The Most Effective Methods of Birth Control, Ranked

Dr. Rashmi Kudesia
Dr. Rashmi Kudesia
Updated: May 30th, 2019

All contraceptive options are not created equal! Here’s a ranking of birth control methods, from least to most effective at preventing pregnancy.

6.   Condoms: Coming in last place is the good old condom—a tried and true birth control method that is, well, less tried-and-true than you might hope. Even when a male condom is used correctly, it’s only 85% effective at preventing pregnancy. (Female condoms are only 79% effective.) Though condoms can’t guarantee you a pregnancy-free sex life, condoms are the only birth control method on this list that prevent against STIs.

5.   The pill, patch, and ring: For the needle-shy, there are three methods of birth control tying at fifth place in pregnancy prevention. This trio is the birth control pill, the birth control patch, and the vaginal ring. Each of the three emit hormones into the body, preventing ovulation and regulating the hormonal cycle. These three are 91% effective, and some of the most affordable options on the birth control market. The only downside? They require a little maintenance—the pill must be taken every day at the same time, the patch should be replaced every week, and the vaginal ring should be replaced every 3-4 weeks.

4.   The shot: The fourth most effective pregnancy-prevention method is the birth control shot. This hormone shot is administered by a doctor and can keep users pregnancy-free for three months. When the shot is used on schedule, it is 94% effective. While it’s a lower-maintenance option than the pill, it requires a doctor’s visit and the tolerance of needles.

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3.   LARCs: A more effective option than the shot is a Long-Acting Reversible Contraceptive, or, a LARC. LARCs include IUDs and hormonal implants, both of which are surgically implanted into the body. LARCs are 99% effective, and some of them last for up to ten years. While they are a low-maintenance option, they are more expensive than a pill, patch, or vaginal ring, and their insertion requires a doctor’s visit.

2.  Sterilization: Coming in second place on the list is sterilization, surgical procedures that permanently disrupt the Fallopian tubes (“getting your tubes tied”),  preventing the egg and sperm from meeting. Without insurance coverage, these surgeries may cost up to $6,000 and should not be thought of as reversible. Like abstinence, sterilization is a life choice. Unlike abstinence, sterilization is essentially permanent. While sterilization is 99% effective, it is not a decision one should make lightly.

1. Abstinence: This might seem obvious, but the most effective way to prevent pregnancy is to abstain from sex. That’s right, abstinence is still the best form of birth control—that is, if it’s a lifestyle you choose to maintain.

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