Special Report

The Most and Least Effective Birth Control Methods

The idea of contraception has been around for thousands of years as a way to prevent pregnancy. While some of the first written descriptions of contraception appear as early as 1550 B.C., the safest and most effective methods of birth control were developed and refined in the 20th and 21st centuries.

To determine the most and least effective birth control methods, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most common forms of contraception. The most effective birth control methods led to 12 or fewer pregnancies in every 100 women, and the least effective methods led to 18 or more pregnancies per 100 women.

The effectiveness of a contraceptive method does not correlate with the rate of usage, as some of the least effective methods are the most common. The leading form of birth control in the United States is the oral contraceptive pill, used by 9.7 million women. With a 9% failure rate, the pill is less effective than five other major forms of birth control. The second most common form of birth control, female sterilization, is the fourth most effective contraceptive.

Click here to see the most and least effective birth control methods.

While the most effective methods of birth control are a statistically surefire way to avoid unwanted pregnancy, they do not completely eliminate the risks associated with sexual intercourse. According to the CDC, some the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States are chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million Americans contract an STD each year. The CDC recommends always using a condom to reduce the risk of contracting a STD.

Widespread access to methods of contraception is one of the hallmarks of a developed country and a major prerequisite of gender equality. The presence of family planning assistance in a country has been associated with a rise of female participation in the workforce. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960, the oral contraceptive pill was one of the first widely available birth control measures in the United States. The pill, as well as the introduction of new forms of intrauterine devices several years later, contributed to an increase in graduation and college attendance rates among women, as well as a rise in female workforce participation. Female workforce participation rose from 36.6% in March 1960 to 57.1% in March 2017.

In many developing countries, however, the widespread need for potentially life-saving birth control is not being met. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that roughly 222 million women worldwide have an unmet need for modern contraception, the majority of whom are in poor, developing countries. Given the poor medical infrastructure and high rates of infant and maternal mortality in many developing countries, providing birth control to all women in need of contraception could prevent 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.

To determine the most and least effective birth control methods, 24/7 Wall St. analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most common forms of contraception. The birth control methods with the highest failure rates were considered the least effective, and the lowest failure rates the most effective. Failure rates refer to the number out of every 100 women who experienced an unintended pregnancy within the first year of using the contraceptive method. Data on usage rates for the most and least effective methods of birth control among all female contraceptive users in the U.S. are for 2012 and came from the Guttmacher Institute.

These are the most and least effective forms of birth control.

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