There are many options for family planning out there, and it is confusing to sort through all of them. Each one has different failure rates — no method other than abstinence is completely effective — but some are more suitable for your needs than others. Reading through a simple breakdown of all of the family planning methods available will help you weed out the ones you are not interested in, so you can go about researching just the ones that are of interest to you.
Natural family planning is also called the rhythm method. It involves tracking the woman’s ovulation and avoiding sex when she is fertile. If your religion forbids other forms of birth control, this may be an attractive option. Natural family planning has a failure rate of about 25 percent, meaning that of 100 women using this method, about 25 will become pregnant, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. That failure rate might be unacceptably high to many couples.
Barrier methods include the condom, the diaphragm and the cervical cap. The diaphragm covers the entrance to the uterus, thereby blocking the sperm’s access. The cervical cap does the same thing, but can be left in longer. The condom keeps the sperm contained. In general, barrier methods have a failure rate of in the range of 11 percent to 20 percent, but using a spermicide along with a barrier increases its effectiveness.
Some women take pills or wear a patch to control the hormones that allow pregnancy to occur. If used correctly, these drugs prevent pregnancy. If the woman later wants to become pregnant, she can simply stop taking the pill or remove the patch. The failure rate of the pill or patch is about 5 percent, although it might be somewhat higher in overweight women.
Depo-Provera is an injection given to women as birth control. Women must get the shot four times per year, and it has a failure rate of less than 1 percent.
IUD stands for internal uterine device. An IUD is inserted into a woman’s uterus by a doctor to prevent pregnancy. When the woman is ready to become pregnant, her doctor removes the device. The IUD has a failure rate of about 1 percent. Newer devices, such as the Nuva-Ring, have a failure rate of about 5 percent.
Both men and women can undergo sterilization procedures, with the goal of permanently preventing pregnancy. Failure rates for both men and women are less than 1 percent — but the procedures are never fool-proof or completely effective in everyone.