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35 Birth Control Statistics and Facts That May Shock You

Unlock the realities of birth control with compelling stats on methods, usage, and success rates.

Sixty-five percent of women use some form of birth control, although finding the right method can be complex (1). Many people struggle to find a form of contraception that works well, is easy to access, aligns with their religious beliefs, and doesn’t give them horrible side effects.

If you’re curious to know more information about contraception, we’ve put together 35 remarkable birth control statistics and facts. This post will provide insights into how prevalent birth control is, what types there are, and failure rates.

We’ve sourced each fact from government studies, medical research, and official analysis. So, you can be sure that you’re receiving only the most accurate statistics.

Overview of Birth Control Methods

Let’s look at the main birth control methods available to people. We’ll also investigate the effectiveness of perfect use (when people use perfectly according to instructions and specific conditions) and regular use (how most people typically use them). Below is a comparison chart showing each method and the percentages of how effective they are.

Method Effectiveness (Perfect Use) Effectiveness (Typical Use)
Abstinence 100% 100%
Male sterilization 99.99% N/A
Female sterilization >99% N/A
Birth control implant (Nexplanon) >99% N/A
IUD (copper or hormonal) >99% N/A
Depo shot >99% 96%
Birth control patch >99% 92%
Combined birth control pill >99% 91%
Progesterone-only pill 99% 93%
Birth control ring 99% 93%
Male Condoms 98% 87%
Breastfeeding as birth control 98% Insufficient data
Fertility Awareness Method 95-99% 77-95%
Spermicide 94-99% 70%
Withdrawal (pull-out) 96% 78%
Female condom 95% 75-82%
Rhythm method (Calendar method) 91-95% 76-88%
Diaphragm 94% 87%
Cervical cap 85% 78%
Sponge 86% 78%

35 Birth Control Statistics and Facts

Birth control has been around since 1550 when a woman was prescribed a tampon made from seed wool that was soaked in dates, honey, and ground thorn trees (2). Fascinating! If you want to know more amazing and shocking facts about birth control, check out these 35 stats.

Contraceptive Use Statistics

First, we’ll look at the prevalence of contraceptive use both worldwide and in the U.S.

  1. Worldwide contraceptive prevalence: As of 2022, the estimated prevalence of any contraceptive method worldwide was 65 percent. This amounts to 1.1 billion women. About 58 percent of married or in-union women use a modern method of birth control, such as the pill, patch, or IUD.
  2. Increase of birth control in 20 years: From the year 2000 until 2021, there was an increase in birth control usage from 900 million to 1.1 billion women. During the same period, the number of those using modern methods rose from 663 million to 851 million.
  3. Amount of women using birth control in the US: A 2018 study found that between 2015 and 2017, 64.9 percent of women aged 15 to 49 were using contraception (3).
  4. High popularity contraception methods in the US: Some of the most common contraceptive devices are female sterilization (18.6 percent), oral contraceptive pill (12.6 percent), long-acting reversible contraceptives, such as the IUD or implant (10.3 percent), and male condom (8.7 percent).
  5. More than one-third relied on permanent contraception: Thirty-six percent of women aged 15-49 used permanent contraception, including tubal ligation or their partner’s vasectomy (4).
  6. Twenty-one percent use ‘at the time’ birth control: Twenty-one percent of users between 15 and 49 years old used ‘at the time’ birth control, such as condoms, fertility awareness, withdrawal, and emergency contraception.
  7. Least common birth control methods: Short-acting methods, such as vaginal rings or patches, were only used by five percent of women between 15 and 49.
  8. Most women have used birth control at some point: Ninety percent of women between 18 and 64 have used contraception at some point (5). Seventy-six percent of women have used more than one method throughout their life.
  9. Reason for birth control: Eighty-five percent of people use contraception to prevent pregnancy. Forty percent use contraception to manage a medical condition or prevent STIs.

