The biggest breakthrough in artificial contraception was “The Pill,” the introduction of which helped to spark the feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s. There were other forms of contraception prior to the pill, and a few have come along since its U.S. Food & Drug Administration approval in 1960. No artificial contraceptive method is 100 percent effective.
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“The Pill” was developed by doctor and researcher Gregory Pincus with the aid of financial benefactor Katherine McCormick and longtime birth control advocate Margaret Sanger. According to the Mayo Clinic, “the pill” is a combination of progestin and estrogen with an rate of effectiveness at 92 percent.
Modern condoms generally are made from synthetic rubber. Condoms are classified as “barrier” contraception. Aside from traditional male condoms that fit over the penis, the female type—made of plastic—is partially inserted into the vagina. The male condom has an 85 percent effectiveness rate while the female condom has a 79 percent rate, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The diaphragm, unlike the female or male condoms, is reusable. It is made of rubber and inserted into the vagina—with spermicide applied—to cover the cervix. The diaphragm’s effectiveness rate is approximately 84 percent.
The contraceptive sponge is a type of update on the diaphragm. It essentially works the same way. It is placed inside the vagina to block sperm from entering the cervix. It has a soft strap to help remove it. Unlike the diaphragm, however, the sponge already has spermicide in it that is released for 24 hours. Depending on how regularly she uses the sponge and whether she has given birth, the sponge has an effectiveness rate of 68 percent or more for women who've had children and up to 91 percent for other women.