Welcome to Advanced Sex Ed, Planned Parenthood’s newest Tumblr segment. Put on your smarty pants because we’re kicking things up a notch with some higher-level sexual learnin’.
Birth Control Effectiveness Rates: Perfect-Use vs. Typical-Use.
“Why are there sometimes two different effectiveness rates for birth control? Which is correct?”
One of the questions we get all the time is, “How effective is birth control?” Usually people are looking for one, definitive percentage that tells them exactly how well a certain method prevents pregnancy. But reality is more complicated than that.
Birth control effectiveness is measured two ways: how well it prevents pregnancy when used PERFECTLY every single time, and how well it prevents pregnancy after factoring in human error. These are called “perfect-use rates” and “typical-use rates.”
Let’s look at the birth control pill, for example:
Perfect-use rate: Less than 1 out of 100 people will get pregnant each year if they ALWAYS take the pill every day as directed.
Typical-use rate: About 9 out of 100 people will get pregnant each year if they don’t always take the pill each day as directed.
So the pill is extremely effective if used perfectly, but that old saying, “nobody’s perfect,” also applies to birth control. We sometimes make mistakes or life circumstances foil our perfect-use plans: things like forgetting a pill, losing a pill, not being able to get the next pack on time and barfing can all impact the pill’s effectiveness. Therefore, we have two different rates, and the “real-life” one applies to most of us.
But what’s up with birth control that has only one, very impressive effectiveness rate? (Lookin’ at you, IUDs and implants!) These LARCs — long-acting reversible contraceptives — are virtually impossible to screw up, so they get a perfect-use rate by default: more than 99%, the best there is. More and more people are using LARCs these days because they’re super convenient AND super effective — even the folks on our Planned Parenthood Tumblr Team are huge fans.
Life happens, so typical-use rates are the most true to life. The most common reason birth control fails is because we mess it up. So whatever method you choose, you’ve got to use it as perfectly as possible or it just won’t work as well as it should. Be honest with yourself: if your lifestyle just doesn’t jive with having to think about birth control on a regular basis, consider getting yourself a LARC.
And remember: no method of birth control is 100% effective, even if used perfectly. But you can increase your pregnancy-preventing superpowers by using both birth control and condoms. There’s another really good reason to do this: condoms are the only method of contraception that also protects you from STDs.
-Kendall at Planned Parenthood
Great advice— in response to an old post, but throwing this out there anyways because it is important!
My advice is that anybody who tells you how to define your own sexuality isn’t being an awesome friend. Having had sex before has nothing to do with whether or not your are asexual. The great thing about sexuality is that yours is your own to define- so don’t listen to what anybody else has to say about whether or not you fit into what their narrow definitions are.
The images from Swedish photographer David Magnusson’s new book, Purity, are beautiful, disturbing and tell a distinctly American story – a story wherein a girl’s virginity is held up as a moral ideal above all else, a story in which the most important characteristic of a young woman is whether or not she is sexually active. This narrative of good girls and bad girls, pure girls and dirty girls, is one that follows young women throughout their lives. Purity balls simply lay that dichotomy bare. In a clip from a Nightline Prime episode on these disconcerting events , a father tells his braces-clad daughter, “You are married to the Lord, and your father is your boyfriend.”
While it would be easy to dismiss purity balls as fringe – most American fathers don’t require their daughters to pledge their virginity in an elaborate ceremony – the paternalism and fear of female sexuality underlying the events are present throughout American culture. (I wrote about this phenomenon in my 2009 book, The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women.)
The idea of girls’ chastity as a mobilizing force in culture and politics may feel like a throwback, but it’s something that still tangibly impacts thousands upon thousands of modern women – even through policy.