Contraceptive Failure Rate Plummets

Long-acting contraceptive observed to have a 1% failure rate.

Findings from a new study suggest that failure rates for contraceptives commonly used in the United States have plummeted, with less experiencing unintended pregnancies.

Included in the study were data from the National Survey of Family Growth from 2006 to 2010, which helped determine the contraceptive failure rate within the first year of typical use. Typical use includes inconsistent or incorrect use of a contraceptives, as opposed to perfect-use failure rates that are discovered through clinical trials.

Study authors discovered that within the first 12 months of typical use of long-acting reversible contraceptives, including the IUD and implant, there was a failure rate of only 1%, which was the lowest discovered.

Although condoms were observed to have a 13% failure rate, investigators noted that the failure rate for this non-hormonal contraceptive dropped significantly from 18% in 1995.

Overall, the investigators found a pronounced improvement in contraceptive failure rates between 1995 and from 2006 to 2010, according to a study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute. The total decline in contraceptive failure decreased from 14.9% to 10.3% during this time, while the failure rate for hormonal methods decreased from 8% to 6%.

“Contraceptive failure rates can help inform strategies for providers to improve contraceptive service provision, and can help women and their partners choose the method most suited to their needs,” said researcher Aparna Sundaram, PhD. “Guaranteeing that couples have access to the full range of contraceptive methods, and education so they can use those methods effectively, is critical to ensuring continued declines in unintended pregnancy.”

However, the study authors indicated there were significant differences found between ethnic, racial, and demographic groups.

Interestingly, the contraceptive failure rate was only 5% among women with no children, 14% for those with 1 child, and 15% among those with 2 or more children.

When looking at all methods, Black and Hispanic women were more likely to experience a contraceptive failure compared with whites, according to the study.

Low-income women were also observed to have substantially higher contraceptive failure rates, compared with women whose incomes were 2 times the poverty level for all methods.

These findings may provide guidance for individuals when choosing an effective, reversible contraceptive method.

The study authors did not explore the reasons driving the decline in contraceptive failure or the disparities between different groups. However, these findings may be more pronounced after 2010 due to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, which provides women with free contraceptive methods.

Additional studies are required to determine the reason behind these trends, and to discover novel ways to decrease contraceptive failure rates, according to the authors.

“Public health efforts over the past decade have bolstered reproductive health services and expanded women’s access to the full range of contraceptive methods, ensuring they are able to choose the method that best meets their needs,” said study co-author Kathryn Kost, PhD. “These efforts have also likely played a role in helping individuals to use contraceptives more effectively, thereby reducing failure rates.”