Pregnancy Rates for Different Birth Control Methods

How Does Your Method Score?

Pacifier and condom, illustrating the decision to take precautions during sex
Getty Images/Andrew Brookes

The best way to reduce your risk of unintended pregnancy—short of abstaining, of course—is to pick a birth control method that's best for you and then use it correctly and consistently. 

How Birth Control Effectiveness Is Measured

Birth control effectiveness is typically measured from one of two vantage points: "perfect use" or "typical use."

Perfect use, sometimes also called "lowest expected," refers to when the method is used correctly and consistently as directed.

For instance, when a couple always used condoms as directed but still became pregnant.

Typical use, on the other hand, refers to when the method either was not always used correctly or was not used with every act of sexual intercourse. For instance, typical use might include forgetting to take a birth control pill as directed and becoming pregnant or the contraceptive was the used correctly but failed anyway.

Birth Control Methods & Pregnancy Rates

The following table shows the percentage of women who experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use of each different contraceptive methodThese estimates are based on a variety of studies and were compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

For comparison, about 85 out of 100 sexually active women (or 85-percent) who do not use any birth control can expect to become pregnant in a year.

Method Typical Use Pregnancy Rate
Male Sterilization0.15%
Female Sterilization0.5%
Implant 0.05%
Hormone Shot (Depo-Provera)0.6%
Combination Pill (Estrogen/Progestin)5%
Mini Pill (Progestin-only)5%
Patch    5%
IUD-Copper T0.8%
IUD-Progesterone T0.2%
Male Condom18%
Female Condom  21%
Diaphragm12%
Vaginal Sponge (no previous births)12%
Vaginal Sponge (previous births)24%
Cervical Cap with spermicide 17-23%
Spermicide (gel, foam, suppository, film)28%
Withdrawal22%
Natural Family Planning (calendar, temperature,
cervical mucus)
24%
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The Most Effective Contraceptive

According to this data, a contraceptive implant, like Implanon, was the most effective at preventing pregnancy with only 0.05% of women who use it as their birth control method of choice become pregnant. Like other hormonal options like birth control pills, hormone injections, or hormonal IUDs, contraceptive implants rely on hormones (in this case progesterone) to prevent pregnancy. This low, steady dose of progesterone comes from a flexible plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that is implanted under the skin of a woman's upper arm.

While the contraceptive implant is the clear winner in terms of its extremely low pregnancy rate, there are still quite a few reliable options for couples to choose from. Finding the best and most reliable birth control method for you is what is most important.

Choosing the Best Birth Control Method for You

When it comes to choosing the best birth control method for you, efficacy is only one piece of the equation. Here are some things to consider when choosing the best birth control method for you:

  • Your health
  • How often you have sex
  • How many sexual partners you have
  • If you want to have children in the future
  • If you will need a prescription or if you can buy the method over-the-counter

If discussing your options with your doctor, there are a few things you should share. Be sure to tell your doctor, healthcare provider, or pharmacist if you:

  • Smoke
  • Have liver disease
  • Have blood clots
  • Have family members who have had blood clots
  • Are taking any other medicines, like antibiotics or daily prescription medicines
  • Are taking any herbal products, like St. John’s Wort
  • Are breastfeeding
  • Have been pregnant recently

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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