If you’re actively trying to avoid getting pregnant, nothing feels scarier than a positive pregnancy test. This experience might feel like an anomaly, but the truth is, almost no birth control technique is 100% effective, even when taken perfectly each time.
If you’re staring at a positive pregnancy test and you don’t know what to do, come in for a free appointment at The Source. We offer free ultrasounds to verify your pregnancy and offer free support and next steps.
If you have your next steps covered, and you’re simply curious about what happened, read on to discover how various birth control methods may fail resulting in an unplanned pregnancy.
Birth Control Pill Failure
With perfect use, the pill is 99% effective which is great news! But “perfect use” means taking it every single day at the same time without missing a dose. You are, or know a woman who sets an alarm each as a reminder to take the pill. That alarm should be listened to if you’re on the pill. If you miss a dose, the risk of an unplanned pregnancy rises.
Additionally, the pill works to maintain a constant level of hormones in your body. A missed dose can cause your hormone levels to drop quickly. Depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle, this may cause you to ovulate, increasing your chance of becoming pregnant.
Finally, some over the counter supplements and medicines like St. John’s wort can affect birth control effectiveness. If you’re starting any new supplements while on birth control, ask your doctor if your birth control may be affected by the new drug.
As with the pill, the key phrase here is “correct use.” Correct use of a condom means using the right size condom for your partner’s size, using lube, rolling on the condom all the way to the base of the penis, and maintaining a reservoir at the tip of the condom. When used correctly, condoms are 98% effective. If used incorrectly, condoms are only 85% effective according to Planned Parenthood.
If condoms are the only form of birth control, it should be used every time, even if the risk of ovulation and pregnancy is low. Sperm can survive in the body for up to five days so unprotected sex before the ovulation window can still lead to an unplanned pregnancy.
Intrauterine Device (IUD) Failure
IUDs are 99% effective but can occasionally fail by no fault of the woman. Whether your IUD is hormonal, non-hormonal, or copper, failure may occur and they all have a similar 1% failure rate. If you fall in that 1% bucket, your IUD may have failed because you had sex and got pregnant before the IUD actually started to work. Some IUDs like Mirena and Skyla take up to seven days to work after being inserted so another birth control method will be needed to prevent pregnancy.
Additionally, if an IUD is kept in place for longer than the manufacturer recommends, failure may occur. But even if you’re within the appropriate window of use, the IUD may slip partially or completely rendering it significantly less effective. Unfortunately, this can happen without the woman knowing it, leading to unprotected sex.
Birth Control Patch Failure
The patch isn’t as common as other birth control methods like condoms or the pill, but it’s still a popular and effective technique of preventing pregnancy. The patch is a hormonal birth control distributed through a thin plastic patch placed directly on a woman’s skin. If used consistently, it’s 99% effective.
If the patch is accidentally removed for a period of time or is not replaced weekly the risk of pregnancy will increase. Additionally, the patch may not protect pregnancy if you are taking antibiotics or medications for fungal infections or seizures.
If you’re not facing an unplanned pregnancy but you’re using a birth control method of any kind, talk to your health care provider about how to properly use your birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. If you’d like to switch to a more effective birth control method, click the image below to request a free appointment at The Source. Our nurses and clinical staff can help you decide on the right birth control method for your body and lifestyle.