Effective Birth Control Ranked

When you’re shopping around for the best birth control for you, there are lots of things to take into consideration. You’ll want to know how your method of choice affects your monthly cycle, what side effects it might cause, and how long it will keep you covered.

But one of the biggest considerations is how well it prevents pregnancy—whether it’s because you’re done with kids, you’re never having any, or now just isn’t the time.

The most effective methods are the ones that don’t require much from users, explains Justine Wu, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the department of family medicine at the University of Michigan and chair of the board of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. “Anything working on its own is going to be [more effective] because there’s no human error,” she explains. “There’s no need for user activity, monitoring, or adherence; you don’t have to take a pill, get to the doctor’s office to get your next shot, or put anything in your vagina.”

When it comes to measuring effectiveness, experts use data based on “typical use,” or how real sexual human beings use each method. The effectiveness rate is calculated by counting the number of women out of 100 who experience an unintended pregnancy during the first year of typical use.

Since effectiveness is so important, it’s a good idea to use effectiveness rates as a guide for what birth control to go with. We’ve laid out the rates (based on Centers for Disease Control numbers) for every method out there—from the most reliable to the iffy. If you’re in the market for a new way to keep your body baby-free, this cheat sheet is for you.