Birth control failures are more common than women think: study

Are we collectively over-confident about our chosen methods of birth control? A new study may have you running — not walking -- to the clinic for an IUD fitting.

According to findings reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, about 45 per cent of American women are over-estimating the effectiveness of condoms and the pill. While the birth control pill is the most popular hormonal method of birth control in North America, women on the pill have an annual pregnancy rate of nine per cent.

The failure rate of condoms is even more abysmal -- a staggering annual pregnancy rate of 18 to 21 per cent.

"We need to do a better job of educating the public -- women and men -- on the failure rates with typical use," study leader Dr. David L. Eisenberg of Washington University tells Reuters Health.

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The efficiency of condoms and the birth control pill rely upon "perfect use." And as anyone who has ever had a regrettable sexual encounter can likely attest, "perfect use" is difficult to achieve in the dark after a few too many.

Additionally, "perfect use" of the pill can be easily compromised if women forget to take it every day, or go on certain medications, such as antibiotics, that could tamper with the birth control pill's efficacy.

According to the study, the intrauterine device (IUD) is the most effective hormonal birth control method available, with an annual pregnancy rate of between 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent.

"IUDs are implanted in the uterus, where they release small amounts of either copper or the hormone progestin to prevent pregnancy," reports Reuters.

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Despite this, only about 5 to 6 per cent of American women use the IUD method of birth control. Obstacles include cost and worries about potentially compromising one's future fertility.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends their Sexuality and U website as a source of information on effective birth control:

The SOGC believes that Canadians need complete, accurate and relevant information, from a credible source, in a format that they like, and that they can access when it's convenient for them. The award-winning website provide them with exactly that. As more and more people turn to the internet for information, the SOGC believes that it is important to provide a trustworthy venue and suite of options for learning for them to choose from.

The Sexuality and U website contains information that is relevant to Canadians of all ages, and also includes an innovative video game called Birth Control Brigade that helps to educate Canadians on their birth control options.

It is important to note that hormonal birth control methods, such as the pill, the vaginal ring, IUD and birth control patches do not protect against sexually transmitted infections.

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