91 Interesting Facts about Birth Control

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published August 19, 2016Updated September 19, 2016
  • The typical U.S. woman wants two children. To achieve this goal, she must use birth control for about three decades.[3]
  • There are 62 million U.S. women in their childbearing years (15-44).[3]
  • In the developed world, the most common birth control methods are condoms and oral contraceptives.[1]
  • In the developing world, 35% of birth control is via female sterilization, 30% is IUDs, 12% is oral contraceptives, 11% is condoms, and 4% is male sterilization.[3]
  • Condoms are the most common form of birth control
  • Globally, condoms are the most common method of birth control. The male condom is the most commonly used method at first sex for both teenage men and women.[11]
  • During the Middle Ages in Europe, the Catholic Church deemed any effort to prevent pregnancy as immoral, though women at the time still used a number of birth control methods, such as coitus interruptus and inserting lily root and rue into the vagina.[7]
  • During the 1700s, women sometimes used lemons as a type of diaphragm. While the acid may have acted as a spermicide, lemon juice can also damage vaginal tissue.[7]
  • While teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. have decreased in recent years, teens in the U.S. still have more unintended pregnancies than teens in any other country.[9]
  • Over 222 million women in developing countries who want some type of birth control are not using a modern form of contraception.[8]
  • Of the nearly 750,000 teen pregnancies in the U.S. each year, 82% are unintended.[3]
  • Birth control in the U.S. is available for people of all ages, without a parent’s consent. It is illegal for a health care provider to tell anyone if a patient asks for birth control.[11]
  • One in four acts of vaginal intercourse are condom protected in the U.S. It is one in three among single people. The condom is one of the most inexpensive forms of birth control, as low as $0.04 per unit.[3]
  • Periodic abstinence, also known as the rhythm method or natural family planning, is abstaining from sex during a woman’s most fertile time. For adults, periodic abstinence is effective about 75% of the time. This is not a recommended method of birth control.[1]
  • States with abstinence-only policies have the most teen pregnancies
  • Teen pregnancy rates are higher in students who are given abstinence only education compared with comprehensive sex education.[1]
  • A woman is fertile for longer than just the day she ovulates. An egg will stay fertile in a woman’s fallopian tube for 24 hours after ovulation. Additionally, sperm can live in the vagina for three to five days. When a couple uses periodic abstinence as a form birth control, they must avoid having sex for the five days before the woman ovulates, the day of ovulation, and three days after.[6]
  • Withdrawal is when a man removes his penis from a woman’s vagina before he ejaculates. According to Planned Parenthood, it is effective only 73% of the time. This is not a recommended method of birth control, and some medical professionals do not even consider it a type of birth control.[1]
  • In the U.S., IUDs have tripled in popularity between 2002 and 2011, constituting 10% of all birth control methods.[9]
  • Around the world, 45% of those who are married and able to have children use birth control.[3]
  • As of 2007, about 17% of women of childbearing age in developing countries used IUDs and 9% in developed countries used IUDs, for a total of 180 million women worldwide.[1]
  • In the U.S., 98% of women have used birth control at some point in their life, and 62% of those of reproductive age are currently using birth control.[3]
  • In the U.S., the two most popular forms of birth control are the Pill (11 million) and sterilization (10 million). However, despite effective birth control being easy to obtain, about half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended.[11]
  • Withdrawal is an ineffective form of birth control for several reasons: 1) it can be difficult for a man to pull his penis out of a woman’s vagina when he is very excited; 2) for younger men and those with less experience, ejaculation can happen a lot faster than they think it will; 3) if a man has ejaculated recently, there may be sperm on the head of his penis; and 4) pre-ejaculatory fluid may push lingering sperm from an earlier ejaculation out of the urethra.[2]
  • Washing out the vagina does not prevent pregnancy. Given the speed of sperm, there is no guarantee that washing with soap or a douche will stop the sperm from fertilizing an egg. Any additional liquid in the vagina, like douche, may actually help push the sperm farther inside and reach the egg.[2]
  • Originally, pregnancy prevention was considered a side effect of the pill
  • The birth control pill was first approved in 1957 for “severe menstrual problems” and came with a mandatory “warning” that the drug would prevent pregnancy. Within two years, half a million women were taking the drug for its “side effect.”[1]
  • Most types of birth control pills are combination pills containing two hormones: estrogen and progestin (a synthetic type of the naturally occurring hormone progesterone). These hormones trick the body into thinking it’s pregnant, so the ovaries do not release new eggs in the middle of each monthly cycle.[11]
  • A progestin-only birth control pill, or mini-pill, works by changing the cervical mucous (making it thicker) and the uterine lining (making it thinner). It can also affect ovulation. It is considered less effective than the combination pill.[1]
  • The FDA approved the first version of the Pill for contraceptive use on June 23, 1960.[1]
  • The Pill has been named as one of the seven wonders of the modern world because as a form of birth control it has helped spur an international sex revolution and helped expand women’s role in the work place.[1]
  • Many doctors will not prescribe the Pill for women who smoke cigarettes because it increases the harmful effects of cigarettes. Birth control pills cannot be bought over-the-counter.[1]
  • Emergency contraception (the morning-after pill, Plan B, and Next Choice) is a controversial from of birth control. It contains high concentrations of levonorgestrel, which can prevent pregnancy if taken 72 hours after unprotected sex. It prevents a woman’s egg from being released, it makes a sperm’s travel more difficult, and it helps prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus. It is not an abortion pill.[1]
  • One of the more controversial parts of “Obamacare” (the Affordable Care Act) is the contraceptive mandate, which requires that most private insurances cover birth control without a copay or deductible. Religious organizations may be exempt from covering birth control for their employees.[11]
