Contraception guide

How effective is contraception at preventing pregnancy?

How effective your contraception is depends on the type you use and whether you use it correctly.

Some methods are more effective than others. You need to follow the instructions and use your contraception correctly for it to be as effective as possible.

With some methods, such as the implant, there's no need to remember to take or use them. These are known as methods with "no user failure".

No contraceptive is 100% reliable, and some can have side effects. Find out about all the methods available so you can decide which contraceptive is right for you.

Perfect use or typical use

All the methods are listed here, showing how effective they are with "perfect use". This is when the method is always used correctly.

Some methods are less effective with "typical use". This is when the method isn't always used correctly – for example, missing a pill or getting the injection later than you need to. Some methods don't have typical use rates because they have no user failure.

Contraception is less effective at preventing pregnancy if not used correctly.

Long-active reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods

You don't have to remember to take or use these methods. They have no user failure, so are not less effective with typical use.

  • Contraceptive implant: more than 99% effective with perfect use. They work for three years but can be taken out earlier. Fewer than 1 in 100 women using the implant will get pregnant in a year. 
  • Intrauterine system (IUS): more than 99% effective. An IUS normally works for five years but can be taken out earlier. Fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant over five years when using an IUS.
  • Intrauterine device (IUD): more than 99% effective. An IUD can stay in place for 5 to 10 years depending on the type but can be taken out at any time. Fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year, depending on the type of IUD. Older types are less effective. 

Contraceptive injection

Contraceptive injection

  • Perfect use: more than 99% effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using contraceptive injections regularly.
  • Typical use: around 94% effective. Around 6 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.

The injection lasts for 8 or 12 weeks, depending on the type.

Patch and ring

Contraceptive patch

  • Perfect use: more than 99% effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using the contraceptive patch correctly.
  • Typical use: around 91% effective. Around 9 in 100 women who use the patch will get pregnant in a year.

Vaginal ring

  • Perfect use: more than 99% effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using the vaginal ring correctly.
  • Typical use: around 91% effective. Around 9 in 100 women using the ring will get pregnant in a year.

Contraceptive pill

Combined contraceptive pill

  • Perfect use: more than 99% effective. Fewer than 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using the combined pill correctly.
  • Typical use: around 91% effective. Around 9 in 100 women using the combined pill will get pregnant in a year.

Progestogen-only pill

  • Perfect use: 99% effective. Around 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using the progestogen-only pill correctly.
  • Typical use: around 91% effective. Around 9 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.  

Sterilisation (permanent contraception)

  • Female sterilisation: more than 99% effective. Around 1 in 200 women will become pregnant in their lifetime after being sterilised.
  • Male sterilisation or vasectomy: around 1 in 2,000 men can become fertile again in their lifetime after a vasectomy.

Male and female condoms

Male condoms

  • Perfect use: 98% effective. This means that 2 in 100 women whose partners use a condom will get pregnant in a year.
  • Typical use: around 82% effective. This means around 18 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.

Female condoms

  • Perfect use: 95% effective. About 5 in 100 women who use a female condom will get pregnant in a year.
  • Typical use: around 79% effective. Around 21 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year.

Diaphragms and caps

Diaphragms and caps

  • Perfect use: 92-96% effective. Between 4 and 8 women in 100 who use a diaphragm or cap with spermicide will get pregnant in a year.
  • Typical use: around 71-88% effective. Between 12 and 29 women in 100 using a diaphragm or cap will get pregnant in a year.

Natural family planning

Natural family planning 

  • Perfect use: can be up to 99% effective if the natural family planning methods are followed precisely. These include monitoring cervical secretions and your basal body temperature. It's more effective if more than one method is used and it's taught by specialist teachers. Up to 1 in 100 women will get pregnant in a year when using this method perfectly.
  • Typical use: around 76% effective. Around 24 in 100 women using natural family planning will get pregnant in a year.

Page last reviewed: 30/06/2017

Next review due: 30/06/2020

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