Birth Control Calculator

Created by Dominika Miszewska, MD, PhD candidate and Julia Żuławińska
Reviewed by Bogna Szyk
Last updated: Apr 26, 2022

Male birth control pills were found to be 99% effective in mice and will soon be tested in human trials.

So far, we've discovered a vast range of different contraceptive options for women, yet just two - condoms and vasectomy - for men. This puts a large financial burden on women's shoulders (who often pay for all the options except condoms, even in long-term relationships). If the male birth control pills are found to be safe, effective, and reversible, some of this burden may be lifted. It should also decrease the chances of unplanned pregnancies 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

There were nearly twice as many unplanned pregnancies in the UK during the first lockdown. And even though the pandemic is hopefully coming to a close worldwide, it's good to know what methods and how to use them correctly to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

💸 If you want to compare the costs and efficacies of different contraceptive options, this birth control calculator is for you.

Unintended pregnancies worldwide

Nearly half of the pregnancies in the whole world are unwanted. 🤰 The number reaches 45% for women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in the US. It goes even higher if only teenagers are considered.

In almost half of pregnancies, a woman didn't plan a child at that time or at all. That leads to another significant social discussion on abortion and its availability in different countries and US states.

To decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies, we built this birth control calculator to help you compare your options and find which options suit you.

How to use the birth control calculator?

It's easy! Follow these steps:

  1. Choose whether you're a man or a woman. The calculator will prioritize the type and amount of contraception based on your sex.
  2. Select the main birth control option you prefer.
  3. Input whether you use condoms or not. Remember that it's the only way to protect yourself from STIs.
    • If you use condoms, choose how many there are in a pack and how many you need over a given time.
  4. The results will calculate automatically, estimating the total cost in one year. You can switch the time yourself, depending on if you want to know your lifetime spending or maybe those monthly costs of birth control.

Just below the total cost of contraception, its efficacy will appear. You'll find more on the effectiveness of each method in the paragraphs below.

Pearl Index - what is it?

This measure is now mainly used in clinical trials that work on the efficiency of contraception methods. In short, the Pearl Index estimates the number of unintended pregnancies in 100 woman-years of exposure (e.g., 100 women over one year of use, or ten women over ten years). The lower the Pearl index, the higher efficacy of the method.

It may be divided into two categories:

  • Actual use Pearl Index, which includes all pregnancies, regardless of the method, if used correctly; and
  • Perfect Use or Method Pearl Index which includes only pregnancies resulting from correct and consistent method use.

Birth control for men

There are few contraception options available for men.

  1. Condoms - Well known and used worldwide. The only method is effective in preventing STIs. Even if you're allergic to latex, there are some other types of material on the market. Ideally, 98% effective, but in reality, 85%.
  2. Vasectomy - Male sterilization. In a short procedure, a doctor cuts the way the sperm cells enter the semen. After vasectomy, you can still have an erection and ejaculate; just the semen doesn't contain sperm cells. This procedure is permanent in most cases.
  3. The male pill is an old idea but has recently gained much interest due to research. More on this topic in the next paragraph.

Male contraceptive pill

A non-hormonal pill for men has been found to be 99% effective in mice. It works by blocking a protein, which leads to significantly lower sperm production. In 2022 it will be tested in humans, and, if it is safe and reversible, it will be available in as soon as five years.

However, the main concern is whether the method will be acceptable for men. All hopes currently rest on the fact it is non-hormonal, so it should not produce side effects, such as lipids dysfunction or depression. Currently, research on male hormonal contraception is ongoing. However, the results do not seem to be as well perceived as the non-hormonal pill. Here, it's worth noting that hormonal pills for women do have such adverse effects, yet they are still used thanks to their nearly 100% effectiveness.

✔️ Male contraception would be an excellent asset for all men who wish to control who they get pregnant. In addition, have both partners responsible for birth control divides the burden of responsibility between the man and woman. It may make men also feel culpable for abortion and makes such a decision also their liability.

Female contraception

Below, you'll find all the leading birth control methods currently recommended for women. The actual efficacy of each one is based on data from Planned Parenthood. They may differ from the ideal effectiveness sometimes listed with the method.

