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Which is more effective- condoms or the pill?

Condoms or the pill?
Typical vs effective use of contraception
How effective are contraceptive pills?
How effective are condoms?
Which is more effective: the pill or condoms?
Get the facts: Condoms & contraceptive pills
Is a contraceptive pill suitable for you?
Should I use condoms or contraceptive pills?

Whatever contraceptive method you choose, it’s important that you feel secure and empowered in your choice. There are lots of contraceptive methods available, which we discuss here. Two popular forms of contraception are condoms and contraceptive pills. If you take or are considering starting either of these contraceptive methods, this article is for you. 

Condoms and contraceptive pills are both very effective (when used correctly) and popular methods of contraception, but which one is right for you? Everyone is unique, and the contraceptive method that works for one person may not suit another. What you want out of your contraception depends on a number of factors. We’ve listed out some things for you to consider when thinking about whether condoms or contraceptive pills are a better choice for you?

Typical vs effective use of contraception

It’s important to know the difference between ‘typical’ and ‘perfect’ use of contraception. 

‘Typical’ use is how well the contraception may be used in real life (such as the condom not being put on properly, or forgetting your pill) whilst ‘perfect’ use refers to how effective the contraception is when used correctly every time.

How effective are contraceptive pills?

When used correctly, both progestogen-only contraceptive pills and combined contraceptive pills are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, which means less than 1 in 100 may get pregnant when using this method. With typical use, both the combined and progestogen-only pills are around 91% effective.  Find out more about contraceptive pills here.

If you are taking a contraceptive pill, it’s important to follow the instructions to make sure it is as effective as possible. Hana® and other progestogen-only pills should be taken at the same time every day without a break between packs. 

If you do forget to take Hana® (or another progestogen-only pill containing desogestrel), you will have a 12-hour window in which to remember. If it’s been longer than 12 hours, it counts as a ‘missed pill’ and you may not be protected against unplanned pregnancy.

Find out more about what to do if you miss your pill.

Other contraceptive pills may have different advice, so remember to check your packet to find information on your specific pill.

How effective are condoms?

Male condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy with perfect use, meaning around 2 in 100 may get pregnant if the condom is used correctly. With typical use, male condoms are around 82% effective. Female condoms are around 95% effective with perfect use and 79% effective with typical use.

Which is more effective: the pill or condoms?

With perfect use, the progestogen-only pill and the combined pill are both over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, while male condoms are 98% effective. Hormonal contraceptive pills are slightly more effective with perfect use. It’s important to remember, however, that condoms are the only method of contraception that can also protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

If you are not in a monogamous relationship and/or you are not sure of your partner’s STI status, you may want to use condoms to protect against both pregnancy and STIs.

Get the facts: Condoms & contraceptive pills

Efficiency is really important when you’re choosing a contraceptive method, but there are other factors to consider as well.

Condoms Contraceptive pills
Condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy with perfect use. Contraceptive pills are over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy with perfect use.
Protects against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Easy to access. Condoms can be bought and ordered from many shops, and are available at sexual health clinics for free. Some progestogen-only pills, like Hana®, are available to buy over the pharmacy counter without a prescription, or online through Other contraceptive pills can be accessed through a doctor or sexual health clinic. 
Interrupt sex as the person with the penis has to put it on. Does not interrupt sex and allows for sexual spontaneity. 
Is a non-hormonal barrier method of contraception. Contains synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones to prevent ovulation and thicken cervical mucus to prevent pregnancy.
Condoms can sometimes break, tear or come off during sex. No contraception is 100% effective, and factors like vomiting, having diarrhoea or missing your pill can make contraceptive pills less effective.
You need to make sure you have a condom prior to engaging in sex. Contraceptive pills have to be taken at the same time every day to prevent pregnancy. The progestogen-only pill is taken every day without a break between packs, the advice on combined pills vary depending on the pill.
You only need to use a condom when you have sex Some contraceptive pills are taken every day without a break between packs, whereas others may have a week of placebo pills in order to mimic a period.
Condoms don’t tend to cause side effects, but some people are allergic to latex and/or spermicides and may want to look into non-latex condoms or those which do not contain the spermicides you are allergic to. Some people experience side effects from contraceptive pills, whereas others may not. Find out more about side effects here.

Is a contraceptive pill suitable for you?

There is no one size fits all when it comes to contraceptive pills. Some people may absolutely love a certain pill, whilst others may not get on with it. It’s important to find a contraceptive method that works for you.

Progestogen-only pills are suitable for many people who can get pregnant, including some who may not be able to take contraceptive pills containing oestrogen. This includes smokers over the age of 35, those who are breastfeeding, and people with high blood pressure or a history of blood clots.

If you are interested in buying a progestogen-only pill at a pharmacy or online, you will complete a consultation to check if this type of contraception is suitable for you. Find out more about the consultation questions here.

Should I use condoms or contraceptive pills?

Some people prefer contraceptive pills as they are convenient, you can stop them at any time, they don’t interrupt sex and they are over 99% effective when used correctly. Others prefer condoms because they only need to use one when they have sex, they can protect you from both sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy and they are non-hormonal.

Condoms can break or come off and are slightly less effective than contraceptive pills. Condoms are, however, still a very effective method of contraception. It ultimately comes down to individual choice and what you feel is best for you. Some people choose to use both condoms and a contraceptive pill. This is a good idea if you are sleeping with someone and you don’t know their STI status, or if you are having more casual sex, as condoms also protect you against STIs. 

If you are interested in using a contraceptive pill, you can speak to a pharmacist, doctor or sexual health practitioner who can help you make an informed decision.

You can now buy some progestogen-only pills, such as Hana®, over the pharmacy counter or online with no need for a doctor’s appointment. Find out more about Hana® here.