  • The New England Journal of Medicine found that intrauterine devices (IUDS) are 20 times more effective at preventing unintended pregnancies than the birth control pill, patch, or ring.[6]
  • IUDs are currently the most effective long- acting, reversible birth control option available. The least effective methods of birth control are spermicides and withdrawal.[6]
  • Sterilization, either by vasectomy in males or tubal ligation in females, is the most effective, permanent form of birth control.[1]
  • Scientists say the pill isn't to blame for those extra pounds
  • Women may incorrectly believe their birth control pills make them gain weight. Research suggests that weight gain be attributed to teenagers who go on the Pill and gain weight merely because they are growing up, but think it’s due to the Pill. Many women also go on the Pill when they’re in a committed relationship, and research suggests that coupled women tend to gain more weight. However, women can experience bloating or stomach distention when they go off or switch birth control methods.[5]
  • It is recommended that women who reach menopause continue to take birth control for one year after their last period.[1]
  • Doctors note that there are no long-term effects from continuous use of birth control. In other words, a woman can stay on birth control as long as she wants. However, because Depo-Provera has been linked to a greater potential for bone mineral loss, the FDA advises that women take it continuously for only two years.[5]
  • Certain medications should not be taken with birth control drugs, such as antibiotics, antifungal medications, antidepressants, and some natural supplements such as St. John’s Wort.[6]
  • In the past, it was thought that prolonged use of birth control pills would interfere with a woman’s ability to conceive, but that has been shown to be false.[6]
  • Doctors previously believed that women who conceived immediately after stopping the pill had a higher risk of miscarriage. These concerns have largely been proven false.[1]
  • As soon as an IUD (intrauterine devices) is removed, a woman can try to get pregnant.[5]
  • Of the 3.2 million teenage women who use contraceptives, 53% rely on the pill, 16% rely on other hormonal methods (including the implant, injectable, patch, and ring), and 3% rely on the IUD.[1]
  • One in nine sexually experienced women of reproductive age has used emergency contraception as of 2010. The majority of these women had used emergency contraception only once (59%).[3]
  • Seven percent of men aged 15–44 have had a vasectomy. This rate increases with age and is 16% among men aged 36–45.[3]
  • Scientists are working on a form of birth control for men
  • Researchers are working on both hormonal and nonhormonal birth control for men. For example, scientists recently found a molecule that dramatically reduces sperm count in male mice that could be used in human males some day.[6]
  • Between 25% and 75% of men who are sexually active would use hormonal birth control if it were available.[3]
  • Male birth control is complicated because it has to block 1,500 sperm each second.[1]
  • Foreign-born women are three times as likely to have ever used an IUD (intrauterine device) compared with U.S.-born women.[3]
  • Some women may experience a gap between when they stop using birth control and when they begin ovulating, a condition known as “post-pill amenorrhea.” If a woman does not get her period within several months, she should talk to her health care provider.[1]
  • Approximately 30% of American women have tried five or more methods of contraception.[12]
  • In the U.S., foreign-born Hispanic women are up to three times more likely to use an IUD (intrauterine device) than all other groups (20% vs. 7.6% for U.S.-born Hispanic women; white, 6.8%;, black 5.5%; and Asian 4.6%).[1]
  • Spermicidal and interim methods of birth control (e.g., diaphragm, cervical cap, sponge, female condom, and foams/jellies/suppositories) have declined in popularity or remain infrequently used.[1]
  • Plan B can prevent pregnancy up to five days after a woman has unprotected sex, though effectiveness decreases the longer a woman waits. Another method is to have an IUD inserted within five days of unprotected sex.[11]
  • Body heat can weaken condoms
  • Most condom manufacturers recommend that you never put condoms in a back pocket or wallet because your body heat can cause the latex to weaken.[1]
  • The first condoms appeared in 3000 B.C. They were made from animal intestines and fish bladders. There is even a “user manual” that suggests soaking a pig intestine in warm milk to make it more supple and soft.[1]
  • Condom use has increased from 52% in 1982 to 93.4% in 2010.[10]
  • Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in 1916 and popularized the phrase “birth control.” Her clinic closed after 11 days, and she was arrested. Her arrest sparked birth control activism around the U.S.[1]
  • September 26th is World Contraception Day.[1]
  • An Israeli official acknowledged in 2013 that a number of Ethiopian women who immigrated to Israel were forced to take a long-acting contraception shot. Critics claim it was an attempt to reduce the number of births in a community that is black and poor.[4]
  • The Malthusian League and Maria Stopes established the first permanent birth control clinic in Britain. Midwives and doctors operated it.[1]
  • Richard Richter developed the first intrauterine device in 1909, made from silkworm gut.[1]
  • The Pill was introduced as a form of birth control by a devout Catholic doctor, John Rock, who saw it as a way to fight poverty and improve marriages.[1]
  • The pill can influence who a woman finds attractive
  • Birth control can affect a woman’s sense of smell, which can influence whom she is attracted to.[1]
  • The first illustration of birth control during sex may be of King Minos of Crete who lived in approximately 3000 B.C. He is depicted wearing a goat’s bladder as a condom to protect his partner from the scorpions and serpents that were in his semen as a result of a curse.a[1]
  • The oldest condoms are from 1642 and are animal sheaths similar to sausage casings. They were found at Dudley Castle in England.[1]
  • Soronus, a Greek gynecologist during the 2nd century A.D., told women to drink the water that blacksmiths used to cool metal as a form of birth control.[1]
  • Some ancient Sumatran woman would use the pod of an opium plant as a diaphragm during intercourse.[1]
  • Ethinyl estradiol, a chemical found in the urine of women on birth control pills, has also been found in rivers and streams. It has caused some intersex fish to have difficulty reproducing.[11]
