Birth Control Failure: Possible Reasons And Tips To Prevent It

birth control pill

Birth control helps to restrict a pregnancy from taking place. You can choose between a hormonal and non-hormonal contraceptive. While most of the contraception methods are highly successful, a few things can make them fail. The reason for a birth control failure can be any.

Usually, it is the incorrect use by the individual that causes the birth control to fail. If a contraceptive does not work as intended, then the risk of an unwanted pregnancy increases. This is why it is important to understand things that can disrupt the working of contraception.

Then you can take the required measures. These will ensure that the birth control works properly. Here are the parameters that judge the failure of birth control:

  • Typical Use: This signifies how people utilize a particular birth control, even if the usage is incorrect or inconsistent.
  • Perfect Use: This indicates how successful a type of contraceptive is if you use it exactly as per the prescription.

In the below post, we will discuss the reasons for birth control failure and tips for its prevention.

Reason For The Failure Of Birth Control

A hormonal or non-hormonal contraceptive function to restrict a pregnancy from taking place. The contraception stops ovulation by stopping ovaries from releasing the egg. Then it will thin out the endometrial lining so that an egg if fertilized, implantation does not happen.

But sometimes the contraceptive may not function properly. It may fail in stopping pregnancy, and you may get pregnant. There are several reasons for the failure of birth control. Below we have mentioned a few contraception options and why they may not adequately work.

1. Birth Control Pill

On using a birth control pill like Lo Ovral perfectly, the failure rate is 0.3%. On typical use, the rate is 9%. The risk of contraceptive pills not working is forgetfulness. If you miss a dose or more, then you may get pregnant. Another challenge is not refilling the prescription on time.

At other times, due to side effects, some people may stop using it. For instance, you may vomit in a short duration of taking the pill. Or encounter prolonged diarrhea. Both these things can reduce the absorption of the medicine. In this case, you must use a barrier contraceptive as a backup.

Also, taking certain antibiotics and medicines may reduce the effectiveness of the pill. These medicines include St. John’s Wort, anticonvulsants, etc.

2. Vaginal Ring

Vaginal rings like NuvaRing Generic are 99.7% effective. It contains required hormones to stop ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. You have to insert it in the vagina properly. The ring can fail if it gets removed mistakenly during intercourse. Or, if it displaces or falls off during bowel movement, while using tampons, etc.

The ring may also not work if not replaced once a week. Or continued for more than 4 weeks. If the vaginal ring falls off, then you have to reinsert a new one within 3 hours.

3. Intrauterine Device

There are two types of IUDs. Hormonal IUD has a failure rate of only 0.2%. The intrauterine device is a small implant. The doctor will fit it inside the uterus. The hormonal one contains female hormones to prevent pregnancy. It thickens the cervical mucus.

Some may even prevent ovulation like other hormonal contraceptives. The IUD may cause inflammation in the uterus that is toxic to eggs and sperm. If the doctor does not place the intrauterine device correctly in the uterus, then it can get expelled. This may increase the risk of conceiving.

If the device is not at the required position, then the IUD may not work efficiently. As the uterus from person to person may differ in shape and size, proper insertion of the device is mandatory. If you are not up for the hormonal IUD, then you can choose Copper IUD. The failure rate is 0.6% on perfect use, while the rate is 0.8% on typical use.

4. Hormonal Patch

The failure rate is similar to that of a birth control pill. It also has the same hormones as that of the oral contraceptive. But you have to stick the patch on the skin. If the patch detaches somehow, is not replaced weekly at the same time, then it can fail to work as expected.

5. Implant

After correct and typical use, the failure rate is 0.05%. A hormonal implant is like a thin rod. It is of matchstick size. The doctor will insert it on the upper arm but under the skin. If the healthcare provider does not insert the implant properly, then the birth control can fail. This contraceptive may also interact with antiepileptic medications.

6. Birth Control Shot

On perfect use, the failure rate is 0.2%. The same rate is 6% on typical use. The shot is injectable. It contains a synthetic form of progesterone. It can stay active for 3 months. If you do not get the next dose in time, then the pregnancy risk can increase. Also, if the shot is not correctly given, then you may conceive of having unprotected intercourse.

7. Condom

As a barrier method, the condom is a non-hormonal contraceptive. Female and male condoms, both are available. It can also protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). If used correctly, birth control can prevent a pregnancy 85% of the time. But if the condom breaks, slips away, or leaks, then you may conceive.

Tips To Prevent Failure Of Birth Control

Here is how you can ensure proper working of contraceptive:

1. Track the Routine of Birth Control Pill

If you find it hard to remember when to take pills, then you can set a reminder. You can download an app for it on your phone. Or, you can simply stick it somewhere in your house where you tend to notice. For instance, if you take the medication during breakfast, then stick a note on the refrigerator.

2. Switch to a Long-Acting Birth Control

If taking the birth control pill daily is cumbersome for you to remember, then consider a long-acting contraceptive:

  • Vaginal Ring: If you are fine with a week-long option, then try the ring. You need to change one every three weeks. After this, give a week. Use a new piece from the fifth week. Here, you do not need a daily reminder of using the contraceptive.
  • Skin Patch: You can also choose the hormonal skin patch. You need to only change a patch once a week. It is easy to put the patch on just like any lotion. Keep the skin area dry and clean before putting the patch. After placing it, hold on for ten seconds. Once the patch sticks on, you can be sure it will work as birth control.
  • Implant and IUD: Intrauterine devices and implants have the lowest risk of error. This is because these are internally placed. You do not have to personally change it frequently. But the doctor has to insert the device properly so that it does not get expelled. Implants and IUDs last for months and years.

3. Use a Backup Birth Control

You can pair a hormonal contraceptive with a barrier method if you doubt the failure of the earlier one. For instance, you forget to take the dose of a birth control pill. The for the next few days, you can simultaneously utilize a condom while having sex.

But it does not mean you need to use two condoms at the same time. You can even try on spermicides or withdrawal.

To Conclude

So, the measure of how adequately a birth control may work depends on two factors – perfect use and typical use. Human behavior is greatly responsible for a contraceptive’s success. But at times, contraception may fail for reasons you do not have control over.

It is thus best to take necessary precautions as much as possible. You must follow the doctor’s indications about dosage and usage for birth control. This can at least assure that no mistakes happen from your end.


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