So many women spend a lot of time planning out their lives so that everything happens on a certain schedule, including when they have children. However, more than half of all pregnancies are unplanned, the result of an accident, a result of failed birth control. And we are not just talking about teenagers here, more than 30% of those unplanned pregnancies are among women in their thirties who are married and already have children. I know from the amazing number of comments I get on my Early Signs of Pregnancy and What to Do if You Think You Are Pregnant posts that many women think they are all set as long as they are popping that pill every day or using a condom or getting the shot, but no form of birth control is 100% and many times the birth control is misused resulting in reduced effectiveness. Most unplanned pregnancies are the result of birth control, that used correctly would be 97-99% effective, being used incorrectly.
For many families that unplanned pregnancy may be a surprise at first but ends up being a blessing, but not always. Using your birth control correctly, being on the right type of birth control for you are keys to making sure your life plays out more like the plan you have set for yourself versus a big book of surprises. Talk to your doctor about your birth control needs and find a plan that works best for you and that you feel comfortable you will be able to use correctly and consistently.
Here is a quick breakdown of the various types of birth control, their effectiveness (if used correctly) and the common misuses of them. Use this list when talking to your doctor about your options.
Birth Control Pill: the pill contains two hormones, estrogen and progestin, that keep you from ovulating and help keep sperm out.
- 99.7% effective if used correctly (however in the real world it fails up to 15% of the time because of incorrect or inconsistent use)
- The biggest mistake most women make with this form of birth control is missing a pill and not using a second form of birth control to prevent pregnancy.
IUD (intrauterine device): an iud is a small T-shaped device that is placed into the uterus and acts as a barrier to keep the sperm from reaching the egg and also thins the uterine lining.
- Up to 99.8% effective (fails about 1% of the time in the real world because of incorrect or inconsistent use)
- Even though an IUD is a very effective form of birth control with little room for user error the most common mistake women make that leads to an unplanned pregnancy is forgetting to check for the IUD’s string every month to make sure it is still properly in place.
Vaginal Ring (NuvaRing): a vaginal ring inserted into your vagina that releases estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy.
- 99.7% effective if used correctly (fails about 8% of the time in the real world due to incorrect or inconsistent use)
- The most common misuse of the vaginal ring involved a woman forgetting to put a new ring in exactly one week after taking the last one out even if you are still menstruating.
Contraceptive Patch: the patch is another hormone based contraceptive that releases estrogen and progestin to prevent pregnancy.
- 99.7% effective if used correctly (fails about 8% of the time due to incorrect or inconsistent use)
- The most common cause of reduced effectiveness with the contraceptive patch is forgetting to put a new patch on exactly one week after taking the previous one off.
Depo-Provera Injection: hormone injection of progestin that you get every 3 months to prevent ovulation.
- 99.7% effective if used correctly (fails about 3% due to incorrect or inconsistent use)
- The most common mistake with the depo-provera injection is missing an injection entirely or having it late.
Condom: creates a barrier around the penis to prevent sperm from entering the vagina.
- About 95% effective if used correctly (in reality only about 85% effective due to incorrect use)
- The most common mistakes with condoms include putting it on too late, not putting it on correctly, tearing the condom while opening the wrapper and not noticing and using an expired condom.
As you can see, most forms of birth control are very effective if used correctly and consistently, however, due to user error their real world effectiveness can at times be greatly reduced. The key to successful birth control is using a form a birth control you know you can keep up with, meets your needs and fits into your life. Remember to talk with your doctor about which form of birth control is right for you.