Contraceptive Effectiveness
and Side Effects

There are lots of different types of contraceptives. From “the pill” to an IUD, it’s important to know how effective each type of birth control is and what side effects may occur. This information is not meant to take the place of advice from your doctor or LIP. Always ask a licensed medical professional when considering any form of birth control.

Many forms of birth control use the hormones progesterone and estrogen to prevent ovulation. These types of birth control include:

  • It requires taking a daily medication
  • Failure Rate: 9% (1)
  • Must be inserted in a medical provider’s office
  • Can be used continuously for 3-5 years
  • Failure Rate: <1% (2)
  • Must be inserted in a medical provider’s office
  • Can be used continuously for 3 years
  • Failure Rate: <1% (3)
  • Need to get injection every 3 months
  • Failure Rate: 6% (4)
  • Needs to be changed weekly
  • Failure Rate: 9% (5)
  • Each type follows a different schedule and needs to be changed on time
  • Failure Rate: 9% (6)

Common side effects of hormonal contraception are:

  • Irregular periods

  • Acne

  • Breast pain

  • Increased or decreased libido

  • Irregular periods

  • Ovarian cysts

  • Pelvic pain

  • Migraines

  • Dysmenorrhea

  • Sore breasts

Potential severe complications include:

  • Blood clots (stroke, PVT/PE)

  • Liver, breast, and uterine tumors

IUD’s have complications that are unique to this form of birth control (2). Some complications include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy

    It's important to call your doctor if you think you are pregnant with an IUD in place. Seek care in the emergency room immediately if you experience sharp abdominal or shoulder pain, feel light-headed, or have abnormal bleeding

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease

  • Infection

  • Perforation (when the IUD goes into the wall of the uterus)

  • Expulsion (IUD falls out of the vagina)

The implant also has complications that are unique to this form of birth control (3). Some complications include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy (see information in the above section)

  • Injury to nerves and/or blood vessels

  • May require surgery to remove

Hormonal birth control isn’t for everyone. You should consult your physician before using any birth control. Take extra precautions if you have a history of smoking, migraines with aura, blood clots, heart disease, stroke, liver cancer, and/or breast cancer.

There are other types of contraception that don’t use hormones to prevent pregnancy. Some people use these options if they can’t tolerate the extra hormones or if they fall into a higher risk category (as evaluated by their medical professional).

Non-hormonal forms of contraception

  • Withdrawal method

    Failure Rate: 22%

  • Fertility awareness

    Failure Rate: 24%

  • Male or female condom

    Failure Rate: 18-21%

  • Diaphragm

    Failure Rate: 12%

  • Copper IUD

    Failure Rate: <1%

  • Spermicide

    Failure Rate: 28%

These methods have varying rates of success when it comes to preventing pregnancy. Some are more effective than others. The only way to prevent pregnancy 100% of the time is by practicing abstinence. This list does not include all forms of contraception, but some of the ones most commonly used. All of the failure rates were noted on the CDC website and are taken from the first year a patient utilizing that specific form of contraception. It’s important to note that the rates of failure listed above are for typical contraceptive use and not perfect use.
Information contained in this article is not meant to take the place of advice from your licensed medical provider. You should seek the care of a medical provider if you are considering any form of contraception.

Reviewed by Katie Bowman, RN, BSN

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