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This information is designed to be used in consultation with your health professional. Read our Legal Disclaimer here.

Contraception is something you do or use to prevent pregnancy. Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy. Shorter-acting reversible contraceptive methods are also available.

A health professional can help you choose the best type for you. It’s also a good idea to discuss contraception with your sexual partner/s before sex.

Condoms are the only method of contraception that also protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

Long-acting Reversible Contraception

LARCs are the most effective methods of preventing pregnancy. They are ‘fit and forget’ methods that need to be inserted and removed by a trained health professional. Fertility returns immediately upon removal.

The contraceptive implant is inserted under the skin of the upper arm. The main action of the implant is to release progestogen into the bloodstream which stops ovulation.

Effectiveness with typical use: 99.9%

Things to consider:

  • The most effective method of contraception
  • Very safe and suitable for most people
  • A cheap option that lasts for three years, but can be removed easily at any time
  • Bleeding patterns may change.

There are two types of IUDs – copper and hormonal. Both are inserted into the uterus and affect sperm movement and prevent implantation. The hormonal IUD also releases progestogen (hormone) which alters the lining of the uterus, thickens the mucus in the cervix and may stop ovulation.

Effectiveness with typical use: Hormonal IUD 99.8%; Copper IUD 99.2%

Things to consider:
• More effective and longer lasting than other methods
• Very safe and reliable
• A cheap option (over time) that lasts 5-10 years, depending on the type, but can be removed easily at any time
• Bleeding patterns may change.

Shorter-acting Hormonal Contraception

A regular prescription is needed for hormonal methods of contraception.

The contraceptive injection is given into the bum, thigh or upper arm. The main action of the injection
is to release progestogen into the bloodstream which stops ovulation.

Effectiveness with typical use: 94%

Things to consider:

  • An injection given by a health professional that lasts for 12 weeks
  • Bleeding patterns may change
  • May delay the return of fertility in some, but returns to normal after time.

Oral contraceptives rely on regular and consistent daily use to be effective. There are lots of different pills available to try; if one doesn’t suit, another may be appropriate. Certain medication, vomiting or diarrhoea can decrease the effectiveness of these methods.

The Pill contains oestrogen and progestogen hormones which stop ovulation.

Effectiveness with typical use: 91%

Things to consider:

  • Need to remember to take every day
  • Bleeding patterns may change
  • Allows a person to choose the timing of their period or not have a period at all some months
  • Some medical conditions make this method unsuitable for some people.

Oral contraceptives rely on regular and consistent daily use to be effective. There are lots of different pills available to try; if one doesn’t suit, another may be appropriate. Certain medication, vomiting or diarrhoea can decrease the effectiveness of these methods.

The POP contains only one hormone, progestogen, which thickens the mucus in the cervix so sperm can’t pass into the uterus.

Effectiveness with typical use: 91%

Things to consider:

  • Needs to be taken at the same time each day to be most effective (if taken more than three hours late, the risk of pregnancy increases)
  • Bleeding patterns may change.

The vaginal contraceptive ring contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen, which stop ovulation.
The ring is inserted into the vagina by the person and remains in place for three weeks. After a one week break, a new one is inserted.

Effectiveness with typical use: 91%

Things to consider:

  • Must remember to insert a new ring every four weeks
  • Bleeding patterns may change.

Barrier Methods of Contraception

Condoms are physical barriers which prevent semen (cum) from entering the vagina during sex. Condoms are the only method of contraception that also protect against STIs.

External condoms are readily available and there are lots of different varieties for you and your partner/s to try. If you like using extra lubricant, make sure that it is water-based as other kinds may reduce effectiveness.

Effectiveness with typical use: 82%

Things to consider:

  • It may be useful to practise putting on a condom in private. See packet for instructions
  • Options are available if you or your sexual partner/s are allergic to latex
  • Can be used in conjunction with other methods to increase effectiveness.

Condoms are physical barriers which prevent semen (cum) from entering the vagina during sex. Condoms are the only method of contraception that also protect against STIs.

While not widely available, internal condoms can be purchased from sexual health clinics, some pharmacies and online.

Effectiveness with typical use: 79%

Things to consider:

  • Can be inserted into the vagina before sex
  • Can be used in conjunction with other methods to increase effectiveness.

A diaphragm sits inside the vagina and covers the cervix to prevent semen from entering the
uterus. They can be purchased from sexual health clinics, some pharmacies and online.

Effectiveness with typical use: 82%

Things to consider:

  • Lasts 1-2 years
  • One size fits most; needs a bit of practise to fit
  • Can be inserted into the vagina before sex
  • Needs to stay in the vagina for six hours after sex.

Other Methods of Contraception

Withdrawal (pulling out)
Removing the penis from the vagina before ejaculation. Effectiveness with typical use: 78%

Fertility Awareness Methods (FAM)
FAM is based on an understanding of the fertile time of a person’s menstrual cycle. The risk of pregnancy is reduced by avoiding unprotected sex during this time. Effectiveness with typical use: 75%

Sterilisation
Permanent methods of contraception available. Effectiveness with typical use: 99.5%

Abstaining from sex
Abstaining from (not doing) any activity that involves semen in or around the vagina or vulva will prevent pregnancy.

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception reduces the chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex. There are two types – the Copper IUD and Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs)

The copper IUD is the most effective method of preventing pregnancy when inserted during the first five days after unprotected
sex, or during the first 12 days of the menstrual cycle (whichever is latest).

Things to consider:

  • Provides immediate and ongoing contraception
  • Needs to be inserted by a trained health professional at short notice
  • Costs more than ECPs.

There are two types of emergency contraceptive pills. Both types work by delaying ovulation, and do not cause an abortion.

One type is most effective for up to four days after unprotected sex, while the other type can be used up to five days. The effectiveness of both pills reduces over time after the incident of unprotected sex.

Things to consider:

  • Can be obtained from most pharmacies, GPs and sexual health clinics
  • Ongoing contraceptive needs (ECPs are not an ideal form of ongoing contraception as they are less reliable long term than other methods).

Information last updated May 2017

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