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How effective is male contraception?

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Not all contraceptive methods are appropriate for all situations, and individuals should consult their health care providers to determine which method of birth control is best for them. For men, methods of contraception include male condoms and sterilization (vasectomy).

  • Male condoms. This condom is a thin sheath that covers the penis to collect sperm and prevent it from entering the woman's body. Male condoms are generally made of latex or polyurethane, but a natural alternative is lambskin (made from the intestinal membrane of lambs). Latex or polyurethane condoms reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Lambskin condoms do not prevent STDs. Male condoms are disposable after a single use.1,2
  • Vasectomy (va-SEK-tuh-mee) is a surgical procedure that cuts, closes, or blocks the vas deferens (pronounced vas DEF-uh-renz). This procedure blocks the path between the testes and the urethra (yoo-REE-thruh).3 The sperm cannot leave the testes and cannot reach the egg. It can take as long as 3 months for the procedure to be fully effective. A backup method of contraception is used until tests confirm that there is no sperm in the semen. Although vasectomy can sometimes be reversed, it is not always possible. Vasectomy, like other sterilization procedures, is considered a permanent form of birth control.

Different methods of contraception have different rates of effectiveness in preventing pregnancy.

Contraception is most effective when used correctly and consistently. The failure rate increases if a method of contraception is used incorrectly.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, male condoms have a failure rate of 11% to 16% (that is, from 11 to 16 women would be expected to get pregnant within one year if 100 women and their partners relied solely on male condoms for birth control). Male sterilization procedures have a failure rate of less than 1% if a backup method is used for the first several months after the procedure. For details about the effectiveness of specific methods of contraception, as well as potential side effects and risks, visit the website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women's Health.4


  1. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Inc. (2012). Birth control. Retrieved June 4, 2012, from http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control-4211.htm External Web Site Policy [top]
  2. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Women's Health. (2011). Birth control guide. Retrieved June 23, 2012, from http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/WomensHealthTopics/ucm117971.htm [top]
  3. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Vasectomy. Retrieved June 7, 2012, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002995.htm [top]
  4. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. (2011). Birth control methods fact sheet. Retrieved June 4, 2012, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/birth-control-methods.html [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 11/30/2012
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