On this page you will find information about:

Hormonal contraception

Non hormonal contraception

Other methods of contraception

Emergency Contraceptive Pill (ECP)

Where to go for more information

Resources

 

Contraception is used to prevent a pregnancy.

There are many different types of contraception that a person can use to prevent a pregnancy. Most types of contraception are used by women but some types are used by men.

It is important for people to use contraception every time they have sex if they do not want to get pregnant.

How a woman gets pregnant

Why might a person use contraception?

A lot of people choose to use contraception if they want to have sex but do not want to have a baby.

People can choose to use contraception for other reasons as well. These reasons might be to help:

  • make their monthly period regular
  • reduce bleeding during their period
  • skin problems like acne and pimples

 

Contraceptive options – Hormonal

 

Hormonal contraception works in different ways to stop the egg and sperm from developing into a pregnancy.

Hormonal contraception works in a number of ways:

  • it thins the lining of the uterus. This is so that a fertilised egg cannot implant to the wall of the uterus where a pregnancy would start to develop.
  • it thickens the mucus at the entrance of the uterus. This part of the body is called the cervix. This makes it hard for sperm to get through and reach the egg
  • it stops the ovaries from releasing an egg

Implant

The implant is a small plastic rod that is put into the arm by a doctor or nurse. The implant can stay under the skin of the arm for up to three years. It releases a hormone that helps prevent pregnancy. It is over 99% effective.

The implant is a good option for people who want a contraceptive option that works for a long period of time.

Why might a person get the implant?

  • They do not have to worry about remembering to take contraception everyday like with the Pill
  • It is not obvious that someone has the implant
  • Fertility returns as soon as the implant is taken out
  • They can have it taken out any time before the three years is over
  • It is safe to use when a person is breastfeeding

Are there side effects?

A person may experience:

  • irregular bleeding or no bleeding at all
  • mood changes
  • tender or sore breasts
  • headaches

Where can a person get the implant?

The implant must be inserted into the arm and removed by a trained doctor or nurse. This can be done at a Family Planning NSW clinic, by some doctors or at a women’s health centre.

Hormonal intrauterine device (IUD)

The hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) is a small plastic device. It is placed inside the uterus by a trained doctor or nurse. The hormonal IUD releases small amounts of hormone called progestogen. It can last inside the body for up to five years. The hormonal IUD is over 99% effective.

The hormonal IUD is a good option for people who want a contraceptive option that works for a long time.

Why might a person get the hormonal IUD?

  • They do not have to worry about remembering to take contraception everyday
  • Can be used for heavy menstrual bleeding
  • No one will know they have it
  • Fertility returns as soon as it is taken out
  • They can have it taken out any time before the five years is over
  • It is safe to use when a person is breastfeeding

Are there side effects?

A person may experience:

  • some pain or cramping when the hormonal IUD is put in
  • more fluid from the vagina, this is called vaginal discharge
  • light bleeding or sometimes no bleeding at all
  • mood changes
  • headaches

Where can a person get the hormonal IUD?

A hormonal IUD must be put inside the body and removed by a trained doctor or nurse. This can be done at a Family Planning NSW clinic, by some doctors or at a women’s health centre.

Contraceptive pills

Contraceptive pills are tablets that are taken at the same time each day. There are two kinds of pills that a person can take. One is the combined oral contraceptive pill and the other is the progesterone only pill, this is also known as POP.

The combined oral contraceptive pill

The combined oral contraceptive pill has two hormones called oestrogen and progestogen. Each pack has 28 pills. A person would take one pill each day. The oral contraceptive pill is 93-99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

The packet contains pills that will have hormones in them and also pills that do not have hormones in them. The pills that do not have hormones are called sugar pills.

The combined oral contraceptive pill should be taken at the same time every day. Some people find it useful to set a daily reminder or alarm on their phone to help them remember to take it at the same time.

Why might a person take the combined oral contraceptive Pill?

  • Periods usually become lighter, more regular and less painful
  • Some people use it to skip their periods altogether
  • Acne often improves
  • Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) may improve or go completely

Are there side effects?

Some people may experience:

  • irregular spotting (bleeding in between their periods)
  • mood changes
  • headaches
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • tender breasts
  • bloating

The oral contraceptive pill wont won’t work properly if a person:

  • forgets to take it
  • takes it more than 24 hours late
  • has vomiting or severe diarrhoea
  • is taking certain other medications at the same time

Where can a person get the oral contraceptive pill?

A prescription is needed from a doctor, a Family Planning NSW clinic or women’s health clinic.

