 2018