When it comes to birth control, some of us might be guided by any number of priorities, including convenience, comfort and (unfortunately) cost. But what about effectiveness? Ever since seventh grade health class – when the girls were separated from the boys, and the slightly overwhelming slideshow of human sexuality started – I have been thinking about what kind of birth control works best. And according to a new study reported by Nicholas Bakalar at the New York Times, we now have evidence that intrauterine devices (IUDs), under-the-skin implants and Depo-Provera injections are more effective at preventing pregnancy than the pill, vaginal ring or transdermal patch. (No word on barrier methods, including the condom, diaphragm or sponge.)
The researchers behind the study followed women using a wide variety of contraceptives for three years and found that failure rates for the pill, ring and patch were more than nine percent. Failure rates for the IUD, implants and injections were less than one percent – an impressive difference. Bakalar quotes one of the study’s co-authors, “When women say to me that they want to use the pill, I say, ‘That’s fine, but it’s 20 times less effective than an IUD.'”
Of course, all methods of birth control have their downsides. The IUD, for example, can cause spotting, longer periods, and serious stomach cramps. The pill is synonymous with women’s liberation and reproductive independence, but it’s also one of the methods – along with the good ol’ condom – most prone to failure through human error.
But while priorities may vary and contraceptive choice may be extremely personal, but effectiveness should absolutely be a key factor in decision making. And a good health practitioner – whether it’s a doctor, nurse or someone who works at your local free clinic – will always inform you of all of your options. If you need more information, check out sexualityandu.ca, a thorough site from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.