Progestogen-only pill (POP or miniPill)

The progestogen-only pill (POP) is a pill that contains a hormone called progestogen. The POP mainly works by making the cervical mucus at the neck of the womb thicker, so that sperm cannot get through to meet an egg.

Each pack has 28 pills. A person would take one pill each day. The POP must be taken at exactly the same time every day. Some people find it useful to set a daily reminder or alarm on their phone to help them remember to take it at the same time. The POP is 93-99% effective.

Why might a person get the progestogen-only pill?

  • Periods can become lighter, sometimes they may stop completely
  • It is safe to use when breastfeeding
  • It is safe to use if a person does not react well or unable to take the hormone oestrogen

Are there side effects?

Most people will have very few side effects because the POP has a low dose of hormones. Some people may experience:

  • irregular spotting (bleeding in between their periods)
  • headaches
  • mood changes
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • tender breasts

The POP won’t work properly if the person:

  • takes it more than three hours late
  • has vomiting or severe diarrhoea
  • is taking certain other medications at the same time

Where can a person get the POP?

A prescription is needed from a doctor, a Family Planning NSW clinic or women’s health clinic.

Contraceptive injection

The contraceptive injection is injected every 12 weeks into the buttock or upper arm. The injection provides 12 weeks of contraception. After a few injections, monthly vaginal bleeding may stop altogether.

The contraceptive injection is 96-99% effective. It can take up to 12 months for periods and fertility to return to normal.

Why might a person get the contraceptive injection?

  • They don’t have to remember to take a pill every day
  • It's safe to use if they’re breastfeeding or they can’t take oestrogen
  • It can be useful if they don’t want to have periods

Are there side effects?

Some people may experience:

  • irregular bleeding
  • weight gain
  • headaches
  • tender breasts
  • acne
  • loss of bone density

The contraceptive injection won’t work as well if the person forgets to get the injection every 12 weeks.

Where can a person get the contraceptive injection?

The injection is available from some GPs, at Family Planning NSW clinics and at women’s health centres.

 

Contraceptive options – Non hormonal

Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

The Copper IUD is a small plastic and copper device. It’s placed inside the uterus by a trained doctor or nurse. It can stay in the uterus for up to 10 years. The copper IUD is over 99% effective.

How does it work?

  • The cooper IUD makes is difficult for sperm to move inside the body. It also makes the uterus a place where sperm will not be able to survive
  • It thins the lining of the uterus. This is so that a fertilised egg cannot implant to the wall of the uterus where a baby would grow

Why should a person get the copper IUD?

  • It starts working right away
  • Fertility will come back as soon as the copper IUD is taken out
  • It does not have any hormones
  • People who are breastfeeding can use it

Are there side effects?

A person may experience:

  • some pain or cramping when the IUD is put in
  • heavier and longer periods
  • more fluid from the vagina, this is called vaginal discharge

Where can a person get the copper IUD?

The copper IUD must be put inside the body and removed by a trained doctor or nurse. This can be done at a Family Planning NSW clinic, by some doctors or at a women’s health centre.

Contraceptive options – Barrier methods

Barrier methods of contraception stop the sperm from entering the uterus.

External condom (male condom)

The external condom is worn by a person with a penis. It is made from thin latex rubber or non-latex polyisoprene. It is rolled onto an erect (hard) penis and a new condom is used each time a person has sex. The external condom is 88-98% effective at preventing pregnancy.

Condoms can also be used on sex toys if they are being shared between people. This will reduce the risk of a person getting a sexually transmissible infection (STI). Condoms are the best protection against STIs but are less effective at preventing pregnancy than some other types of contraception.

Condoms work best when used for every act of sex as long as the person:

  • uses a new one every time
  • takes care when putting it on and taking it off

Why should a person use condoms?

  • Condoms are the only form of contraception which also reduce the risk of STIs
  • Condoms are effective if used properly every time a person has sex. But they are not as effective at preventing pregnancy as other methods
  • They can be used at the same time as another type of contraception
  • They’re cheap, small and easy to carry
  • A person doesn’t have to see a doctor to get them

What to think about:

  • a person should never use two external condoms at once
  • external condoms shouldn’t be used at the same time as internal condoms
  • most condoms are made from latex rubber which is perishable. This means that they can break if they aren’t stored correctly. Always keep condoms in a cool place and check the use-by date
  • oil-based lubricant can cause latex condoms to break so only water-based lubricant should be used

Are there any side effects?

There are no side-effects, although some people can be allergic to latex. If someone has a reaction to latex condoms, they should try using a non-latex condom made from polyisoprene (a type of soft plastic).

Where can someone get the external condom?

External condoms are sold in lots of places such as chemists, supermarkets, petrol stations, online and some public bathrooms.

