Birth Control Effectiveness: Women Believe It Works Better Than It Does

Posted: Updated:
Birth control pills and condoms are not as effective as many women believe they are, a study has found. | Shutterstock

Not interested in getting pregnant? Then perhaps you'll want to reconsider how much you rely on the Pill -- or condoms, birth control patches, vaginal rings and injections.

Reuters recently reported on a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that found about 45 per cent of women overestimated the effectiveness of the Pill and condoms, which showed a nine per cent pregnancy rate with "typical use" of the Pill, and between 18 to 21 per cent with condoms.

Meanwhile, for the far less common intrauterine device (IUD), the unplanned pregnancy rate shoots down to between 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent. According to Planned Parenthood, that's on par with vasectomies, female sterilization and implants at less than 1 pregnancy per 100 women a year, though another birth control method is suggested for three months after a vasectomy.

SEE: There are ways to make your birth control more effective -- here are bad birth control habits you didn't realize you had. Story continues below:

Bad Birth Control Habits
Share this
Current Slide


Study leader Dr. David L. Eisenberg told Reuters Health that information is key to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

"We need to do a better job of educating the public -- women and men -- on the failure rates with typical use," he said.

Birth control patches have been found to have approximately the same efficacy as the Pill, as does the vaginal ring -- only a 1 in 100 chance of an unplanned pregnancy if used properly, and a 1 in 9 chance if used improperly.

Last year, The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) released a game, Birth Control Brigade, with that very intention.

“Our hope is that adopting a game format will allow messages about the array of hormonal contraceptive options and the importance of responsible and healthy sexuality to have a positive impact on the contraception choices they make,” said the SOGC's Dr. Edith Guilbert in the press release.


Pills work best if they're taken at the same time each day -- which is often difficult for women to remember.

Taking Antibiotics
It's not as common as it once was, but antibiotics can occasionally affect the effectiveness of your birth control pill. Ask the doctor who prescribed the antibiotics about any potential interactions.

Talking About It With Your Partner
While it can be difficult with a new partner, avoiding the subject of birth control won't make it go away, particularly if you've already started having sex. Get past sexual histories, concerns and preferred methods out in the open as soon as possible to make this work for everyone.

Buying The Wrong Condoms
Besides also being more comfortable for both partners, ensuring you have the right condom size can mean it's less slightly to break (if it's too tight) or slip off (if it's too small).

Be Open To Change
The Pill isn't the be all and end all of birth control options - investigate alternatives if you're not all that into the Pill, or if it's giving you some adverse side effects. Options like the intrauterine device (IUD) shown here are quite common, and could even be more effective.

Forgetting to take their Pill is more common than most women would like to admit, and it can certainly impact the risk of pregnancy. Missing one day is generally believed to be fine, but you should probably opt for back-up for a week after just in case.

Adding On Protection
Similarly, the first week -- and more cautious people say even month -- of starting the Pill, use a condom, as the hormones won't yet be as effective as they could be.

Using The Wrong Tools
Oil-based lubricants shouldn't be used with condoms, as they can break down the latex and therefore increase the risk of pregnancy. Always opt for water-based lubricants.

You Take It Out Too Soon
For birth control methods like sponges and diaphragms that require removal, women can make the mistake of taking them out too soon -- each should be removed six hours after sex, but shouldn't be kept in any longer than 30 hours.

Around the Web

Birth Control Chart

Birth Control Pills - Types, Effectiveness, and Side Effects of Birth ...

Birth Control Methods: How Well Do They Work?

Comparison of birth control methods - Wikipedia, the free ...

birth control efficacy while taking Lamictal · Depression & Mood ...

Birth Control Effectiveness

Birth control pill -- effective in first month? | Go Ask Alice!

Birth Control Barrier Methods, Effectiveness, Use, and Types - on ...