We often need to use different forms of contraception at different times or stages of our lives, and it is important to work out which is the right contraception for you.
There are several methods of contraception available in Australia ranging from daily contraception options to long-term reversible options and permanent methods. Each method has its positives and possible side-effects and some are more reliable than others. Choose the one that suits you. Take control and be prepared.
Methods of contraception
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
LARC includes the contraceptive implant (a small rod of inert plastic and hormone inserted under the skin on the upper arm), the copper IUD and the progestogen IUD (IUDs are placed in the uterus). These devices are long acting and can stay in place for three, five or ten years, depending on which one you choose.
Hormonal contraception includes the combined oral contraceptive pill, the vaginal ring, the progesterone-only pill (POP) and depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) injections. The combined pill and the POP must both be taken every day. DMPA, now used infrequently, is given as an injection every 12 weeks. The vaginal ring, inserted into the vagina for three weeks and then removed for one week to allow a bleed to occur, releases similar hormones to those used in the Pill.
The male condom (which is placed over the erect penis) and the female condom (which fits loosely into the vagina) offer protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) in addition to reducing your risk of pregnancy. Diaphragms and cervical caps provide a physical barrier between the sperm and the cervix and must be fitted to the individual and inserted correctly to work.
Emergency contraception is also called the 'morning-after pill'. It can be bought direct from any pharmacy and consists of high-dose levonorgestrel. It must be taken within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.
The two most widely available operations for women to permanently provide contraception are laparoscopic sterilisation and hysteroscopic sterilisation (or tubal occlusion). Laparoscopic sterilisation is an operation through the abdomen where the fallopian tubes are blocked, commonly using two titanium clips. It is performed under a general anaesthetic.
Hysteroscopic sterilisation is performed by placing a small insert inside each fallopian tube by going up through the cervix and inside the uterus. It can be done under either a general or local anaesthetic.
There are three different methods of natural contraception: withdrawal, where the man pulls his penis out of the vagina during sex before he ejaculates; natural family planning, which involves charting your cycle using temperature charts or observing changes in your vaginal mucus and avoiding sex on the days you are likely to be fertile; and lactational amenorrhoea, a temporary method used in the time after a woman has a baby and before her period returns.
Each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages. Discuss which method will suit you best with your health practitioner.
Related Health Topics
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If you're having sex and don't want to get pregnant, you need contraception. Contraception is also called birth control or family planning. This fact sheet discusses your options.
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Using a worry free contraception that suits you is your best protection against unplanned pregnancy. For some, the contraceptive pill is an option. This fact sheet discusses the two main types of contraceptive pills.
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