Like everyone else, every so often, I find myself on various government websites digging through data. (Wait, I'm the only one who does this? I refuse to believe it. Next you're going to tell me I'm the only one who tries to calculate complex probabilities in his head while he plays Yahtzee on his cell phone.)
Well, all that notwithstanding, today I found myself on the FDA website and found their chart of contraceptives, complete with effectiveness ratings. I went through and picked out the 11 most popular forms of birth control (unscientifically... basically, I threw out things like cervical caps and IUDs that no one under 103 years old uses). Then I put them in order of effectiveness.
So read, laugh, learn... and, yes, love. Love. Love the way you love rolling a two, three, four and five on your first Yahtzee turn and you now have a 5-in-9 chance of getting a one or six to complete your 40-point large straight.
Abstinence sells records!
Abstinence.(100% effective when used perfectly / 100% effective when used imperfectly) I'm sorry. Shouldn't have included this. The title is the most popular birth control methods, and ain't nobody calling abstinence popular... except maybe the textbooks the Bush administration spent your tax dollars on. Because you know the best way of keeping horny teenagers from getting pregnant? Pretending condoms don't exist.
Implants.(99.91% effective when used perfectly / 99.91% effective when used imperfectly) And by this I mean the implant that pumps you full of birth control, not breast implants, which may have the opposite effect.
Please take note here: Although it seems drastic to get your birth control implanted in you, this is actually ever so slightly better at unwanted pregnancy prevention than getting your genitalia sterilized.
Sterilization.(99.5-99.85% effective when used perfectly / 99.5-99.9% effective when used imperfectly) The reason there are two different classes of percentages is because the government breaks down the stats two ways: If you employ the method perfectly each and every time... and if you do it right mostly (but sometimes screw up, like forgetting to take a pill or putting the condom on inside-out or pulling out just half a second too late.)
I bring this up here for two reasons. One, to clarify going forward on this list... and two, because I'm really not clear how someone could improperly use sterilization. Unless you do it at home, I'd think it tends to work right. And if your doctor messes it up, shouldn't the imperfect percentages reflect that, like 0.1%-85% or something?
Remember when "Yaz" used to refer to Carl Yastrzemski?
The Pill.(99.9% effective when used perfectly / 95% effective when used imperfectly) I recently learned that when a girl's cell phone alarm randomly goes off at, like, 5:30 pm, it's her reminder to herself to take her birth control. Add that to the "secrets women really wish men hadn't figured out" list, right behind Spanx and airbrushing.
Condoms.(97% effective when used perfectly / 86% effective when used imperfectly) My health/sex ed teacher in middle school told us a story about condoms. A group of health workers went to a village in Africa to teach the people how to use condoms. They demonstrated on a banana. A few months later the pregnancy rate in the village was way up... because the guys were just putting condoms on bananas, then putting the banana on the table and having sex next to it.
I don't know if the story's true or not, but I'd guess that "putting your condom on a bedside banana" qualifies as one of the imperfect methods of condom usage... which are still 86 percent effective!
Pullin' out.(96% effective when used perfectly / 81% effective when used imperfectly) I'm shocked it's this high. For all the hype about how pregnancy can happen accidentally even before ejaculation, as long as a guy's got supreme pullin' out discipline, it's only ONE percent less effective than condoms.
Moral of the story? As always, condoms are for cowards.
Diaphragms.(94% effective when used perfectly / 80% effective when used imperfectly) Diaphragms are pretty much done for, at least with the current generation. (At this point, fewer than two percent of women using birth control pop in a diaphragm.)
Will they make a retro comeback, like calculator watches, neon and Mickey Rourke? Probably not.
The Rhythm Method.(91-99% effective when used perfectly / 75% effective when used imperfectly) The rhythm method has to do with planning sex around the woman's menstrual cycle. Not, as an anonymous friend of mine once thought, having sex to house music.
Sometimes, trying to turn men's products into women's products doesn't work. The female condom, Queer Eye For the Straight Gal, the WNBA, voting. Just let it be.
Female condoms.(95% effective when used perfectly / 79% effective when used imperfectly) Female condoms look like some kind of unholy jellyfish. And, apparently, not the kind of jellyfish that are particularly reliable when it comes to preventing pregnancy. (?)
The sponge.(80-91% effective when used perfectly / 60-80% effective when used imperfectly) The wide deviation in those percentages comes from whether the woman has birthed a child before or not. If she hasn't, the sponge is far more effective. But if a child has forced his or her way through that canal... it never really recovers.
Especially, I'm guessing, if the child has a large head like myself, my friend Priscilla or Patrick Swayze.
Nothin'.(15% effective when used perfectly / 15% effective when used imperfectly) Hey, why not let it fly! You've got a one in seven shot of escaping pregnancy free! I like those odds!
This post was originally published on Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:01:00 AM under the category News & Politics.