A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that a whopping 62 percent of American women of childbearing age are using some form of birth control. Of the available methods, oral contraceptives are the most popular, used by around 10.6 million women. However, as popular as this method is, it is also one of the less effective forms of birth control out there.
With perfect use, oral contraceptives are 99.9 percent effective. That is, if 100 women take their pills regularly at the same time every day, month by month, 1 woman (or none at all) would become pregnant. But the reality is not perfect, and birth control that rely on the user for maintenance is simply not as effective. Instead of the nearly perfect success rate, the effectiveness of oral contraceptives in the real world setting is around 85 percent. Not bad, but not nearly perfect either.
As Dr. Taraneh Shirazian, a gynecologist and assistant professor of OBGYN at NYU Langone explains, the most effective birth control is the one that does not rely on the user. This means intrauterine devices that are implanted by doctors, and which last for years without any maintenance. But ultimately, no single contraceptive method will be perfect for every woman. And perhaps the only way to guarantee 100 percent success is abstinence.