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The Lowdown On Your Birth Control Options

Baby-proof your body and stay safe while you’re having sex

If you want to get down and dirty sans the stress, you need contraception on your side. But with so many options on offer, choosing the right birth control can be confusing. Let’s break them down…

Hormonal birth control 

These methods use synthetic hormones to stop the release of the egg so it can’t get fertilised by sperm. You’ll need a prescription for all types of hormonal birth control.

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Contraceptive pill

What is it? One of the most popular forms of birth control, the pill prevents ovulation (so no egg is released) and thickens cervical mucus. There are combination pills that contain oestrogen and progestin, progestin-only pills, and extended-cycle pills that reduce the number of periods you have per year.

How effective is it? 91%-99%. For the pill to work, you have to pop it at around the same time every day.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? Many women go on the pill to skip or regulate their periods, clear up their skin, and ease PCOS symptoms.

Implant (aka ‘the rod’)

What is it? The implant is a matchstick-sized rod that’s inserted under the skin in your arm. Like the pill, it stops ovulation and thickens cervical mucus, making it much harder for the sperm to wiggle its way towards an egg. It lasts for up to three years.

How effective is it? 99%.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? Like the pill, the rod can have side effects.

Patch

What is it? A small patch that releases progestin and oestrogen so they can be absorbed through the skin. It’s usually stuck on the stomach, upper arm or back. You’ll need to change the patch once a week for three weeks, then take it off for your period.

How effective is it? 91%-99%.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? The patch may cause irritation and redness.

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Vaginal ring

What is it? A ring that’s inserted in the vagina. Every three weeks, you’ll need to take it out for a week and then replace it with a new one. The hormones go straight to the bloodstream, so it’s ideal for those who get nauseous on birth control pills.

How effective is it? 91%-99%.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? You shouldn’t feel the vaginal ring.

Birth control shot

What is it? A progestin-only injection that you get every three months. Progestin is the hormone that prevents eggs from escaping your ovaries. It stops working when the three months are up, so keep up with your doctor’s appointments!

How effective is it? 94%-99%.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? The shot can cause weight gain.

Intrauterine devices (IUDs)

What is it? IUDs are small, T-shaped devices that are inserted into your uterus and last for 3-12 years. There are two types. The hormonal IUD stops ovulation, while the copper (non-hormonal) IUD changes the way sperm swims so it can’t travel up your vagina. Think of it like a goalie for your uterus.

How effective is it? More than 99%.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? They can be painful to insert – but it’s not a bad trade-off for birth control that’s effective for years (with very little effort on your part). If you want to try for a baby, you can get it taken out earlier.

Barrier methods

These methods create a barrier to block sperm from reaching the egg. You can pick up most of them at the pharmacy without a prescription.

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Male condoms

What is it? The OG form of birth control, condoms are latex or plastic covers that go over the penis. The rubber stops the sperm from touching the vagina. Condoms are thin and durable, and don’t dull the sensations of sex (though a lot of guys will try to tell you otherwise!).

How effective is it? 82%-98%. The key is to find one that fits snugly and is compatible with the lube you’re using. Oil-based lubes and latex don’t mix.

Does it protect against STDs? Yes. Condoms are the only form of birth control that protect both partners from infection.

Anything else? A condom shouldn’t break if it’s put on correctly. Wait until the penis is erect, and unroll it all the way down the shaft, leaving a little room at the top for the semen. And have fun with them! There are hundreds of options on the market, from flavoured and textured to glow-in-the-dark condoms.

Diaphragm

What is it? Carrie Bradshaw’s go-to method, the diaphragm is a silicone cup that you insert inside the vagina to cover the cervix and physically block sperm from entering. Pop it in when you’re ready to have sex, and then leave it in for six hours afterwards. Diaphragms come in different sizes, so you’ll need to go to your doc to get fitted for one.

How effective is it? 88%-94%. Blame the six-hour wait time.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? Always use spermicide. Available at the chemist, spermicide is a gel that kills sperm and stops it from sneaking past the diaphragm.

Natural birth control methods

These are more birth control behaviours. Rather than taking or inserting something to prevent pregnancy, you re-think the way you approach sex.

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Pull-out method

What is it? The withdrawal method has an accurate nickname: “pull and pray.” The guy pulls out right before he ejaculates. The problem is: pre-cum can get you pregnant, too. So, even if your man has serious control, this method can be a little dicey.

How effective is it? 82%-98%.

Does it protect against STDs? No.

Anything else? The pull-out method can change the dynamics of sex. Before relying on it, make sure you trust the guy you’re sleeping with. The sex will suck if you’re anxious the whole time!

Fertility awareness method (FAM)

What is it? Also called the ‘rhythm method’ or ‘natural family planning,’ this involves tracking your cycle so you know exactly when you’re ovulating. During those fertile days, you abstain from sex or use another form of birth control. Fertility awareness works best for women who have pretty predictable cycles.

How effective is it? 75%.

Does it protect against STDs? No. But you’ll be protected if you use condoms on the fertile days.

Anything else? Some women ovulate more than once a month, and that’s when things get tricky.

Emergency contraception

Had unprotected sex? You may be able to take the morning-after pill. It contains a higher concentration of hormones to stop ovulation for three to five days after sex. The sooner you get it, the better.

Permanent birth control methods 

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If you are absolutely, 100% certain that you don’t want kids (or any more kids), you can look into tubal ligation – or ‘getting your tubes tied.’

Men can get a vasectomy. While vasectomies can be reversed, they’re meant to be permanent.

*We’re not doctors. If you want to learn more about birth control, please speak to a healthcare professional.

Words by Katia Iervasi

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