  • A 2009 study found that that women using the Depo-Provera birth control shot gained an average of 11 pounds and increased their body fat by 3.4% over three years. They are unsure what caused this effect.[1]
  • Birth control will not negatively affect long-term fertility. However, with the Depo-Provera shot, it can take 6–9 months for all the hormones to leave the body before fertility is restored (though it is still possible to get pregnant).[9]
  • Newer forms of birth control have lower forms of hormones than older forms.[9]
  • A new IUD called Skyla is slightly smaller than the Mirena and ParaGard and delivers a lower dose of hormones, which may make it more attractive to women who have not had children.[11]
  • Early suffragist Katharine Dexter McCormick considered the Pill a precondition to women’s freedom. However, in the 1970s, feminists saw the drug as one more example of an overbearing patriarchy and aggressively asked why women should carry all the health risks for birth control.[1]
  • Around 1850 B.C., ancient Egyptians used crocodile dung as birth control. Crocodile dung is pure alkaline, as is modern-day spermicides. The dung was used as a pessary (an object or concoction inserted into the vagina to block sperm).[1]
  • Coke was sometimes used as a spermicide
  • During the 1950s and 1960s, women would sometimes use Coca-Cola douches as a contraceptive. It was thought that the carbonic acid in it would act as a spermicide.[1]
  • Charles Goodyear patented the first rubber condom in the 1850s. Condoms would not become legal in the U.S. until during WWI.[1]
  • During the Middle Ages in Europe, some women would tie weasel testicles around their inner thighs and wear a weasel bone as a contraceptive.[1]
  • Concubines in ancient China would drink lead and mercury in order to remain sterile. Unfortunately, lead and mercury also leads to brain damage, kidney failure, and death.[1]
  • In 16th-century Canada, women would soak dried beaver testicles in alcohol and then drink the concoction as a form of birth control.[1]
  • According to the FDA, 17%–23% of the women who rely on the cervical cap (a smaller version of the diaphragm) might become pregnant within a year. For best protection against pregnancy and STDs, the cervical cap should be used with a male condom. A cervical cap must be left in place for six hours after intercourse.[11]
  • The female condom resembles the male condom except that it is larger and has a ring on the inside. The woman squeezes the inner ring and inserts it into her vagina until it hits the cervix. Depending on how well it is used, it is 79%–95% effective.[1]
  • An IUD is a T-shaped device that a doctor inserts into the uterus. It 1) makes sperm travel more difficult, 2) makes the sperm less likely to fertilize an egg, and 3) prevents fertilized eggs from implanting into the uterus.[9]
  • In developing countries, birth control has decreased maternal death numbers by 40%. Birth control could prevent 70% of maternal deaths if the full demand for birth control were met.[8]
  • Birth control lengthens the time between pregnancies—which, in turn, decreases the birth risks and increases infant survival rates.[1]
  • Birth control helps increase economic growth because it leads to more women in the work force, fewer dependent children, and less consumption of resources.[1]
  • Breast feeding is not a reliable form of birth control
  • The myth that a woman doesn’t need to be on birth control while she is breastfeeding is probably to blame for many unplanned pregnancies. While there is a dip in fertility while a woman is exclusively breastfeeding, it is in no way fool proof.[9]
  • Providing birth control for all women in developing countries who currently have an unmet need for modern methods would prevent an additional 54 million unintended pregnancies, including 21 million unplanned births, 26 million abortions (of which 16 million would be unsafe), and 7 million miscarriages. This would also prevent 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.[8]
  • Approximately 645 million women in the developing world in 2012 were using modern birth control methods. This is 42 million more than in 2008. About half of the increase is due to population growth.[8]
  • In 2012, contraceptive care cost $4 billion in the developing world. Fully meeting the existing need for modern contraceptive methods of all women in the developing world would cost $8.1 billion.[8]
  • In Ancient Greece, silphium was harvested into extinction because of its effectiveness as birth control.[1]
  • Methods such as Saran Wrap, balloons, toothpaste, jumping up and down, and varying sexual positions are NOT birth control methods. They do not work.[11]
  • Birth Control Timeline
    1550 B.C.An Egyptian manuscript titled the Ebers Papyrus instructs women on how to make their own birth control. It describes how to mix dates, acacia, and honey into a paste, smear it over wool, and use it as a pessary (an object or concoction inserted into the vagina to block sperm).
    A.D.1700sCasanova describes his attempts at birth control, including sheep-bladder condoms and half lemons as a cervical cap.
    1839Charles Goodyear invents vulcanized rubber, which is used to make rubber condoms, intrauterine devices, douching syringes, and “womb veils.”
    1873U.S. Congress passes an anti-obscenity law that deems birth control information obscene and outlaws its distribution. The U.S. is the only Western nation to make birth control illegal at the time.
    1880sThe cervical cap, which is an early version of the diaphragm, is invented.
    1916Margaret Sanger opens the first family planning clinic in the U.S. It is closed within 10 days.
    1930Pope Pius reaffirms the Catholic Church’s position against contraception. Anglican bishops approve of limited birth control use.
    1938Contraception remains illegal in most U.S. states, but a judge lifts the federal obscenity ban on birth control.
    1951Chemist Carl Djerassi creates a progesterone pill; Gregory Pincus, prompted by Sanger, researches hormonal birth control.
    1954The first human trial of the Pill is conducted on 50 women in Massachusetts.
    1960The Supreme Court strikes down state laws that prohibited contraception for married people in Griswold v Connecticut;6.5 million American women are on the Pill.
    1970The U.S. Senate holds hearings on the Pill after concerns are raised about its safety and side effects.
    1980s10.5 million American women are the Pill.
    2010100 million women around the world are on the Pill. A 40-year study of 46,000 women conducted over 40 years finds that women on the Pill live longer and are less likely to die prematurely of all causes (including cancer and heart disease).

