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You can use different methods of contraception to prevent pregnancy when you have vaginal sex. You have the right to use contraception and choose a method that works best for you.

Learn more about the different types of contraception and their effectiveness.

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Types of contraception

No form of contraception is 100% effective. Every method has its advantages and disadvantages. There are many things to consider when choosing a contraception method. For example, its effectiveness, cost, how easy it is to use and your stage of life.

The most effective methods of contraception are listed below.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)

LARCs are highly effective methods of contraception. The other advantage is you don’t have to think about contraception every day or every time you have sex.

Hormonal implant (Implanon®)

Hormonal implants are over 99% effective. A doctor or nurse inserts a small implant under the skin of your upper arm. The implant releases the progestogen hormone, which stops ovulation. The implant lasts for three years.

Visit the Sexual Health Victoria website to watch a short video about implants.

Hormonal injection (Depo Provera)

Hormonal injections are over 96% effective. A doctor or nurse gives you an injection of the progestogen hormone every 12 weeks, which stops ovulation.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

IUDs are over 99% effective. Hormonal IUDs are slightly more effective than copper ones. A doctor or nurse inserts the IUD (a small t-shaped device) into your uterus through your vagina, which stops sperm from reaching the egg. Hormonal IUDs (Mirena® or Kyleena®) last for five years or longer. Copper IUDs last for five to 10 years.

Watch this short video about IUDs or download the transcript (DOCX 100KB).

This video is captioned

Visit the Sexual Health Victoria website to watch a short video about IUDs.

The Pill (oral contraception)

The Pill is over 93% effective. You need to take a pill around the same time every day to prevent pregnancy. The Pill contains oestrogen and progesterone hormones. A progesterone-only pill (mini pill) and a highly effective progesterone pill (Slinda) are also available.

Vaginal ring

Vaginal rings are over 93% effective. A vaginal ring has the same hormones that are in the combined oral contraceptive pill. You place a new ring high up in your vagina every month and leave it there for three weeks to prevent pregnancy.

Condoms and diaphragms (barrier methods)

Barrier methods of contraception work by stopping sperm from reaching an egg. These include:

  • external condoms – worn over an erect penis (over 88% effective)
  • internal condoms – a sheath that fits loosely into the vagina (over 79% effective)
  • diaphragm – a soft silicone cap that is placed in the vagina before sex (over 82% effective).

Condoms and diaphragms need to be used properly to be effective. To learn more, visit Sexual Health Victoria.

Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception is also known as the ‘morning after’ pill. You can use it if you forget to take the Pill, have unprotected sex or if a condom breaks during sex.

This pill prevents or delays ovulation – but it doesn’t always prevent pregnancy. There are two types of emergency contraception pill available from a doctor or pharmacist without prescription. The price varies depending on the pill and pharmacy. The pills are over 85% effective and are most effective if taken within 24 hours after vaginal sex.

A copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception if inserted within five day of sex. It’s more effective than the morning after pill.

Permanent contraception

Permanent contraception can be:

  • an operation to close the fallopian tubes (‘getting your tubes tied’) or
  • an operation to cut the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis (vasectomy).

Permanent contraception is over 99% effective.

Contraception and breastfeeding

If you breastfeed within six months of giving birth, it can reduce the likelihood of getting pregnant. But it’s still possible to get pregnant during this time. Breastfeeding as a natural birth control method is about 98% effective if you meet all of the following conditions:

  • your periods have not returned
  • your baby is less than six months old
  • your baby is fully breastfed and gets no other form of food or drink.

Contraception and menopause

Your fertility will decline as you age, but if you are still ovulating, it’s possible to get pregnant.

If you’re younger than 50 and you don’t want to fall pregnant, you should use contraception for at least two years after your final period.

If you’re 50 or older and you don’t want to fall pregnant, you should use contraception for at least one year after your final period.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy is not a contraceptive. This includes menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), hormone therapy for endometriosis and gender-affirming hormone replacement therapy.

Protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Most methods of contraception do not protect you from STIs. Condoms are the only form of contraception that are highly effective at protecting against STIs. Condoms can also be used with other forms of contraception (e.g. the Pill).

Other barrier methods, such as dental dams (dams), can be used to prevent the spread of STIs. Dams are latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex.

Learn more about safer sex and STIs.

When to see your doctor

If you’re not sure which contraception to use, see your doctor. They can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each method so you can make an informed decision. Some forms of contraception, such as LARCs, vaginal rings and the Pill, must be prescribed by a doctor.

If you’re sexually active, it’s also important to have regular sexual health checks with your doctor or sexual health nurse.

More information and resources

For more detailed information about contraception, visit Sexual Health Victoria.

This con­tent has been reviewed by a group of med­ical sub­ject mat­ter experts, in accor­dance with Jean Hailes pol­i­cy.

1
Tiwari K, Khanam I, Savarna N. A study on effectiveness of lactational amenorrhea as a method of contraception. International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2018;7(10):3946. doi:https://doi.org/10.18203/2320-1770.ijrcog20183837
Last updated: 
01 March 2024
 | 
Last reviewed: 
12 December 2023

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