Effectiveness of Prescription Birth Control

Prescription Birth Control Effectiveness
Prescription Birth Control Effectiveness. Photo © 2016 Dawn Stacey

When it comes to birth control effectiveness, contraception method DOES matter! This is even the case when it comes to prescription birth control methods. You see, prescription options include hormonal methods, devices, and barrier options. You need to visit a doctor in order to get any of these methods. Typically, hormonal prescription birth control will be more effective than barrier methods, like a diaphragm.

Keep in mind though, there are many factors that can impact your prescription birth control's effectiveness.

Prescription Birth Control Use:

Birth control must be used the right way every time you have sex. Certain prescription birth control options make it easier to accomplish this task! For example, the Mirena IUD has the same typical use and perfect use rates -- this means that once it is inserted, you will automatically use Mirena the correct way (every time!).

This is different than with, let's say, a cervical cap. When you use a cervical cap, you must keep in in place at least 6 to 8 hours after having sex. You also need to remember to use it with spermicide. The more steps you need to take to use a birth control method, the greater the chances that you may forget one of them or do something wrong.

User Rates:

So, whenever we compare at birth control effectiveness, we need to look at typical user rates as well as perfect user rates.

  • Typical use refers to the failure rate for women who do not consistently or correctly use their birth control. These rates usually apply to the average woman because it is sometimes difficult to always and reliably use birth control the correct way.
     
  • Perfect use refers to the failure rate if you always correctly and consistently use your birth control.  

    So, How Effective are Prescription Birth Control Methods?

    Let's take a look at the available birth control methods that require a medical prescription to see how they compare to one another...

    The Pill

    The pill is one of the most popular methods of birth control. It is made up of the synthetic hormones of estrogen and progestin. The pill works by stopping you from ovulating. In order to be effective, you need to remember to take the pill at the same time every day. There are two types of birth control pills: combination birth control pills and the mini-pill (progestn-only pills).

    • Typical use: The pill is 91% effective.
    • Perfect use: The pill is 99.7% effective.
    • This means that of every 100 women who use the Pill, 9 will become pregnant (with typical use) within the first year and less than one will become pregnant with perfect use.

    NuvaRing

    The vaginal ring slowly releases estrogen and progestin directly into the vagina to protect against pregnancy for one month. After you insert it, you leave NuvaRing in place for three weeks.

    If you use this method, make sure you know what to do incase the vaginal ring falls out.

    • Typical use: NuvaRing is 91% effective.
    • Perfect use: NuvaRing is 99.7% effective.
    • So, for every 100 women who use the vaginal ring, 9 will become pregnant (with typical use) within the first year and less than 1 will become pregnant with perfect use.

    The Patch

    The patch must be applied one time each week, for 3 weeks in a row. The patch releases estrogen and progestin directly into your skin. You want to make sure to remember to check that it hasn't fallen off!

    • Typical use: The patch is 91% effective.
    • Perfect use: The patch is 99.7% effective.
    • Of every 100 women who use the patch, 9 will become pregnant (with typical use) within the first year and less than 1 will become pregnant with perfect use.

    Depo Provera Injections

    Depo Provera is a progestion-only method. You must remember to get a depo shot every 3 months (12 weeks). Some women do not like using Depo Provera because of unpredictable side effects.

    • Typical use: Depo Provera is 94% effective.
    • Perfect use: Depo Provera is 99.7% effective.
    • This means, of every 100 women who get Depo Provera injections, 6 will become pregnant (with typical use) within the first year and less than 1 will become pregnant with perfect use.

    Mirena IUD and Skyla IUD

    Both Mirena and Skyla are IUDs. They slowly release progestin over a period of 3 (Skyla) to 5 (Mirena) years for pregnancy protection. It is recommended that you check your IUD strings to make sure that it is still in place.

    • Typical and Perfect use: Mirena and Skyla are both 99.9% effective.
    • So, of every 100 women who use either Mirena or Skyla, less than 1 will become pregnant within the first year with typical use as well as with perfect use.

    ParaGard IUD

    ParaGard is also an IUD, but it does not contain any hormones. After it is inserted, ParaGard provides pregnancy protection for up to 10 years.

    • Typical use: ParaGard is 99.2% effective.
    • Perfect use: ParaGard is 99.4% effective.
    • Of every 100 women who use ParaGard, less than 1 will become pregnant within the first year with typical use as well as with perfect use.

    Nexplanon

    Nexplanon is a progestin-only contraceptive implant. It is inserted under the skin in your arm and provides 3 years of pregnancy protection. It can be seen on an x-ray and is considered to be a very effective long-acting reversible contraceptive.

    • Typical and Perfect use: Nexplanon is 99.9% effective.
    • Yep, that means of every 100 women who use Nexplanon, less than 1 will become pregnant within the first year with typical use as well as with perfect use.

    Diaphragms

    A diaphragm does not contain any hormones. This dome-shaped cup is inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. It should be used with spermicidal jelly or cream. You need to be fitted for the correct size diaphragm, and you should be aware of when it is time for a new one.

    • Typical use: Diaphragms are 88% effective.
    • Perfect use: Diaphragms are 94% effective.
    • This means that for every 100 women who use diaphragms, 12 will become pregnant (with typical use) within the first year and 6 will become pregnant with perfect use.

    Cervical Caps

    Cervical caps are similar to diaphragms. They are smaller and are made to fit onto the cervix. They are not available in different sizes.

    If you have not given birth:

    • Typical use: Cervical caps are 84% effective.
    • Perfect use: Cervical caps are 91% effective.
    • For every 100 women who use cervical caps (and have never given birth), 16 will become pregnant (with typical use) within the first year and 9 will become pregnant with perfect use.

    If you have given birth:

    • Typical use: Cervical caps are 68% effective.
    • Perfect use: Cervical caps are 74% effective.
    • Of every 100 women who use cervical caps (and have given birth), 32 will become pregnant(with typical use) within the first year and 26 will become pregnant with perfect use.

    Some Final Advice About Prescription Birth Control Effectiveness:

    When it comes to hormonal prescription birth control, it is important to point out that there are additional factors that can impact effectiveness rates.

    1. Certain medications may decrease the effectiveness of hormonal birth control.
    2. Being overweight may also lessen the effectiveness of some hormonal contraceptives.
    3. Finally, you need to remember to take your pill, insert your NuvaRing, change your patch or get your Depo injection -- luckily, there are some cool birth control apps that can help remind you to do these things.

    Source:

    Zieman M. "Overview of contraception." Jul 22, 2015; UptoDate. Accessed via private subscription.

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