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What does “birth control failure” mean?

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Someone asked us:

What does it mean when people say “birth control failure” ? How do u know when if fails?

“Birth control failure” can refer to a number of things, but in general it means that the birth control method two people were using didn’t work the way they planned. This might be because the method itself failed — for instance, the condom broke. But more often it’s because the method was somehow used incorrectly. Some common examples of birth control failure include:

Forgetting to take the birth control pill every day

Putting a condom on incorrectly

Forgetting to replace the birth control patch or ring.

Not pulling out before ejaculation (when using the withdrawal method)

Waiting to put a condom on until mid-sex

The only 100 percent effective way to not get pregnant is to not have vaginal sex.. But some methods of birth control are nearly impossible to mess up – like the IUD and the implant – because they’re placed in your body by a health care provider and stay there for years.  Others, like the pill, patch or ring, are more prone to failure because there’s the potential for human error involved.

Using a condom along with another form of birth control is an excellent way to prevent pregnancy, and it has the added bonus of reducing the risk of giving or getting an STD. Visit our website to read up on birth control method(s) and how to use them correctly.

If you think your birth control method failed, you may want to take emergency contraception (the morning-after pill). Emergency contraception can prevent pregnancy if taken within five days after unprotected sex.

- Alex at Planned Parenthood

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