Contraception guide

How effective is contraception at preventing pregnancy?

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

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

With some methods there is no need to remember to take or use them. These are known as methods with no user failure.

They include the implant, injection, IUS (intrauterine system) and IUD (intrauterine device, or coil).

No contraceptive is 100% reliable and some can have side effects. Find out about all the methods available so you can decide which method is right for you. All 15 methods are listed here, together with how effective they are.

Male and female condoms

  • Male condoms: 98% effective if used correctly. This means that 2 women in 100 whose partners use a condom will get pregnant in a year.
  • Female condoms: 95% effective if used correctly. Five women in 100 who use a female condom will get pregnant in a year.

Diaphragms and caps

  • Diaphragms: latex diaphragms are 92-96% effective if used correctly. Between 4 and 8 women in 100 who use latex diaphragms with spermicide will get pregnant in a year.
  • Caps: latex caps are 92-96% effective if used correctly. Between 4 and 8 women in 100 who use latex caps with spermicide will get pregnant in a year. Silicone caps are less effective.

Contraceptive pill

  • Combined contraceptive pillmore than 99% effective if taken correctly. Less than 1 woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year while taking the combined pill.
  • Progestogen-only pill: 99% effective if taken correctly. One woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year while taking the progestogen-only pill.

Long-active reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods

  • Contraceptive injections: more than 99% effective. They last for 8 or 12 weeks, depending on the type of injection. Less than 1 woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year when using contraceptive injections.
  • Contraceptive implants: more than 99% effective. They work for three years but can be taken out earlier. Less than 1 woman in 100 will get pregnant over three years when using contraceptive implants.
  • Intrauterine system (IUS): more than 99% effective. An IUS normally works for five years but can be taken out earlier. Less than 1 woman in 100 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. Less than 1 woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year, depending on the type of IUD. Older types of IUD are less effective.  

Patch and ring

  • Contraceptive patch: more than 99% effective if used correctly. Less than 1 woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year when using the contraceptive patch.
  • Vaginal ringmore than 99% effective if used correctly. Less than 1 woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year when using the vaginal ring.

Sterilisation (permanent contraception)

Natural family planning

Natural family planning can be up to 99% effective, but the methods need to be followed precisely. These include monitoring cervical secretions and monitoring 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 woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year when using natural family planning correctly. However, natural family planning is not suitable for some women, or it may be less effective.

Further information

FPA: contraceptive methods with no user failure
FPA: contraceptive methods with user failure

Page last reviewed: 15/07/2014

Next review due: 15/07/2016

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