Contraceptives – which type is the most effective?


Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What are contraceptives?

Contraceptives are devices or methods to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Contraception, in other words, birth control, restricts normal ovulation, fertilization of eggs, and the final implantation.

There are different kinds of contraceptives available in the market. The effectiveness of contraceptives depends on what method you are using and how you are using it. Most of the contraceptives are 100% effective, but their reliability depends on their correct usage, and whether you are following all the prescribed guidelines.

Why do we use contraceptives?

People need contraceptives for several reasons. Here we have outlined some of the reasons why you may need contraceptives:

Family planning

This is one of the fundamental reasons for the use of contraceptives. Young couples are often bewildered by the idea of pregnancy, especially women. An unwanted pregnancy may disrupt education or career growth. 

Contraceptives help women and men to choose:

  • When to have a baby.
  • To decide on the age difference between children.
  • To stop having more children.

Young parents should start a family when they are economically independent and viable.      

Preventing unwanted pregnancies

Contraceptives can prevent teenage pregnancies and unwanted pregnancies. Early pregnancies can cause health complications both for the young mother and the baby. Babies may be underweight, and risks of neonatal deaths are high in early pregnancies.

Unintended pregnancies in adolescent girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are quite common in developing countries. The body is too weak to go through the whole process of pregnancy, and there is a high risk of maternal mortality and death during childbirth in adolescent mothers.

contraceptives prevent unwanted pregnancies

Adolescent pregnancy has become a global issue. Early marriage, sexual encounters, and violence are some of the reasons for these unintended pregnancies. Proper sex education and access to healthcare products like contraceptives can reduce childbirth complications and provide a better future for these young girls.

Prevents pregnancy-related health risks

Ill-timed pregnancies in young girls can cause serious complications. Contraception can cause several health-related issues at a very early age as the body is not prepared to support the pregnancy.

Moreover, many unmarried girls opt for abortions due to social stigma related to unplanned pregnancies. Many of these girls opt for unsafe and illegal abortions to terminate their pregnancy. Unsafe abortions can cause severe consequences like vaginal lacerations, hemorrhage, septicemia, uterine tract damage, and psychological problems. In some cases, it may cause permanent damage to the uterus and even death due to excessive bleeding and septicemia.

Educating young people and their families about safe sex and the use of contraceptives can prevent adolescent pregnancies and abortions to a great extent.

Older women who do not want to extend their family or have health complications can use contraceptives.

Safeguards against HIV/AIDS and STDs

Contraceptives are one of the easiest and affordable ways to prevent the transmission of HIV infections.

Women who are infected with HIV and want to control unintended pregnancies can opt for contraceptives. It is one of the most effective ways to reduce the transmission of the infection to the unborn child.

This is also an effective way to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases or STDs between male and female partners.

Reduces infant mortality rates

Contraceptives empower women and give them the ability to choose when to get pregnant and allows them to take care of their health. Family planning can help women and couples to delay pregnancies. Young girls get an opportunity to pursue their education and career before they attain their childbearing age.

Ill-timed pregnancies increase the risk of poor health and mortality for infants and mothers. Modern contraceptives help women plan pregnancies and make preparations to provide proper healthcare for their babies.

Population control

Population pressure, especially in developing countries, is a matter of great concern today. Uncontrolled population growth can hinder the economic, social, and overall growth of a nation.

Family planning is the only way to control population growth. People should be educated on how modern contraceptives can contribute to an improved lifestyle and better opportunities for the family and children. Families with fewer children can provide more for their children and give them a better life.

Types of contraceptives and their effectiveness

The effectiveness of contraception varies based on its correct usage and the kind of contraception in use. None of the contraception has 100% success rate but some are more effective than others. Also, some contraception comes with more side effects than others.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) methods

LARC are long-term birth control methods and does not require any effort from the patient’s side. They are highly effective, and one of the major plus points is that once the contraceptive is removed, patients can quickly regain their fertility.

Copper T IUD (intrauterine device)

This contraceptive is in the shape of a “T” and is placed inside the uterus. Single implantation of Copper T is said to be effective for at least 10 years.

Effective: 99%.

Failure Rate: 0.8%.

Levonorgestrel intrauterine device or LNG IUD

LNG IUD is similar to copper T but slightly smaller in size. It is inserted inside the uterus and releases a chemical called progestin every day, which prevents pregnancy. The device is useful for a maximum of 6 years.

Effective: 99%.

Failure Rate:0.4%

Barrier methods

The barrier methods prevent or kills the sperm from reaching the ovum.


The diaphragm or cervical cup is placed in the vagina to prevent the sperm from entering the cervix. Diaphragms are of different sizes and help to kill or prevent sperms from entering the cervix. Before you buy a diaphragm, visit a doctor who will help to choose the right size that fits properly in your cervix.

Effective: 92-96%.

Failure Rate: 17%.

