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California State University, Long Beach
Health Resource Center, Student Health Services
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Birth Control/Contraceptives

Contraceptives or birth control methods can be categorized as barrier methods, hormonal or other. Next to each type of contraceptive is the effectiveness rate for prevention of pregnancy. For example the effectiveness rate of the male condom is 85-98%. The lower range of the effectiveness rate (85%) is for individuals who use the method either incorrectly or not every time they have sex. The higher range (98%) is for individuals who use the method correctly and every time they have sex.


Abstinence is the only method of birth control that is 100% effective against unwanted pregnancies, STIs and HIV. Abstinence means to not have sex. When talking about preventing pregnancy, abstinence is when couples choose not to put the man’s penis in or near the woman’s vagina or anus. When talking about preventing STDs, abstinence is when couples choose not to have sex of any kind. This includes vaginal, anal and oral sex.

Male Condom

Condoms have an effectiveness rate of 85 to 98%. They can be made out of latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene. Never use two male condoms together because the friction can cause them to break. Only use water based lubricants with the male condom, because oil-based lubricant can break down the condom and cause tearing or breaking.

Female Condom

The female condom has an effectiveness rate of 79-95%. It is the same type of contraceptive device as the male condom, except that it fits inside of the vagina with an inner ring over the cervix and an outer ring over the vulva. This keeps the condom from being pushed up into the vagina, and puts a protective coveringover the outside of the vagina, preventing sperm from contacting the area. The female condom, which is also referred to as the “universal condom” can be used for anal sex only if the inner ring is removed before the condom is inserted into the rectum.


The diaphragm is 84 to 94% effective at preventing pregnancy. It is a flexible, rubber barrier used with spermicidal cream or jelly. The barrier and spermicide block and kill sperm moving toward the uterus. The diaphragm is placed in the vagina to cover the cervix and is inserted before intercourse. Suction keeps the diaphragm in place so sperm cannot enter the uterus. A medical provider must fit the patient for the diaphragm and she will be prescribed one that is in her size.


Spermicides have an effectiveness rate of 75-85%. They are inserted into the vagina before intercourse (usually 15 minutes before) and act by blocking the cervix and killing the sperm. The various types of spermicides include foams, creams, jellies, suppositories and foaming tablets, all of which are available from a drugstore without a prescription. Foam is considered to be the most effective of these preparations. Spermicides must be inserted before each act of intercourse. For extra protection, they may be used in combination with a condom, a diaphragm or a cervical cap.

The Pill

Birth control pills, which have an effectiveness rate of 92-99%, contain estrogen and progestin in the first three weeks of pills, followed by one week of placebo pills. Estrogen prevents ovulation, while progestin thickens the cervical mucus. One pill is taken every day at the same time. It is important to note that birth control pills do not protect against HIV or STIs, as there is no physical barrier between the man and woman. There are pills available with no estrogen. Sometimes these are called the “mini pill”.

The Shot

Depo Provera has an effectiveness rate of 97-99%. This progesterone shot is given every three months at the beginning of your period. The dosage is like the combined birth control pill andit prevents ovulation, thickens cervical mucus, and prevents implantation of fertilized eggs if ovulation does occur. If used for more than 2 years, Depo Provera can cause bone density loss (osteoporosis).

The Implant

The implant is 99.6% effective at preventing pregnancy. Implanon is a flexible, match-stick sized, plastic rod that continually releases hormones (progesting and etonogestrel). It must be surgically implanted under the skin in the inner part of the upper arm by a clinician. Implanon can be left in place for up to 3 years, but it can be taken out at any time if it is no longer wanted by the individual. Insertion of Implanon costs between $400-$800 and the removal cost ranges from $100-$300. The newest generation of implants will be called Nexplanon and are equally as effective.

The Patch

The patch is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. The birth control patch is a thin, plastic patch that is worn directly on the skin. The hormones are inside the patch, and are released into the body through the skin. A patch is put on the body at the beginning of the week for three weeks, and at the beginning of the fourth week, no patch is applied and the female has her period. After seven days, a new patch is applied and so on. The patch can be applied to any part of the body, and it will not fall off while in the shower. This method of birth control costs about $15-$70 for a one month pack.   

The Ring

The ring is 92 to 99.7% effective at preventing pregnancy. It is a flexible plastic ring that contains both estrogen and progesterone. The hormones will slowly release through the ring into the vaginal walls. It must be worn in the vagina for 21 days and then taken out for menstruation. On the 28th day, a new ring is inserted into the vagina. The woman inserts and removes the ring by herself. It can be left in the vagina during sexual activity.

Intrauterine Device (IUD)

There are two types of IUDs: Paragard which is copper wrapped (non-hormonal) and Mirena which has progesterone in it that is slowly released.

Paragard is 99.2 to 99.4% effective at preventing pregnancy. There are no hormones in the this IUD. Very thin copper wire is wrapped around the IUD and it is inserted into the uterus by a medical provider. A woman can leave the copper IUD in her uterus for up to 12 years. A medical provider must remove it as well. This can be removed at any time.

Mirena is nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. This IUD contains progesterone and must be inserted and removed by a medical provider. The hormones slowly release into the uterine walls. Mirena can be left in the uterus for up to 5 years, but can be removed whenever the woman chooses.

Tubal Ligation for Women

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure conducted by a medical provider that is 99.5% effective at pregnancy. This is a non-reversible procedure; thus a woman must choose that she no longer wishes to become pregnant at any point in her lifetime.

Vasectomy for Men

Vasectomy is a surgical procedure conducted by a medical provider that is nearly 100% effective at preventing pregnancy. This procedure is not considered reversible and should be considered permanent. The male will no longer be able to impregnate a woman several months after the procedure.


Mayo Clinic

Planned Parenthood

Last Updated 07/2012