24th March, 20213 min read

How effective is your contraception?

Medical reviewer:
Dr Adiele Hoffman
Dr Adiele Hoffman
Jennifer Co
Jennifer Co
Last reviewed: 22/03/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Despite the many types of contraception (birth control) available, none is 100% effective in preventing pregnancy. Some are more reliable than others, but even the most effective methods can fail if used incorrectly.

If you find it difficult to remember to take birth control, like the pill, you might want to consider a method you don’t have to think about very often, like the contraceptive implant. Speak to your doctor to get advice on what would work best for you.

Wondering how your contraceptive stacks up? Read on to compare the effectiveness of some of the most common methods of birth control.

How do different contraceptives compare in effectiveness?

The table below shows the percentage of people who don’t become pregnant within the first year of using the type of contraception listed (while having frequent intercourse).

‘Typical use’ means the contraceptive isn’t always used perfectly, for example, missing a pill or getting the injection later than needed.

How effective is emergency contraception?

If you’ve had unprotected sex or you think your contraception has failed, emergency contraception can prevent pregnany – but its effectiveness depends on the type you use, and how soon you use it.

There are 2 types of emergency contraception:

  • IUD (coil) – the most effective emergency contraceptive, the IUD must be fitted by a healthcare professional within 5 days of unprotected sex
  • the emergency contraceptive pill (morning-after pill) – only effective if taken before ovulation. You need to take Levonelle within 3 days or ellaOne within 5 days of unprotected sex

Yellow emergency contraception pill plan b in silver packet on purple background

Key points

  • no method of contraception (birth control) is 100% effective
  • contraception is most effective when used correctly
  • emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if you’ve had unprotected sex
  • to be effective, emergency contraception must be used within a certain time period after having unprotected sex
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