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Contraception options

9-minute read

Key facts

  • Using contraception (birth control) allows people to have penis-in-vagina sex while preventing an unplanned pregnancy.
  • Many different methods of contraception are available.
  • It’s important to discuss contraception with a new partner before you decide to have sex.
  • Contraception affects both you and your partner, so you are both responsible for it.
  • Your doctor can help you understand the benefits and risks of each type of birth control.

What is contraception?

Contraception (birth control) can be used to prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Pregnancy can happen when sperm released during penis-in-vagina sex fertilises an egg, which then implants in your uterus (womb).

What should I think about when choosing contraception?

There are many different forms of contraception. No form of birth control is 100% effective, but some methods are more effective than others.

Aside from preventing pregnancy, some — but not all — methods of contraception can also help prevent transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Discuss contraception with a new partner before having sex, so you can choose a method that works for you. Your choice of contraception might be an individual one, or a decision you make with your partner. Contraception affects both you and your partner, so you are both responsible for it.

What types of contraception are available?

There are many different types of birth control available.

Barrier methods

A male condom iis a thin rubber or plastic covering worn on the penis during sex. A female condom is inserted into the vagina before sex. Condoms are the only contraceptive method that also help prevent STIs.

You can use condoms together with other forms of contraception to prevent pregnancy and STIs.

Diaphragm is a soft, reusable silicone cap placed in the vagina before sex to cover the cervix. It prevents pregnancy by stopping sperm from entering the uterus.

Hormonal contraception for females

The combined oral contraceptive pill, also known as ‘the pill’ or OCP, is a tablet taken daily to prevent pregnancy. The pill contains a combination of hormones.

The vaginal ring is a flexible plastic ring inserted high into the vagina. It contains the same hormones as the pill and works in the same way.

The progestogen-only pill is a tablet you take daily to prevent pregnancy. It contains the hormone progestogen.

The contraceptive injection is a hormone injection given every 3 months.

The contraceptive implant iis a small plastic rod that can be inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It releases a hormone over 3 years to prevent pregnancy.

Intrauterine contraceptive devices

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small device that is placed inside your uterus (womb) to prevent pregnancy. There are 2 types of IUD:

  1. the hormonal IUD
  2. the copper IUD

An IUD needs to be put in place by a trained doctor or nurse. It can be left in place for 5 to 10 years.

Withdrawal method

The ‘withdrawal method’ is when the penis is removed from the vagina before ejaculation. This aims to prevent sperm from being released and fertilising an egg.

It is less effective than other methods because:

  • there can be sperm in the fluid released before ejaculation (pre-ejaculate or ‘pre-cum’)
  • it can be difficult for the male to withdraw in time

Fertility awareness methods

'Fertility awareness' is when you avoid unprotected sex during the times of the month when you are most likely to get pregnant.

This method involves keeping track of your periods or other signs of fertility, such as:

  • cervical mucus changes
  • body temperature changes

This method is usually not suitable if your cycle is irregular.


Sterilisation is a medical procedure that can permanently prevent a pregnancy. Sterilisation procedures can include:

Can contraception have side effects?

Any medicine or medical device can have side effects. Many are unwanted, but some can be beneficial.

Some types of hormonal contraception can have side effects, including:

  • irregular vaginal bleeding (spotting)
  • lighter or no periods
  • less painful periods
  • mood changes
  • headaches
  • skin changes

Condoms may irritate your genital area. If you have an allergy to latex, make sure you use non-latex condoms.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information about the side effects of different contraceptive methods.

What is emergency contraception?

Emergency contraception is used soon after sex to reduce the risk of pregnancy. There are 2 types of emergency contraception:

  1. the emergency contraception pill — also called the ‘morning-after pill
  2. having a copper IUD inserted

Emergency contraception should be used as soon as possible after unprotected sex, and within 4-5 days.

You might decide to use emergency contraception if:

  • you had sex without using any contraception
  • you had sex using a condom, and it broke
  • you forgot to take your daily contraceptive pill, or have diarrhoea or vomiting after taking it
  • you were sexually assaulted

Which type of contraception is best for me?

There are many things to think about when choosing which method of birth control is right for you.

Consider the following when making your contraceptive choice:

  • Is it easy to use?
  • How effective is it?
  • Is it reversible?
  • Does it protect against STIs?
  • What is the cost?
  • Are there benefits other than contraception?
  • What are the side effects?

Some options aren’t suitable for everyone. Some types of hormonal contraception are not recommended for people with other health problems like migraines or blood clots.

The type of contraception you use is your choice. You can get more information and suggestions about which options might be right for you from:

  • your doctor
  • your local family planning clinic

When should I see my doctor?

It’s a good idea to see your doctor if you’re considering your options for contraception. They can advise you on which options might be right for you depending on your health and lifestyle.

Many methods, such as the oral contraceptive pill, need to be prescribed by a doctor.

If you are interested in getting an IUD or a hormone injection, ask your doctor about the process.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

What are family planning clinics?

Family planning clinics offer a range of reproductive and sexual health services to the public. These include information and advice about contraceptive options.

Clinic staff may also be able to:

  • prescribe contraceptive medicines
  • insert IUDs or contraceptive implants
  • refer people for sterilisation procedures

Clinic services may have a cost so be sure to ask when you book an appointment.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

Resources and support

For more information and support on contraception, try these resources:

State and territory clinics and information:

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For advice on contraception after having a baby, you can call the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby telephone service on 1800 882 436. A midwife/maternal child health nurse is available to speak with from 7am–midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023

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