Can I trust my contraceptive?

Which birth control is best?

No contraceptive is 100% effective, except for sterilisation which involves making a permanent change to the body. Providing you use your chosen method correctly, there’s no reason to worry about whether or not you can trust it. 

 

What is the most effective form of contraception? 

The most effective types of contraception are long-acting reversible methods of contraception. These include: 

  • IUD (intrauterine device) - more than 99% effective. The IUD is also known as the copper coil and protects you against pregnancy for 5-10 years, depending on the type and is inserted into the uterus. When it’s first put in, there is a risk of it moving or falling out but after the first couple of months, it’s highly unlikely this will happen. The coil has two threads hanging from it which you should check regularly to ensure it’s still in place. 
  • IUS (intrauterine system) - more than 99% effective. This is similar to the coil, but contains hormones instead of copper and lasts for up to 5 years. 
  • Contraceptive implant - more than 99% effective. This is a small plastic rod which is inserted into the upper arm and releases hormones into the bloodstream. It’s effective for 3 years. 

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How effective is hormonal contraception? 

Hormonal contraception, such as the pill, tends to have an efficiency rate of 99%. However, this is reliant on it being used correctly at all times. With perfect use, these methods are 99% effective, but with typical use (e.g. missing pills, starting late) they are only 91% effective. 

  • The combined pill: there are several factors which can reduce the effectiveness of the pill. These include forgetting to take it, starting a pack late, vomiting and taking certain types of medication. 
  • The progesterone-only pill: this must be taken within 3 or 12 hours or you won’t be protected against pregnancy. 
  • The contraceptive patch: this is a small sticky patch which contains the same hormones as the pill. It needs to be changed on time or the effectiveness will be reduced.
  • The vaginal ring: the contraceptive ring works in a similar way to the pill, in the form of a small ring which is inserted into the vagina. You must take it out and put a fresh one in on time for it to retain effectiveness. 

There is also the contraceptive injection which is 99% effective with perfect use and 94% with typical use. The injection needs to be administered every 8-12 weeks. 

 

How effective are barrier methods of contraception? 

A barrier method of contraception is anything that acts as a barrier between sperm and the cervix, preventing sperm from entering the womb. This includes: 

  • Male condoms: these are 98% effective with perfect use but accidents can happen. For example, condoms can burst, tear or come off during sex.
  • Female condoms: these are only 95% effective and are more difficult to use than a male condom. Both types protect against STIs however.
  • Diaphragm or cap: with perfect use, these are around 92-96% effective. If not used correctly, they might only be 71% effective. They need to be used with a spermicide and kept in for 6 hours after sex. 
  • Contraceptive sponge: the sponge is only around 88% effective but can be used alongside a condom for additional protection.

 

How effective is natural family planning?

Natural family planning can be 99% effective if it’s done absolutely right. This means learning how to track your cycle and monitoring your temperature and cervical mucus on a daily basis. You’ll need to get advice from a family planning clinic on how to do this properly and it can take several months to get this right. On the days when you are fertile, you will need to use a barrier method of contraception if you want to have sex.

Overall, you should choose the contraceptive that’s right for you, and that you are comfortable using. This will be different for everyone but taking the time to research the different options available to you will help you to find the best choice. 

 

Sources

NHS> How Effective is Contraception at Preventing Pregnancy?: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/how-effective-contraception/

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