As typically used by sexual partners, 10 methods of contraception provide a 95 percent or greater effectiveness rate, according to Find the Best, a California-based research company; and, you guessed it, abstinence sits at the top of the online list with a perfect score for preventing pregnancies. The data, which is based on information collected from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP), offers statistics for both perfect use and typical use — how a method or product is used in actual practice. “Your chances of getting pregnant are lowest if the method you choose always is used correctly and every time you have sex,” wrote the authors of their guide.
Short of abstinence, Find the Best categorized Implanon, an FDA-approved implantable rod, as the most effective birth control method, with a typical use failure rate of zero percent. Spermicides ranked as the least effective method with a failure rate of 29 percent for typical use.
Implanon is a flexible plastic rod about the size of a matchstick that is implanted in a woman, placed under the skin of the upper arm. The device releases a low, steady dose of a progestational hormone to thicken cervical mucus while also thinning the lining of the uterus. Typically, Implanon suppresses ovulation as well. The newest version, Nexplanon, is radio opaque and so can be seen on X-ray.
Among the other top-ranking birth control methods are male and female sterilization, the intra-uterine device (IUD), the Depo-Provera shot, lactational amenorrhea method (continuous breastfeeding for the first six months after giving birth), and the basal body temperature (ovulation method) of natural family planning.
Oddly, what Find the Best does not provide — most likely for legal reasons — is real world experiences of each product. Any pharmaceutical method of birth control, including Implanon, may cause different reactions and side effects, including, possibly, mood swings, weight gain, pain, and bleeding. For most women, their individual response to a birth control method is crucial to their decision. Word-of-mouth reviews about both side effects and practical use have influenced many a choice.
Thinking (Re)Productively, an article in the ARHP Contraception Journal, recounted how the “contraceptive mandate,” part of the Affordable Care Act, authorized contraceptives and sterilization services for women at no cost. “While the mandate is a landmark for women's health care, it has not yet directly addressed a role for men,” wrote the authors. “As written currently, the ACA does not direct insurance carriers to reimburse for vasectomy nor prospective male contraceptives or counseling.” Will there always be this inherent and seemingly inescapable paradox when it comes to the matter of birth control? Though they do not become pregnant alone, women ultimately bear the responsibility (and pay the consequences) for conception. That said, any definition of a good partner would include a willingness to share a woman's pregnancy-related concerns and condition. After all, this problem of having a baby can seem so burdensome, yet one day will become a divine gift.