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What Are the Chances of Getting Pregnant While on Birth Control?

Your chances of getting pregnant while on birth control depend greatly on the type of birth control that you are on, as well as how you are using that birth control.  While on the birth control pill, for example, you have only a 1 in 1000 chance of getting pregnant.  However, this assumes that you are taking the pill exactly as it is prescribed.  If you miss one or more of your birth control pills during the month, or if you take one late, you are more likely to become pregnant; your chances of becoming pregnant if you don’t follow the directions exactly rise to around 5%, or 1 in 20.

In many cases, a woman who’s worried about getting pregnant will use multiple methods for birth control. The pill offers a woman zero defense against STDs, and so it’s pretty common to choose another barrier method of birth control in order to protect against STDs. This, of course, will greatly decrease the odds of becoming pregnant.

Natural methods of birth control are possibly the least reliable methods of preventing getting pregnant.  If you Use the withdrawal technique only, your chances of getting pregnant are about 4%.  Using the rhythm method will leave you with about a 1-9% chance of becoming pregnant, depending on the individual woman and how exactly the method is practiced.

Barrier methods of birth control tend to be a little bit better in terms of preventing getting pregnant.  Using a sponge gives you about a 9% chance of becoming pregnant.  The chances when using spermicide alone or a diaphragm are around 6%.  Using a male condom leaves about a 3% chance of becoming pregnant, and using a female condom about a 5% chance.  Combining one of the other methods with spermicide can raise the effectiveness to around 99%, however.

Hormonal methods of birth control have some of the best statistics.  Norplant, for example, is 99.91% effective.  The Depo-Provera shot (sometimes called the Depo shot for short) is around 99.7% effective.  Birth control pills are around 99.9% effective.  With these methods, your chances of getting pregnant are greatly reduced.

Even surgical methods of sterilization, such as vasectomy or having your tubes tied are not 100% effective.  Having tubes tide leaves you with around a 99.96% success rate, whereas a vasectomy is closer to 99.5% effective.


Last modified: February 10, 2013


The information provided here should not be considered medical advice. It is based on the average experience of women trying to conceive and may not be what you may be experiencing. It's not meant to be a replacement for any advice you may receive from your doctor. If you have any concerns about your cycle or our ability to get pregnant, we advise you to contact your doctor.