Pregnancy Rates for Different Birth Control Methods

How does your method score?

Woman holding birth control pills, mid section
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Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of having an unintended pregnancy by picking the birth control method that’s best for you and using it correctly and consistently.

This article will go over how effective different contraceptive methods are at preventing pregnancy.


Types of Birth Control

How Birth Control Effectiveness Is Measured

Birth control effectiveness is either measured in terms of “perfect use” or “typical use.”

Perfect use (or lowest expected) refers to when the method is always used correctly, consistently, and as directed. A failure of perfect use would be when a couple always used condoms as directed but still became pregnant.

Typical use refers to when the birth control method either was not always used correctly or was not used with every act of sexual intercourse. A failure of typical use might be forgetting to take a ​birth control pill as directed and becoming pregnant.

Birth Control Methods and Pregnancy Rates

The following table shows the percentage of people who experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of typical use of each contraceptive method.

For comparison, about 85% of sexually active people who do not use any birth control become pregnant within a year.

Method Typical Use Pregnancy Rate
Male sterilization 0.15%
Female sterilization 0.5%
Implant 0.1%
Hormone shot (Depo-Provera) 4%
Combination pill (estrogen/progestin) 7%
Mini pill (progestin-only) 7%
Patch 7%
IUD (copper T) 0.8%
IUD (progesterone T) 0.1%–0.4%
Male condom 13%
Female condom 21%
Diaphragm 17%
Vaginal sponge (no previous births) 14%
Vaginal sponge (previous births) 27%
Cervical cap with spermicide 17%
Spermicide (gel, foam, suppository, film) 21%
Withdrawal 20%
Fertility awareness-based methods 2%–23%
Vaginal ring 7%

The Most Effective Contraceptive

Sterilization is the most effective birth control method, but it's permanent. That might be an option for you if you are done having children or do not want to have children.

However, if you want to be able to have children at some point, you'll want to choose a method that is reversible.

According to the data, a contraceptive implant was the most effective reversible method—only 0.1% of people using the implant for birth control became pregnant.

Contraceptive implants like Nexplanon use a hormone called progesterone to prevent pregnancy. 

The low, steady dose of progesterone is supplied to the body by a small, flexible plastic rod (about the size of a matchstick) that is put under the skin of a person's upper arm.

While the contraceptive implant has an extremely low pregnancy rate, it's not for everyone. The good news is that there are plenty of other reliable, reversible birth control methods to choose from.

Choosing the Best Birth Control Method for You

A contraceptive's effectiveness is just one thing to consider when you're choosing a method. There are also some other factors to consider, such as:

  • Your general health
  • How often you have sexual intercourse
  • How many sexual partners you have
  • If you want to have children in the future
  • If you will need a prescription or if you can buy the method over-the-counter (OTC)

When you're talking about your options with your provider, there are a few things you should share with them to make sure that the method of birth control you choose is safe and the best choice for you.

Make sure to let your provider know if you:

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contraception.

  2. Guttmacher Institute. Contraceptive effectiveness in the United States.

By Tracee Cornforth
Tracee Cornforth is a freelance writer who covers menstruation, menstrual disorders, and other women's health issues.