The Pill Is Not the Most Reliable Form of Birth Control

The Pill isn't the most reliable form of birth control.

The Pill Is Not the Most Reliable Form of Birth Control

A recent study from Washington University Medical School in St. Louis found “The Pill” is not the best method of birth control, but longer-lasting forms of contraceptives, such as IUDs, implants and other hormone injections, were 20 times less likely to produce an unplanned pregnancy.

Published June 12, 2012

When it comes to contraceptives, which one does the best job preventing pregnancy? Findings from a recent study may surprise you: It's not “The Pill.”

Researchers from Washington University Medical School in St. Louis tracked 7,486 women ages 14-45 who were given free birth control of their choice and monitored their progress with the contraceptive for three years. They found that women using longer-lasting forms of contraceptives such as IUDs, implants and other hormone injections were 20 times less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy than those who were using shorter-lasting contraceptives such as birth control pills, rings or patches.

According to, researchers also found the following:

—Among the 1,500 women who chose to use birth control pills, patches or vaginal rings, 4.8 percent became pregnant after one year, compared with only 0.3 percent of the nearly 5,800 women who chose IUDs or implantable contraceptives. After three years, 9.4 percent of women using short-acting contraceptives became pregnant compared with 0.9 percent of those using longer-acting methods.
—Of the 176 women who chose to receive hormone injections such as Depo-Vera — a shot that prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs — had a 0.1 percent chance of becoming pregnant after one year and 0.7 percent chance of becoming pregnant after three years.
—Women under the age of 21 who were using pills, patches or vaginal rings were twice as likely to become pregnant than older women who used the same contraceptives. There were no age-related differences in terms of long-lasting contraceptives.
—Women with less education and made less money were more likely to get pregnant taking short-term contraception methods.

So why the huge difference? Experts say it's all about user error.

With pills, patches and rings you have to remember to either take them or replace them, and for some people, remembering to do that is really hard. But with IUDs and implants, they are put into your body and require less upkeep. IUDs can last for years, hormone implants work for three years and hormonal injections can last up to three months.


Despite the higher cost of IUDS, injections and the implants, Brooke Winner, MD, the study's lead author, told Reuters  she hopes  her study encourages more doctors across the country to encourage their patients to use these forms of contraceptives instead.

"Nationally, only about 5 percent are using long-lasting methods like IUDs and implants," she said. "We know one of the barriers to why they’re not using them more frequently is up-front costs."

Dr. Winner added, "If [more] women were using these products nationally, there would be a very significant drop in unintended pregnancies, which would have far-reaching effects."

These results are incredibly important to us. Past data has shown that 51 percent of Black women have a hard time affording birth control; Black women are three times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy; and they have the highest abortion rate in the U.S. Better access to more effective birth control is key here, but it's important to  stay aware of HIV and STDs which are too often prevalent in our community. And hormonal contraception does not protect you against these diseases — only condoms do.

To learn more about different forms of hormonal contraceptives go here.



BET Health News - We go beyond the music and entertainment world to bring you important medical information and health-related tips of special relevance to Blacks in the U.S. and around the world. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter. 

 (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Kellee Terrell


Latest in news