1 Bullough, Vern L., editor. Encyclopedia of Birth Control. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2001.

2Can I Get Pregnant If . . . .? Contraception and Birth Control Myths.” Baby Med. 2014. Accessed: February 26, 2014.

3Contraceptive Use in the United States.” Guttmacher Institute. August 2013. Accessed: February 26, 2014.

4 Gordts, Eline. “Ethiopian Women Claim Israel Forced Them to Accept Birth Control Shots.” The World Post. January 28, 2013. Accessed: February 26, 2014.

5 Gueren, Casey. “10 Birth Control Myths—Debunked.” Women’s Health. July 23, 2013. Accessed: February 23, 2014.

6 Pearson, Catherine. “Birth Control Facts: 10 Things You Should Absolutely Know.” The Huffington Post. June 27, 2013. Accessed: February 26, 2014.

7 Robin, Diana Maury et. al. Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007.

8 Singh, Susheela and Jacqueline E. Darroch. “Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services, Estimates for 2012.” Guttmacher Institute. June 2012. Accessed: February 26, 2014.

9 Speroff, Leon and Philip D. Darney. A Clinical Guide for Contraception. Riverwoods, IL: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010.

10Ten Little-Known Facts about Condoms from Planned Parenthood.” Planned Parenthood. November 24, 2010. Accessed: February 26, 2014.

11 Vincent, Beverly and Robert Greenberger. Frequently Asked Questions about Birth Control. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing, 2012.

12 Waknine, Yael. “Contraception Survey: Most U.S. Women Try 3 or More Methods.” Medscape. February 14, 2013. Accessed: February 26, 2014.