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‘Contraception’ means the deliberate prevention of pregnancy. This is different from practising safe sex, which also includes protecting yourself and others from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are different types of contraception, and all methods have certain side effects and risks. Talk to your doctor about the method that’s best for you.

This can help if:

  • you’re not sure what contraception is or how it works
  • you’re having sex and don’t want to get pregnant
  • you’re thinking of having sex for the first time.
Condom and the pill

What is contraception?

‘Contraception’ means using an intervention when having sexual intercourse to avoid getting pregnant. Contraception includes things like using a condom, being on the contraceptive pill, or having a hormonal contraceptive device implanted. Another common term for contraception is ‘birth control’.

Remember that contraception isn’t the same thing as practising safe sex. Practising safe sex is about stopping the spread of STIs; ‘contraception’ refers only to preventing pregnancy.

Hormonal contraception

Hormones are absorbed into the body by the female partner and prevent her from becoming pregnant. All the hormonal methods listed below require a prescription from a health professional or a pharmacist (for the Emergency pill) and none of them protect either person from STIs.

Combined oral contraception (‘The pill’)

  • Prevents the release (ovulation) of an egg (ovum), so there is nothing for a male sperm to fertilise.
  • If taken properly, it works 99% of the time.
  • You need to take one pill at the same time every day.
  • It can affect your mood.
  • It costs about $10-$30 per month.

Progestogen-only pills (‘The mini-pill’)

  • Thickens the mucus at the cervix, which makes it difficult for sperm to enter the uterus.
  • If taken properly, it works 98% of the time.
  • You need to take one pill every day.
  • It can affect your mood.
  • It costs about $10-$30 per month.

Vaginal ring

  • Prevents the release (ovulation) of an egg (ovum), so there is nothing for male sperm to fertilise.
  • If used properly, it works 99% of the time.
  • You need to replace the ring every three weeks.
  • It costs about $30-$80 per month.

Implant

  • Prevents the release (ovulation) of an egg (ovum), so there is nothing for a male sperm to fertilise.
  • If inserted properly, it is 99.9% effective.
  • You need to get a new implant inserted into your upper arm every three years.
  • It must be inserted and removed by a doctor and can cause continuous bleeding (like a non-stop period).
  • It costs about $30 for the rod, plus the doctor’s fee for inserting it.

Injections

  • Prevents the release (ovulation) of an egg (ovum), so there is nothing for a male sperm to fertilise.
  • If done at the right time, it is 99.7% effective.
  • You need to get a hormone injection every three months.
  • It can cause changes in mood.
  • It costs about $20 per injection.

Intra-uterine device (IUD) – hormonal

  • Thickens the mucus at the cervix, which makes it difficult for the sperm to enter the uterus.
  • It’s more than 99% effective.
  • You need to get a replacement IUD every five years.
  • It can cause bleeding and mood changes.
  • It costs about $40.

IUD (copper)

  • It causes the uterus to inflame and prevents sperm from being able to fertilise an egg.
  • It’s more than 99% effective.
  • You need to get a replacement copper IUD every ten years.
  • It can cause bleeding and mood changes.
  • It costs about $40.

Emergency contraceptive pill

  • Prevents the fertilization or implantation of an egg in the uterus after unprotected sex has occurred.
  • If taken within 72 hours after sex, it is 80-90% effective.
  • Effectiveness decreases with each day.
  • It can be bought without seeing a doctor.
  • It costs about $20-30.

Barrier methods

Barrier methods of contraception use physical devices to prevent the sperm from entering the uterus.

Condom

  • Latex tube covers the penis during sex and prevents sperm from entering the partner’s body.
  • If used properly it is 98% effective.
  • You need to use a new condom each time you have sex.
  • Protects both partners from STIs.
  • A condom costs about $1 each.

Female condom

  • A female condom and diaphragm are placed inside the woman’s vagina before sex to prevent sperm from entering the vagina.
  • If inserted correctly it is 95% effective.
  • You need to use a new female condom each time you have sex.
  • Protects both partners from STIs.
  • It costs about $3.50 each.

Diaphragm

  • Placed inside the vagina before sex to prevent sperm from moving from the vagina into the uterus, where fertilisation occurs.
  • Spermicide also kills sperm in semen.
  • If inserted correctly, and used with spermicide, it is 86-94% effective.
  • You need to use a diaphragm each time you have sex.
  • It doesn’t protect either person from STIs.
  • It costs $70-$90.
  • It requires a prescription from a health professional.

Where can I get contraception from?

Condoms for men can be bought over the counter (OTC) from most supermarkets, service stations, chemists or convenience stores. Condoms for women can be bought at chemist shops. The morning after pill is available from pharmacies without a prescription. Non-OTC forms of contraception (the pill, diaphragm) need to be accessed through a health professional.

Places where non-OTC contraception is available:

  • general practitioners
  • family planning centres
  • women's health centres
  • sexual health centres
  • hospitals

What can I do now?