Birth Control Effectiveness and Failure Rates

The only form of birth control that is 100 percent effective is abstinence. While there are many alternative options for birth control, none of them are 100 percent effective yet. Let’s look at the various effectiveness and failure rates of popular birth control methods.

  1. Effectiveness of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods: LARC methods are among some of the most effective as they don’t have a ‘typical use’ rate. They only allow for perfect use since the user doesn’t have to remember to take them. The contraceptive implant, hormonal coil, and copper coil are all more than 99 percent effective (6).
  2. Contraceptive injection failure rates: The Depo shot, or contraceptive injection, can be more than 99 percent effective when the user gets the injections on time. But it’s only about 96 percent effective with typical use, as the user may not get it in time.
  3. Permanent contraceptive methods: Permanent birth control — such as vasectomy or female sterilization — has a failure rate of less than one percent (7). However, it’s very difficult to restore fertility if the user changes their mind.
  4. Short-acting hormonal birth control: Short-acting hormonal birth control, such as the oral pill, birth control ring, and patch, can be 99 percent effective (or more), but with typical use, they vary from 91 percent to 93 percent accuracy.
  5. The effectiveness of male condoms: Condoms can be 98 percent with perfect use. Perfect use means they are used every time people have sex (vaginal, oral, or anal), and the condom is worn the entire time. The condom must not be expired; it should be rolled on the right way, and it should be removed properly away from your partner. However, most people use condoms in a typical manner that is only about 87 percent effective (8). About 15 in 100 people who use condoms get pregnant each year, especially if the condom breaks or slips off.
  6. Effectiveness of birth control sponge: A contraceptive sponge contains spermicide, and the female wears it over her cervix. She must wear it for at least six hours after intercourse. It is more effective for women who have never had a baby, at about 86 percent. But it’s only about 78 percent effective for women who have had a baby before (9).
  7. Fertility Awareness Method: The true Fertility Awareness Method is when a woman makes multiple checks daily, including basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and cervical height, in order to judge her fertility. When done perfectly (including abstaining from sex between the end of the period until three days after confirmed ovulation), it can be 99 percent effective (10). However, most people use the method slightly more loosely, making it as little as 77 percent effective (11).
  8. Rhythm method effectiveness: Many people confuse the fertility awareness method with the rhythm method. The rhythm method, however, looks at a calendar. A woman assumes her average cycle and ovulation dates to decide when she is fertile or past ovulation. With perfect use and textbook cycles, the rhythm method can be 95 percent effective (12). But for most women, it is only about 76 percent effective ( source).

Birth Control Education and Access

Birth control isn’t easily accessible to everyone, even in the U.S. We’re now going to look at education and access to birth control and what can cause disparities.

  1. Formal sex education in teenagers: Most teenagers (96 percent of females and 97 percent of males) have had formal sex education before they were 18 years old (13). Forty-seven percent of girls had sex education before high school compared to 38 percent of boys.
  2. Talking to parents about sex: More than two-thirds of male teenagers and almost 80 percent of female teenagers had conversations with their parents about at least one of six sex education topics. Female teenagers were more likely to talk about rejecting sex, birth control methods, and how to access birth control. Male teenagers were more likely to talk about how to use a condom.
  3. How sex education affects teenagers: There have been links found between parents talking to their teenagers about sex and delayed sexual initiation. For example, teenagers who speak to their parents about sex are also more likely to use birth control, including condoms.
  4. Education level and birth control methods: Only about 12 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher have undergone a hysterectomy or tubal ligation (14). On the other hand, 40 percent of women without a high school diploma have had one of these operations. Around six percent of women without a high school diploma used the pill, whereas 18 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree or higher have used the pill. Around 10 percent of people use condoms, regardless of their educational level.
  5. How birth control aids education: Birth control has been found to advance a woman’s educational opportunities. Being able to access the birth control pill before 21 is the most influential factor in enabling a woman to stay in college (15). In fact, between 1969 and 1980, the college dropout rate among women who had access to the birth control pill was 35 percent lower than those who didn’t.
  6. Birth control is responsible for women going for professional degrees: Birth control is responsible for a 30 percent increase of women in skilled careers — such as medicine and law — between 1970 and 1990.
  7. Women of low income have less access to contraceptives: In the U.S., about 49 percent of pregnancies are unintended (16). The rate is highest among low-income women. It’s crucial to have affordable access to birth control as this would reduce the cost of healthcare and abortion in the U.S.
  8. Nineteen million women live in contraceptive deserts: In the U.S., 19 million in need live in contraceptive deserts (17). This means they lack access to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. 1.2 million of these women live in a place without a single health center.
  9. Contraceptive desert explained: There should be one health center per 1,000 women. Contraceptive deserts are defined as one health center per 5,000 women or more.