Contraceptive sponge

The contraceptive sponge is placed inside the vagina to cover the cervix. The sponge is covered with spermicide that kills the sperms. The sponge should be worn before intercourse. After the intercourse is over, you should keep the sponge inside your vagina for another 6 hours to kill any residual sperms. The sponge is usually active for 24 hours.

Effectiveness: 88%.

Failure Rate: 9%.

Female condom

condoms as contraceptives

Female condoms are worn by women and are well-lubricated to prevent any discomfort. They are readily available in all the leading drug stores. They are suitable for birth control as well as in preventing STDs and HIV infections.


Failure Rate:21%.

Male condom

Male condoms are of different types and help prevent pregnancy, as well as HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections. Condoms can be used only once and should be discarded after use.

Effectiveness: 98%.

Failure Rate: 13%.


Spermicides are medications that help to kill sperms and prevent them from coming in contact with the vagina. They are available in the form of a gel, foam, cream, transparent film, suppository, tablet, et cetera. They should be applied or placed on the vagina at least one hour before intercourse. Do not remove the spermicide for at least 6 to 8 hours after intercourse for maximum results. It is best to use spermicides along with other barrier methods like condoms or diaphragms for better results. Spermicides are available in medical stores.

Effectiveness: 80-97% depending on whether you use a barrier method or not.

Failure Rate: 21%.

Hormone-induced methods

Hormonal methods include birth control pills, implants, and injections that can prevent pregnancy.


Implants like Norplant are a long-term hormonal implant that looks like a thin rod implanted in the upper arm. The rod is inserted under the skin and releases a progestin that prevents pregnancy and can work up to 3 years.

Effectiveness: 99%.

Failure Rate: 0.01%.


Hormonal shots or injections can be taken in the buttocks area or arm every three months for birth control. Depo Provera is the most common form of hormonal shots.

Effectiveness – 99%.

Failure Rate –4%.

Oral contraceptives

Oral contraceptives are pills that are prescribed by doctors and are taken by mouth. They are loaded with estrogen and progesterone and should be taken every day. However, too much consumption of oral pills can have side effects and even delay pregnancies.

Effectiveness: 99.7%.

Failure Rate:7%.

Skin patch

The contraceptive patch can be attached to any clean part of your body where there is no hair. Examples include your upper arm, buttocks, or abdomen apart from your breast area. The patch works for seven days, and on the 8th day, it should be removed, and a new patch must be worn. The patch releases a combined dose of estrogen and progesterone that enters your bloodstream and prevents ovulation. It thickens the mucus that prevents the sperm from moving into the cervix. Furthermore, it can also help in relieving the symptoms of heavy, painful menstruation.

Effectiveness –99%.

Failure Rate –7%.

Contraceptive rings

Contraceptive vaginal rings are plastic rings that are placed inside the vagina. They contain estrogen and progesterone that are released into the bloodstream that helps to prevent pregnancy. You can wear the ring for 21 days and even during periods. After the removal of the ring, take a break for 7 days and wear a fresh ring.

Discussing birth control with doctor

Effectiveness: 99%.

Failure Rate: 7%.

Permanent contraception methods

Both men and women can do permanent methods of birth control or sterilization.

Tubal ligation

Tubal ligation is a small procedure done on women. The fallopian tubes are tied so that the sperms cannot reach the ovaries and fertilize the eggs. The procedure is simple, and women can recover and go back home the same day after the surgery is done. However, full recovery takes a few days. 

Effectiveness: 99%.

Failure Rate: 0.5%.


Vasectomy ensures no sperm reaches the penis after ejaculation. Recovery may take a few days, and the patient will need to visit the doctor to check his sperm counts. A successful procedure ensures a zero sperm count.

Effectiveness: 99%.

Failure Rate: 0.15%.

Natural methods

Natural or self-induced methods involve sexual abstinence, awareness, and family planning. The fertility awareness methods or FAMs help a woman know her body and understand her ovulation cycle through constant monitoring to prevent pregnancy.

Sexual abstinence

Periodic abstinence from sexual intercourse is a natural and effective way to prevent pregnancy. It is one of the best methods of contraception. It does not have any side effects, especially from the use of hormonal contraceptives. It is cheap and safeguards you from STDs and other infections.

Effectiveness: 100%.

Understanding menstrual cycle

Women can prevent pregnancies by understanding their fertility cycles by keeping track of their periods. This method is highly effective if you have regular menstrual cycles. You can avoid getting pregnant by not having sex on the days you are most fertile.

Effectiveness: 100%.

Possible side effects

Almost all contraceptives have specific side effects and failure rates. It depends on the contraceptive you are using and how you are using them.

  • Urinary tract infections are among the most common side effects, especially if you are using diaphragms.
  • Mood swings.
  • Sudden change in the menstrual cycle.
  • Acne.
  • Headaches.
  • Oral contraceptive pills can cause weight gain.
  • Pain during periods, especially if you have implanted an IUD device or undergone tubal ligation.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Bleeding or spotting.
  • Breast swelling.
  • Skin irritation or discoloration, especially if you are using patches.
  • Difficulty in pregnancy after long-term use of contraceptives.


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