Birth control is one of the miracles of modern medicine, letting people take their reproductive health and future into their own hands. There are various reasons someone might take birth control: regulating their hormones, family planning, or protecting themselves against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or diseases (STDs). Let’s take a deep dive into the world of birth control.
What is birth control?
“Birth control is how you prevent pregnancy,” said Monte Swarup, OB/GYN and founder of HPD Rx. “There are many forms of birth control, including implants, IUDs, birth control shots, vaginal rings, patches, pills, condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, spermicide and gel, sterilization, and vasectomy.”
Contraceptive users who take the oral birth control pill will take one of the two FDA-approved pill forms, both of which stop the egg from leaving the ovaries. Combination birth control pills, or “combined pills,” contain estrogen and progesterone. The other option is a progestin-only pill, also called a “mini-pill,” which is a better option for breastfeeding women.
Who uses birth control?
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2015 to 2017, 64.9% of women ages 15 to 49 years in the U.S. were using a form of contraception. (CDC, 2018)
- Almost all women who are sexually active, or 99%, will have used one type of birth control in their life. (National Health Statistics Report, 2013)
- The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that in their lifetime, most women, or 72%, will use more than one type of birth control. On average, they’ll use 3.4 varying kinds of methods. (KFF, 2021)
- Almost one in five U.S. women, or 18%, use birth control for reasons other than preventing pregnancy, like preventing STDs or for better managing their periods. (KFF, 2021)
Contraceptive use statistics worldwide
- Globally, 922 million women, ages 15 to 49, who are of reproductive age use contraception, according to the United Nations. (United Nations, 2019)
- Worldwide, the two most commonly used methods of birth control are female sterilization (where a healthcare provider cuts or blocks the fallopian tubes) and condoms. (United Nations, 2019)
- The Dominican Republic and India have the highest percentage of female sterilizations compared to other countries. Countries with the highest intrauterine device (IUD) prevalence for women include the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Uzbekistan. (United Nations, 2019)
- Permanent birth control and long-acting methods, like an IUD or sterilization, are most common in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. (United Nations, 2019)
- In sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, short-acting contraceptive methods are more popular, including the use of the pill, condoms, and injectables. (United Nations, 2019)
Birth control statistics in the U.S.
- From most popular to least popular birth control methods used by women ages 15 to 49 years of age in the United States, 18.1% use female sterilization, 14% use the pill, 10.4% use long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), and 5.6% rely on male sterilization. (CDC, 2020)
- One survey found that using no form of contraceptive was more commonly used in 35 different states. (The Guttmacher Institute, 2019)
- The states with the highest use of birth control for women who are at risk of becoming pregnant in 2019 included Utah and Oregon. (The Guttmacher Institute, 2019)
- Across the states in 2019, intrauterine devices (IUDs) were used by 4% to 22% of women who are at risk of pregnancy. The lowest use of implants was in Indiana and Tennessee, with only 2% of women using them. (The Guttmacher Institute, 2019)
Birth control statistics by type of contraceptive
- Female teenagers between 2015 and 2017 preferred to use a condom, with 97% choosing this method of contraception. The withdrawal method and birth control pills were the next most common forms of contraceptive use. Of these female teenagers who had sexual intercourse, about one-fifth, or 19%, used emergency contraception at some point. (CDC, 2020)
- In the US, the most common to least common forms of birth control are sterilization, birth control pills, LARCs, and condoms. (CDC, 2018)
- The use of LARCs in women varies greatly by age group: 13.1% of women ages 20 to 29 years, 11.7% of women ages 30 to 39 years, 8.2% of women ages 15 to 19 years, and 6.7% of women ages 40 to 49 years. (CDC, 2018)
- While the use of LARCs is not dependent on levels of education, female sterilization declines with more education, whereas the use of the birth control pill increases. (CDC, 2018)
Birth control effectiveness statistics
For a more in-depth analysis of each type of birth control and its effectiveness, visit this SingleCare round-up of birth control options.
- The birth control pill, a hormonal contraceptive, is 99% effective when used as directed. On average, it has an effectiveness of 91%.
- An intrauterine device, sometimes called an IUD, is inserted into the uterus by an OB/GYN and is 99% effective.
- A birth control implant, or contraceptive implant, is 99% effective. It contains the hormones estrogen and progesterone and is inserted into the arm by a healthcare provider.
- A birth control shot, like Depo-Provera, is 99% effective when taken as directed and, on average, has an effectiveness of 94%.
- A birth control patch, or contraceptive patch, is 99% effective when used as directed. On average, it has an effectiveness of 94%.
- Male condoms are 98% effective when used as directed. On average, it has an effectiveness of 85%.
- Female condoms are 95% effective when used as directed. On average, it has an effectiveness of 79%.
Birth control and overall health
- According to the National Blood Clot Alliance, the number of women who develop a blood clot from taking hormonal birth control pills is one in 3,000. However, the risk is much higher for women with a history of thrombosis or thrombophilia. (Stop the Clot)
- A systematic review of research and literature has found no link between birth control and infertility, regardless of the duration and type of birth control. (Contraception and Reproductive Medicine, 2018)
- Research has found there is a slight increase in breast and cervical cancer risk for women who take oral contraceptive pills. (National Cancer Institute, 2018)
- During IUD insertion, the uterus can become perforated, but this is rare and happens in less than 1% of patients, according to Dr. Swarup.
- Some patients may also experience side effects from different birth control options, like changes in their menstrual cycle, spotting (light bleeding), increased blood pressure, nausea, and headaches.
The cost of birth control
For a more in-depth analysis of each type of birth control and its cost, read this SingleCare article about the cost of birth control.
- A birth control implant costs $0 to $1,300 per year.
- An intrauterine device (IUD) costs $0 to $1,300 per year.
- The birth control shot costs $0 to $600 per year.
- The birth control vaginal ring costs $0 to $2,400 per year.
- The birth control patch costs $0 to $1,800 per year.
- The birth control pill costs $0 to $600 per year.
In comparison to the costs listed above, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that the average cost of having an unintended pregnancy is $18,865.
Birth control questions and answers
What is the percentage of women on birth control?
Ninety-nine percent of women of reproductive age and who are sexually active have used birth control at least once in their lifetime.
What is the most popular type of birth control?
According to the United Nations, sterilization and condoms are the two most commonly used birth control choices for women globally.
What is the most effective type of birth control?
Birth control implants, birth control shots, and birth control patches are all 99% effective methods when used as directed.
Birth control research
- Birth Control Pill, Planned Parenthood
- Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15-49: United States, 2015-2017, CDC
- Contraceptive Methods Women Have Ever Used: United States, 1982–2010, National Health Statistics Report
- Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Services: 2020 KFF Women’s Health Survey, KFF
- United Nations Contraceptive Use by Method, United Nations
- State-Level Estimates of Contraceptive Use in the United States, The Guttmacher Institute
- Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use Among Teenagers Aged 15–19 in the United States, 2015-2017, CDC
- Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15–49: United States, 2015–2017, CDC
- Women’s Health, National Blood Clot Alliance
- Oral Contraceptives and Cancer Risk, National Cancer Institute
- Women who give birth incur nearly $19,000 in additional health costs, including $2,854 more that they pay out of pocket, KFF