Contraceptive Effectiveness & Side Effects

A woman tends to choose birth control based on what she considers to be the most convenient and effective method for her. However, it’s important to weigh carefully the risks and side effects of each method.

Using contraceptives cannot guarantee the prevention of pregnancy. Contraceptives were used during the month of conception in 48% of unintended pregnancies. ((Finer LB, Henshaw SK (2006). Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001. Perspect Sex Repro H, 38(2): 90-6.))

Male Condom

  • 82-98% effective at preventing pregnancy ((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Contraception. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm))
  • 60-79% effective at preventing STDs ((The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2011). “How to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.” FAQ009.))

Female Condom

Diaphragm or Cervical cap

  • 84-94% effective at preventing pregnancy ((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Contraception. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm))
  • Increases risk of vaginal infection, making a woman more vulnerable to contracting STDs ((Rosenberg MJ, Davidson AJ, Chen JH, Judson FN, Douglas JM (1992). Barrier contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases in women: a comparison of female-dependent methods and condoms. Am J Public Health. 82(5):669-74.))

Birth Control Pill

  • 91-99% effective at preventing or terminating pregnancy ((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Contraception. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm))
  • Makes a woman’s reproductive tract more suseptible to infection, increasing her risk of contracting an STD by 30%. ((Rosenberg MJ, Davidson AJ, Chen JH, Judson FN, Douglas JM (1992). Barrier contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases in women: a comparison of female-dependent methods and condoms. Am J Public Health. 82(5):669-74.))
  • Multiplies risk of heart attack by up to 2.3 and risk of stroke by up to 2.2 ((Lidegaard Ø, Løkkegaard E, Jensen A, Skovlund CH, Keiding N (2012). “Thrombotic stroke and myocardial infarction with hormonal contraception.” N Engl J Med, 366(24): 2257-66.))
  • Increases risk of glioma, a rare brain cancer, by 50% with short-term use. Five years of birth control pill use doubles a woman’s risk. ((Andersen L, Friis S, Hallas J, Ravn P, Kristensen BW, Gaist D (2014). Hormonal contraceptive use and risk of glioma among younger women a nationwide case-control study. Br J Clin Pharmacol. DOI: 10.1111/bcp.12535 [ePub ahead of print].))
  • Listed by the World Health Organization as a Class 1 carcinogen for increased risk of breast and liver cancers ((International Agency for Research on Cancer (1999). Hormonal Contraception and Post-Menopausal Hormonal Therapy. IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans, 72: 288-94.))
  • For nearsighted women, six months of using the pill has been shown to increase nearsightedness 2 or 3 times. ((American Society of Health System Pharmacists (2010). AHFS Drug Information 2010: Bethesda, MD, p. 3112.))

Depo-Provera Shot

  • 94-99% effective at preventing pregnancy ((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Contraception. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm))
  • Associated with decreased bone mineral density, weight gain and increased risk of breast cancer ((Bigrigg A, Evans M, Gbolade B, Newton J, Pollard L, Szarewski A, Thomas C, Walling M (2000). Depo Provera. Position paper on clinical use, effectiveness and side effects. Br J Fam Plann, 26(1):52-3.))

The Patch

  • 91-99% effective at preventing pregnancy ((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Contraception. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm))
  • Multiplies risk of stroke by 3.2 ((Lidegaard Ø, Løkkegaard E, Jensen A, Skovlund CH, Keiding N (2012). “Thrombotic stroke and myocardial infarction with hormonal contraception.” N Engl J Med, 366(24): 2257-66.))

Implant / IUD

  • 99% effective at preventing or terminating pregnancy ((Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012). Contraception. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/unintendedpregnancy/contraception.htm))
  • 47% of implant users experience adverse effects, including severe acne and weight gain ((Urbancsek J (1998). Nonmenstrual adverse events with Implanon®. Contraception, 58: 109S-115S.))