Choosing a contraceptive method is an important decision. Important considerations about a method are its effectiveness, side effects, duration and ease (or difficulty) of use. Personal considerations, such as lifestyle, risk for sexually transmitted infections and anticipation of future childbearing are also important.
Birth control pills, also known as oral contraceptive pills, are the most commonly used reversible method of contraception. They are very effective in preventing pregnancy when used correctly. With perfect use, only one in 1,000 women will become pregnant during one year.
However, actual pregnancy rate among pill users is typically higher (about 1 in 35 women) due to improper use, such as forgetting to take one or more pills. The effectiveness of all contraceptive methods depends to some extent on how likely a woman is to become pregnant if she were using no contraception. The likelihood of becoming pregnant depends on the woman's age, the frequency and timing of intercourse, and her natural "fertility."
Birth control pills are an example of a user-dependent form of contraception. This means the woman (or man) uses it. Examples of user-independent methods are sterilization (vasectomy or tubal ligation), the intrauterine device (IUD), and injected and implanted hormonal methods.
In general, highly user-dependent forms of contraception, especially barrier methods such as condoms and diaphragms, have the highest failure rates. There are pros and cons to every form of contraception. You should consult with your primary care provider to discuss the option that is best suited for you at this time.
(Information provided by the Family Practice Clinic, Tripler Army Medical Center, Hawaii.)