Side Effects and Health Considerations

While most women in the U.S. have tried birth control at some point, at any given time, only about 64.9 percent of women use birth control. This could be due to several reasons — such as not wanting to prevent pregnancy, not being sexually active, or being in a same-sex relationship. But for many women, birth control doesn’t work out due to side effects and safety risks.

Let’s take a look at eight side effects and considerations women should investigate before using birth control.

Important Information

It’s important to note that side effects vary by race, too. For example, more than 50 percent of Black women are diagnosed with high blood pressure by the age of 19 (18). This affects which birth control options are safe for them.

  1. Side effects of female sterilization: Potential risks of tubal ligation include internal bleeding, infection, ectopic pregnancy, and, of course, the permanence of the procedure (19). There is also still a small chance (every one in 200) that a woman with tubal ligation still gets pregnant.
  2. IUD side effects: The hormonal IUD has the potential to make a period lighter and less painful (20). Some women stop getting a period altogether. However, other side effects include pain upon insertion and a few days after, spotting between periods, and irregular periods. The copper IUD can lead to irregular periods, more painful periods, and pain upon insertion and a few days after.
  3. Side effects of the Depo shot: The side effects caused by the Depo shot can include irregular periods, depression, acne, weight gain, hair loss, and more (21). After one year of use, about half of women using the Depo shot stop getting a period. It’s also worth noting that the Depo shot doesn’t protect against STIs.
  4. Serious health problems caused by the pill: The combined pill causes many side effects, such as irregular bleeding and bloating (22). However, it also carries serious side effects, such as an increased risk of developing a blood clot, having a heart attack, or a stroke. It can also increase your chances of getting breast cancer.
  5. Side effects of the vaginal ring: The vaginal ring causes side effects for a small number of users, including irregular bleeding, nausea, tender breasts, mood changes, and headaches (23). Like the combined pill, it can also increase your risk of a blood clot, heart attack, stroke, or breast cancer.
  6. Health considerations of the combined pill and vaginal ring: Users who have regular migraines, have a higher BMI, have a close family member who has had deep vein thrombosis, and have had heart or liver problems should not take the combined pill or use the vaginal ring.
  7. Side effects of spermicide: Spermicide has a few side effects worth noting, too.  The main ones include vaginal discharge, dryness, or odor (24). It is rare, but it can also cause cloudy urine, pain in the lower abdomen area, and vaginal irritation. Signs of toxic shock syndrome from spermicide with the use of a cervical cap and diaphragm include chills, dizziness, fever, muscle aches, and a sunburn-like rash.
  8. Problems with the contraceptive sponge: The spermicide in the sponge can cause vaginal irritation and a burning sensation (25). This can increase a person’s chance of getting STIs, such as HIV. Others may be allergic to the sulfites or polyurethane in the sponge.
  9. Side effects of vasectomy: The main side effect of a vasectomy is that it’s hard to reverse (26). Complications of a vasectomy include a haematoma, hard lumps caused by sperm leaking from the tubes, infection, and testicle pain.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a Scottish freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. She is a mum to a young boy, and believes that it truly takes a village. When she’s not parenting, writing about parenting, or working, she can be found reading, working on her novel, taking photos, playing board games or wandering through the countryside with her family.