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Contraception - fact sheet

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

Why do you need contraception?

When you have penis-in-vagina sex with a man, his sperm may fertilise your egg, which can cause pregnancy. If you don’t want to get pregnant, you can use contraception.

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, the cost, how easy it is to use or your stage of life.

The most effective methods of contraception are listed below.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs)

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.

LARCs include:

  • hormonal implant (Implanon®)
  • a doctor or nurse inserts a small implant under the skin of your upper arm
  • the implant releases the progestogen hormone, which prevents ovulation and
    thickens the mucus in your cervix to stop sperm from entering the uterus
  • the implant lasts for three years
  • hormonal implants are 99.7% – 99.95% effective
  • hormonal injection (Depo Provera)
  • a doctor or nurse gives you an injection of the progestogen hormone every 12 weeks
  • the progestogen prevents ovulation (when an egg is released by an ovary) and thickens the mucus in your cervix
  • hormonal injections are 96% – 99.8% effective
  • intrauterine device (IUD)
  • a doctor or nurse inserts the IUD (a small t-shaped device) into your uterus through your vagina
  • the IUD stops sperm from reaching the egg
  • hormonal IUDs (Mirena® or Kyleena®) last for five years
  • copper IUDs last for five to 10 years
  • IUDs are 99.5% – 99.9% effective (hormonal IUDs are slightly more effective than copper ones)

The Pill (oral contraception)

You need to take a pill around the same time every day to prevent pregnancy.
The Pill is 93% – 99.5% effective.

There are two main types of oral contraception:

  • the combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains oestrogen and progesterone hormones
  • the progesterone-only pill (mini pill).

Vaginal ring

The 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. Vaginal rings are 93% – 99.5% effective.

Condoms and diaphragms (barrier methods)

Barrier methods of contraception work by stopping sperm from reaching an egg.
For example:

  • male condom
  • a fine rubber or synthetic sheath worn over an erect penis
  • male condoms are 88% – 98% effective
  • female condom
  • a sheath that fits loosely into the vagina
  • female condoms are 79% – 95% effective
  • diaphragm
  • a soft silicone cap is placed in the vagina before sex to stop sperm from reaching an egg
  • diaphragms are 82% – 86% effective

Protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Most methods of contraception do not protect you from STIs. Condoms are the only form of contraception that offer STI protection. Condoms can be used with other forms of contraception. You can buy condoms at many retail outlets, including pharmacies and supermarkets.

Permanent contraception

Permanent contraception for women involves an operation that closes the fallopian tubes to prevent pregnancy. It is called a tubal ligation or ‘having your tubes tied’. This operation should only be considered if you do not want to get pregnant in future.

Men can also have permanent contraception, called a vasectomy.

Permanent contraception is over 99% effective.

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. It is around 85% effective and is most effective if taken within 24 hours after sex. The emergency contraception pill is available from a doctor or pharmacist without prescription.

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.

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