In a recent post, we discussed the difference between the effectiveness of a birth control method versus the effectiveness of its use. Method effectiveness is defined as the effectiveness with perfect use. In other words, the number of unexpected pregnancies which occurred when the method was correctly and consistently used over a period of time. On the other hand, user effectiveness, or typical use, is defined by the actual practices of the couples using the method, both correctly and incorrectly, over that same period of time, which is usually one year.
As a review, the chart below describes some common birth control methods, along with their method and user effectiveness rates, based on 2,000 users and one year of use. For comparison, having unprotected sex with absolutely no method of birth control used results in pregnancy 85% of the time.
|Birth Control Method||Typical Use Failure Rate||Perfect Use Failure Rate|
|Today contraceptive sponge||32%||20%|
|Diaphragm with spermicide||16%||6%|
|Male latex condom||15%||2%|
|Combined oral contraceptive pill||9%||0.3%|
|NuvaRing birth control ring||9%||0.3%|
|Birth Control Patch||8%||0.3%|
|Depo Provera birth control shot||3%||0.3%|
|Intrauterine device with copper||0.8%||0.6%|
As you can see, the typical use failure rates for some of these methods are staggering, and much higher than the more commonly known perfect use failure rates. The Center for Disease Control is dedicated to public awareness regarding birth control methods, and goes into great detail regarding typical use failure rates on their website. However, many birth control users remain unaware of just how significant the difference in protection can be if you do not follow the method’s instructions to the letter.
With so much on the line, do you think that condoms and birth control medications should have the consequences of imperfect use right on the packaging in giant bold print? Do you think more should be done to educate the public on the proper use of birth control? We want to hear your opinion! Please share it with us in the comments below.