Birth Control Options Ranked by Effectiveness

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS

Convenience, risks, side effects, and more are all things to consider when picking the birth control method that's right for you. For many people, birth control effectiveness tops the list. You want to be sure your birth control keeps you from getting pregnant. So what's your best birth control option? These nine birth control methods are ranked from most to least effective:

1. Implants

The birth control implant is a small rod placed in your arm. It releases hormones to prevent pregnancy for up to three years. It's one of the most effective forms of birth control. About 0.05% of women who have an implant get pregnant each year. That's less than 1 out of 100 women.

2. Intrauterine Devices

IUDs are implanted in the uterus to prevent pregnancy. They are a very effective form of birth control. There are two types of IUDs. The hormonal IUD is most effective. About 0.2% of women with this type of IUD get pregnant each year. About 0.8% of women will get pregnant when using a copper IUD — the other type.

3. Sterilization

Male and female sterilization are very effective forms of birth control. A vasectomy is the male form. The vas deferens is cut to prevent the release of sperm. Vasectomy fails about 0.15% of the time. Doctors can perform female sterilization by tubal ligation. Female sterilization fails about 0.5% of the time. Less than 1 person out of 100 will get pregnant with these methods.

4. Birth Control Shot

Depo-Provera is the brand name for the birth control shot. It contains hormones a doctor injects every three months into your arm or bottom. The shot fails about 6% of the time. That means about 6 of every 100 women who use the shot for birth control will get pregnant.

5. Birth Control Pill, Patch and Ring

These three birth control options for women release hormones to prevent pregnancy. When used correctly, each has a failure rate of about 9%: About 9 of every 100 women will get pregnant when using one of these methods.

6. Diaphragm and Sponge

Diaphragms and contraceptive sponges are types of birth control women insert into the vagina before sex. Both block sperm from traveling through the cervix. The sponge also contains spermicide. The diaphragm fails about 12% of the time. The sponge fails about 12% of the time in women who have not had a child. It fails about 24% of the time in women who have had a child.

7. Condoms

When used alone, male condoms fail about 18% of the time and female condoms fail about 21% of the time. However, condoms are the only way to protect against sexually transmitted infections and diseases. That's why it's important to use a condom along with another method of birth control.

8. Withdrawal and Rhythm Methods

These birth control methods are among the least effective. Withdrawal is a strategy to prevent pregnancy that involves the man withdrawing before ejaculating. It fails about 22% of the time.

The rhythm method is also called natural family planning. Couples who use this type of birth control must avoid sex on days when the woman is ovulating. Keeping track of your menstrual cycle on a calendar is one way to tell when you’re ovulating. The rhythm method fails about 24% of the time.

9. Spermicide

Spermicide is a material that kills sperm to prevent pregnancy. It's one of the least effective birth control methods when used alone. Women get pregnant about 28% of the time when using only spermicide as birth control. But, spermicide can be used along with other types of birth control for better protection.

Was this helpful?
  1. Birth Control Methods Fact Sheet. 
  2. Effectiveness of Family Planning Methods. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
  3. Birth Control Implant (Implanon and Nexplanon). Planned Parenthood. 
  4. IUD. Planned Parenthood. 
  5. Spermicide. Planned Parenthood. 
  6. Withdrawal (Pull Out Method). Planned Parenthood. 

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 8
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