A number of contraceptive options are on the market today to prevent pregnancy, including hormonal contraception, chemical methods and barriers of various sorts. The effectiveness of each contraceptive varies, and failure rates are impacted not only by the birth control method, but also by user error. Used correctly, most contraceptives will prevent pregnancy, but some are a better choice than others.
Hormonal contraceptives, like the pill, patch, shot and vaginal ring, work primarily by preventing ovulation, but also by thickening the cervical fluid and thinning the uterine lining, according to Planned Parenthood. Barrier methods physically block sperm from reaching the cervix, while chemical spermicides work by killing sperm. IUDs, or intrauterine devices, work in several ways, depending upon the type of IUD you choose.
When choosing a contraceptive, you should consider both your preferences and effectiveness. Birth control only works if you use it, and use it as suggested, every time you have sex. If you don’t want to worry about birth control, choose a method that does not require regular thought, like an IUD or birth control shot. On the other hand, if you’d prefer an easy, over-the-counter (OTC) option, condoms might be best. In any case, the best birth control for you is the one you will use regularly.
Effectiveness rates for contraceptives include a figure for perfect use and one for actual use. Perfect use implies that the contraceptive is used as directed every time you have sex, while actual use accounts for skipped pills, forgotten condoms or that time you couldn’t find the diaphragm. With perfect use, birth control pills are more than 99 percent effective, while condoms are more than 98 percent effective. Actual use failure rates for the pill are around 8 percent while about condoms prevent pregnancy 85 percent of the time, according to the Kids Health website.
Urban legends, rumors and untruths circulate about contraception. Birth control works, and works well, if it’s used properly. You can make birth control more effective and protect yourself against many sexually transmitted diseases by opting to use both a hormonal contraceptive (like the pill) and a condom.
Depending upon the birth control you choose, it may do more than just prevent pregnancy. Condoms provide critical protection against some sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, chlamydia and syphilis. Birth control pills may reduce heavy periods, improve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and even lower the risks of some cancers, according to the Mayo Clinic.