The main points
- If you have sex and do not want to get pregnant, you can use contraception.
- There are many types of contraception and each works in a different way.
- You have the right to choose the type of contraception that is best for you.
- No method of contraception is 100% effective.
- Methods that last a long time are the most effective because they remove the need for the user to remember to do something on a regular basis or every time they have sex. Read more about long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
What is contraception?
Contraception is a method, medication or device used to prevent pregnancy. It is also called birth control or family planning. If you have sex and do not want to get pregnant, you can use contraception.
How does contraception work?
For pregnancy to occur a mature egg must be fertilised by sperm and implant in the lining of the uterus (womb).
After puberty, new sperm cells are constantly made in the testicles. Sperm travel out of the testicles by two tubes called the vas deferens. These tubes pass by the seminal vesicles and prostate which together, create semen (cum). Semen then passes into a single tube called the urethra and out of the penis.
During each menstrual cycle, a mature egg is released from one of the ovaries, this is called ovulation. The released egg is funnelled into the fallopian tube and towards the uterus.
After ovulation, an egg may meet and combine with sperm, this is called fertilisation. Once fertilised, the combined egg and sperm (embryo) can attach to the lining of the uterus (womb).
Contraception interferes with a part of this process so that a mature egg cannot be fertilised by sperm. Each method of contraception works differently. For details on each method see: Contraception Options.
If you have penis in vagina sex and do not use contraception, pregnancy could happen
Any time you have penis in vagina sex and do not use contraception there is a chance pregnancy could happen, even if for you or your partner:
- it is the first time having sex
- orgasm does not happen
- sex occurs during a menstrual period
- sex happens in a different position
- the penis is withdrawn (pulled out) from the vagina before ejaculation (cumming) occurs
- the vagina is washed after sex.
What are the different types of contraception?
There are many types of contraception and each works in a different way.
For more information on the different types of contraception in Australia please click the links below.
- Contraceptive implant (Implanon NXT)
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Contraceptive injection (Depo)
- Contraceptive pills
- Vaginal ring (NuvaRing)
- Condoms (external and internal)
- Diaphragm (Caya)
- Withdrawal (pulling out)
- Tubal Ligation
- Contraception after pregnancy
- Emergency contraception (after sex)
- Fertility awareness methods (natural family planning)
Contraception – it is your choice
Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) supports the right of individuals to have satisfying and safe sexual experiences. This includes the right to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of contraception and the freedom to decide if, when and how to reproduce.
You have the right to choose the type of contraception that is best for you. We recommend you speak with your doctor or nurse for evidence-based information on all contraceptive options so you can make an informed choice based on your personal needs, preferences, and medical suitability.
What contraception is best for me?
When choosing a method of contraception that is best for you, some of the factors you may consider include:
- Stage of reproductive life (e.g. family spacing, family completion).
- Sexually transmissible infection (STI) protection.
- Previous contraceptive use.
- Experience of side-effects.
- Wish for non-contraceptive hormonal benefits (e.g. for acne, heavy menstrual bleeding).
- Desire to avoid hormones or procedures.
- Medical eligibility (medical conditions, concurrent medications or allergies).
- Personal preference.
- Desire for privacy by using an undetectable method.
- Whether you want your sexual partner/s to be involved. Cultural and/or religious factors.
- Accessibility of appropriate health services (e.g. to insert an IUD, preference for practitioner gender, location).
- Affordability and cost (both initial and ongoing).
Why a method of contraception may not be a good option for you
Your contraceptive choice may be restricted by a range of factors including life stage, medical conditions or the use of medications.
No method of contraception is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy
The effectiveness of a contraceptive method is defined as the number of pregnancies in a year of use for every 100 sexually active people using the method. For example, if a method is 99% effective – 99 out of 100 sexually active people using the method in a year will be protected from pregnancy. It also means that 1 out of 100 sexually active people using the method will become pregnant in a year.
Percentages of effectiveness are expressed in terms of “perfect use” and “typical use”. Perfect use is based on perfect research conditions and typical use is based on real life use. The effectiveness with typical use may be lower due to user factors such as having to remember to take a daily pill and maintaining an ongoing supply. Contraception methods that last a long time (fit and forget or long acting reversible contraception methods) such as the contraceptive implant and intrauterine devices (IUDs), are highly effective in both typical use and perfect use because they remove the need for the user to remember to do something on a regular basis or every time they have sex.
Contraception and sexually transmissible infections (STIs)
Most types of contraception do not protect against sexually transmissible infections (STIs). Condoms (external and internal) are the only method that will give you protection if you use them correctly, every time you have sex. External condoms and lube are available from supermarkets, pharmacies/chemists and petrol stations. Some clinics, youth services and community health services provide them for free. Internal condoms can be difficult to get and they are more expensive. They may be available at sexual health and family planning clinics, sex shops, some pharmacies/chemists, and online.
You may also be interested in:
Where to get more information and support
- Sexual Health Victoria
- A doctor or nurse
- Your local community health service
- An obstetrician or gynaecologist
- A vasectomy clinic
- 1800 My Options phone line 1800 696 784 or website
- Better Health Channel
- Equinox – for transgender services
- Jean Hailes
- Marie Stopes Australia
- Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health
- The Women’s (The Royal Women’s Hospital)