You can get free condoms from the Condom Credit Card (CCC) program. For more information about the program or to find your nearest CCC provider go to www.fpnsw.org.au/ccc

Internal condom (female condom)

The internal condom is made from nitrile (a type of soft plastic). It is put into the vagina before sex. It has a flexible ring at each end to hold it in place when it is in the vagina. The internal condom is 75-95% effective.

Condoms are the best protection against STIs but are less effective at preventing pregnancy than some other types of contraception.

What are the benefits?

  • Condoms are the only form of contraception which help protect against STIs
  • Internal condoms can be used at the same time as other types of contraception
  • Internal condom use is controlled by the woman
  • A person does not need to see a doctor to get them

What to think about:

  • a person needs to use a new internal condom each time they have sex
  • the internal condom shouldn’t be used at the same time as the external condom
  • internal condoms are more expensive than external
  • internal condoms can be hard to find in Australia

Are there side effects?

There are no side-effects and it’s very rare that someone is allergic to nitrile.

Where can someone get the internal condom?

Internal condoms can be difficult to find. They can be purchased from Family Planning NSW clinics, some chemists and online.

Contraceptive Options - Other methods

Sterilisation

Sterilisation is a permanent surgical procedure. This is done by a doctor and is over 99% effective. It includes vasectomy and tubal ligation.

Vasectomy

A vasectomy is a simple surgical procedure to stop sperm from travelling out of the testes and into the semen. If there are no sperm in the semen it is impossible to get pregnant.

Vasectomy is a permanent form of contraception and reversal cannot be guaranteed. The person should be absolutely sure that they don't want children in the future.

Where can a person get a vasectomy?

A person can get a vasectomy at Family Planning NSW or at a specialist.

Tubal ligation

Tubal ligation is a surgical procedure to block the fallopian tubes that carry the egg to the uterus. Blocking the fallopian tubes stops the egg and sperm from meeting so a pregnancy can't happen. The procedure is over 99.5% effective.

Tubal ligation is a permanent form of contraception. The person should be absolutely sure that they don't want children in the future.

Where can a person go to get tubal litigation?

The GP or Family Planning NSW clinic can refer people to a private gynaecologist or public hospital.

Fertility awareness methods

The fertility awareness methods are one of the least effective methods. This method is when a person constantly monitors their period cycle to see when they're most fertile. A person would avoid having sex during the fertile time.

For more information go to the fertility and reproduction section of the webpage.

Withdrawal method

The withdrawal method is the least effective method. This is when the penis is removed from the vagina before ejaculation.

This is the least effective method because when the penis becomes erect (gets hard), the tip of the penis releases a fluid called pre-cum. This fluid can carry STI's and also sperm. A person may be able to get pregnant from the sperm in the pre-cum.

Contraceptive Options - Emergency

The emergency contraceptive pill

The emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) is taken after unprotected sex to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. There are different types of ECPs available in Australia.

When would someone use the ECP?

Some examples of when a person may use the ECP include when:

  • they have had sex without using contraception
  • the condom breaks during sex
  • they forget to take the oral contraceptive pill at the recommended time
  • they are taking the oral contraceptive pill, but have vomiting or severe diarrhoea
  • they are late for the contraceptive injection
  • they are a victim of sexual assault

How well does it work?

Around 85% of pregnancies that would have occurred are prevented by the ECP. Some types of ECP can be effective for up to five days after unprotected sex. But the sooner it is taken, the more effective it will be.

The person may need to have a follow-up pregnancy test in a few weeks to make sure they are not pregnant. It's best to discuss this with the doctor or the chemist.

What are the benefits of the ECP?

  • The ECP is very safe
  • It is available at the chemist without a prescription. A person does not have to see a doctor to get the ECP
  • It won't cause an abortion if someone is already pregnant

What to think about:

The ECP won't protect against pregnancy if the person has unprotected sex again in the same menstrual cycle. Condoms should be used until the person is protected by another regular method of contraception.

Are there any side effects?

Some people may experience:

  • some bleeding
  • an early or late period. If someone's period is late they should have a pregnancy test

Where can a person get the ECP?

The ECP can be bought at a chemist without a doctor's prescription. They are also available from Family Planning NSW clinics.

For more information

Visit a Family Planning NSW clinic. Click here for our clinic locations

Call the Family Planning NSW Talkline on 1300 658 886

Talk to one of our nurses online.

To talk to someone in your language, call the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) on 131 450. Ask to be connected to Family Planning NSW.

Resources about contraception

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (English)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Arabic)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Chinese)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Dari)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Dinka)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Farsi)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (French)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Spanish)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Swahili)

Know Your Health: Contraceptive Options (Vietnamese)

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