What is the Most Effective Form of Birth Control?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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The most effective form of reversible birth control after abstinence is an intra-uterine device (IUD), closely followed by hormonal contraception, which can come in the form of a pill, patch, implant, or insertable ring. IUDs have a failure rate of less than one percent in most controlled studies. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), testing of hormonal birth control yields a failure rate of between one and two percent, meaning that one to two women out of every hundred will become pregnant while using it, assuming that it is used correctly. In order for any form of contraception to be effective, it must be used exactly as directed; failing to follow directions will result in a higher risk of pregnancy. Most women's health advocacy organizations also encourage the use of a condom to prevent some sexually transmitted infections along with any other contraceptive methods used.

Surgical methods of birth control are actually more effective than hormonal contraception or IUDs, although they are only reversible with extreme difficulty, and sometimes not at all. The failure rates for tubal ligations and vasectomies are extremely low, usually less than one percent if the surgery is performed correctly. Some nations are experimenting with internal implants which would be as effective as surgical methods, but potentially reversible, as the implant could be removed to allow sperm and eggs to flow freely again.


An IUD is an implant, usually made from copper, which is inserted into the uterus by a physician. The patient is given a care sheet explaining how to check the IUD to make sure that it is correctly positioned, and the IUD can be removed at any time if the patient wants to pursue a pregnancy. Most IUDs last for approximately seven years, and do not have the unpleasant side affects commonly associated with hormonal birth control. However, an IUD must be correctly installed and checked regularly in order for it to be effective.

When it comes to hormonal birth control, the contraception shot is the most effective form. However, the shot is currently not recommended for long term use, as it may lead to calcium deficiencies. Several pharmaceutical companies are working on improved, long-term forms of the shot, but for patients seeking healthier long-term hormonal options, the patch and insertable ring are both good choices, with failure rates of between one and two percent, assuming that they are used correctly. Studies on the patch have also suggested that it should not be used by women over 198 pounds (86 kilograms). The pill, a common form of hormonal contraception, has a two percent failure rate, assuming that the pills are taken daily, and at the same time every day.

The failure rates for diaphragms vary, but are usually around 17%. The failure rate declines if a diaphragm is used with spermicide, although spermicide alone is not a reliable method. Some spermicides have a failure rate as high as 50%, while others range around 20%. Condoms have an 11% failure rate, mostly related to improper use and breakage rather than poor manufacture, although they are the only form of birth control which also prevents sexually transmitted infections.


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Post 4

Totally wrong. The implant is more effective than any other method. Look at the data.

Post 3

I respect the folks who have had success with Natural Family Planning, but birth control pills, for me, serve the additional purpose of making my periods bearable. When I got on the pill, my life changed dramatically for the better. My cramps were minimized, my periods lasted four days, not eight, and I could actually stand to be around people for the duration of my period.

I take them as recommended, and in 15 years, have never, to my knowledge, become pregnant. Every woman is different and has to make her own decisions, but for me, the pill has been an effective contraceptive, as well as a blessing in making my periods more bearable.

Post 2

There's also sympto-thermal or billings ovulation methods of Natural Family Planning. They are actually as effective (99.7%)as any thing else outside of abstinence or sterilization. What's more is, after you take the course and buy a thermometer it's free. No profit for the drug companies or the media there. I guess that is why nobody ever speaks of it. My wife and I used it effectively for years.

Post 1

what are the disadvantages of IUD?

Moderator's reply: check out our articles, what is an iud? and how do iuds work? for more information on iuds.

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