Birth control methods
Birth control methods
  1. IUD - An intrauterine device. It can work two ways:
    • Releases a hormone - levonorgestrel
    • Made of copper. Depending on the type, it may protect you from 3 up to 10 years. However, it needs to be installed and then removed by a doctor. In many countries, it's free of charge and is 99% effective.
  2. Hormonal - Mainly known for their efficacy, but also their numerous side effects and contraindications.
    • Injection - Given every 1-4 months by a doctor. Effective in 94% of cases.
    • Pill - Either progestin-only or combined tablet. A woman typically needs to take them daily, at the same hour. If any dose is delayed, it's not effective in a given month. Theoretically effective in 99%. However, sometimes women forget to take these; in reality, its effectiveness is only 91%.
    • Implant - Releases hormones for three years. It's placed under the skin.
    • Patch - Releases hormones for three weeks. In the fourth week, you take off the patch. After one week without it, you put a new patch on the arm. 91% effective.
    • Ring - You can place it yourself into your vagina. It releases hormones topically (only to the parts of the body touching the ring). As with a patch, it can remain in place for three weeks, followed by a week off. 91% effective.
  3. Mechanical
    • Diaphragm - Placed in the vagina, looks like a small cup covering the cervix. It needs to be fitted by a doctor—ideally, 94% effective. In reality - only 88%.
    • Female condom - Looks like a condom, but it's placed in a woman's vagina instead of on a penis—more failures than with male condoms, only 75% effective.
  4. Spermicide - Products placed in the vagina, such as gel or cream, that should kill the sperm cells. Not that effective; it's best to combine it with a different type of contraception. Barely over 70% effective.
  5. Fertility awareness - Also called a calendar method. The woman measures her body temperature and observes the discharge. Based on this, you get to know your * fertility window* in which it's best not to have sex or use condoms. It may be pretty effective (76-88%), but only if you have regular periods and know your body, and it implies no intercourses or other methods while ovulating.
  6. Postpartum - During the lactation period, if you breastfeed, natural hormones produced in your body should make ovulation impossible. However, this method is ineffective, as hormones may be at different levels in some women.
  7. Withdrawal - Also known as the pull-out method. The man needs to pull out his penis before ejaculation. Not really recommended, as there are sperm cells (which may fertilize an egg) found in the pre-ejaculation.
  8. Emergency-pill - May be taken up to 3-5 days after the intercourse, yet it works best in the first 24 hours. It works by giving a substantial hormonal dose at once and impeding the conception. It may be less effective if you weigh more than 195 pounds. If a copper IUD is inserted up to 5 days after sex, it may prevent the conception even in 99% of cases!
  9. Sterilization - 99% effective and the only permanent method for women. It's also called tubal ligation, as a doctor cuts the fallopian tubes during a short procedure, impeding the egg to get to the uterus and sperm from reaching it. Non-reversible.

Why so few male alternatives?

There are so few male alternatives because birth control primarily focuses on the disruption the woman's natural hormonal cycle that regulates ovulation. This is an obvious and easy target if you wish to control pregnancies - and there is no comparable mechanism in men. This is why it has taken much longer to bring a male birth control pill to the table - scientists have to do much more work to find valid biological targets.

This is why male birth control is more mechanical in nature. Approximately 500,000 Americans get a vasectomy in a year. Less than 10% of men rely on vasectomy for pregnancy prevention. Most of those who decide on vasectomy are married, older, and already with kids. 💉On the other hand, more than 20% of women who use contraception decide on tubal ligation, even though it's less effective, more risky, and more expensive.

Vasectomy is a little considered option by most men, considering it is permanent. The rates in the US are also lower than in Canada or the UK.

Condoms, on the other hand, are effective, but only when used perfectly. They can also be forgotten in the heat of the moment, and so the risk of pregnancy significantly rises.

What's important is that the production of effective male birth control may be more difficult due to the number of sperm cells that, even significantly reduced, still may be enough to create an embryo. Then, men need to accept and use birth control, and women should trust enough their partners in the regular intake of the pill.

Involving men in the process of birth contraception and increasing their responsibility for the possible pregnancy could promote higher engagement in birth prevention, abortion, and eventually raising a child. It would also give men reproductive autonomy and a possibility of preventing the unwanted pregnancies themselves.

Birth control and STI prevention

STI or STDs - what are those? STI stands for sexually transmitted infections, while STD - sexually transmitted diseases. They are often used interchangeably, yet there's a slight difference. Most viruses transmitted during intercourse are asymptomatic, often for many years. 🦠 Therefore, infection seems a bit more accurate to use than a disease.

The prevention of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) plays an integral part in birth control. Yet, only condoms are effective in this matter. Importantly, by condoms here, we mean external male condoms made of latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene; female condoms are not as effective.

The table below explains which infections are transmitted which way.

Skin-to-skin contact Bodily fluids
HPVHPV
Herpes simplex virus (HSV)HSV
TrichomoniasisTrichomoniasis
HIVHIV
SyphilisChlamydia
Molluscum contagiosumGonorrhea
Hepatitis B

If a disease is spread through skin-to-skin contact, even condoms may not be fully effective, and that's due to them not covering the whole skin. You can increase the efficacy in preventing STIs by choosing the right size, storing them correctly, and putting them on every time you have sex.

Therefore, even if you use hormonal methods for birth control, but still change partners or are unsure of their STD status, it's safer to use them. 🏥 Regardless of condoms, it's advisable to test yourself for STIs regularly and before committing to a new relationship.

Dominika Miszewska, MD, PhD candidate and Julia Żuławińska
This birth control calculator was designed to help you compare the costs and effectiveness of different contraceptive options 💊.
Birth control for
females
Birth control option
Pill
Cost per cycle
$
Condoms
Do you also buy condoms?
No
Always use condoms with a new partner to prevent STIs.
Result
How much will you spend over...
yrs
You will spend
261
$
Your chosen type of birth control is 91% effective.

You're using hormonal birth control. We encourage you to stay informed about its many possible side effects.
In the text, you can read more about STIs and contraception methods (including the recent male contraceptive pill).
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