Birth Control or contraceptive methods can be broadly classified into barrier methods (that prevent sperm cells from reaching the egg), methods that prevent ovulation such as the contraceptive pill, and methods that allow fertilization of the egg but prevent implantation of the fertilized egg inside the uterus (womb) such as the IUD (intrauterine device).Condoms and diaphragms are examples of barrier contraceptive methods. Contraceptive pills are an example of a hormonal contraceptive method that prevents ovulation.

The decision about what kind of contraceptive option to use is extremely personal, and there is no single choice that is safest or best for all women or couples.A woman should carefully weigh the risks and benefits, along with the effectiveness of each method before choosing a contraceptive method.

A thorough and open discussion with a health care-professional can help in this decision process. You should remember that different forms of contraceptive have different side effects and risk profiles.The choice of contraceptive method depends on many factors, such as the desire for reversible contraceptive (preserving future fertility) or permanent contraceptive methods (surgical sterilization).

Some contraceptive methods, such as barrier methods, may offer some protection against sexuallytransmitted diseases (STDs), while most methods do not.No method of contraceptive is 100% effective in preventing STDs.Some contraceptive methods have higher effectiveness rates than others, but no method of contraceptive is 100% effective in every case.

Contraception can be permanent or temporary. The woman and her partner, taking into consideration the ease of use, side effects, costs, and effectiveness of each method, must weigh the pros and cons of various contraceptive types.

  • Reversible methods of birth control
  • Permanent methods of birth control
  • Emergency contraception.

Contraception works to prevent pregnancy in different ways:

Hormonal contraceptive methods work by preventing ovulation, so that a woman is temporarily infertile.

Barrier methods of contraceptive prevents the man’s sperm from reaching an egg. Barrier methods include diaphragms, condoms, and cervical caps.

Spermicide is a chemical that destroys sperm to prevent them from reaching the egg.

Contraceptive methods such as intrauterine devices work by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus and causing a pregnancy.

How long does it take for a contraceptive to begin working?

Some kinds of contraceptive start to work with the first use, such as barrier methods.

Hormonal methods of contraceptive such as pills, implants, or the patch may not begin working immediately. Their effectiveness depends upon the time in your monthly cycle when you begin using the contraception.

Sometimes it is recommended that women use an alternate method of contraception for the first week after beginning the pill or a hormonal contraceptive.

There is no form of contraceptive that is 100% effective, so it is possible to get pregnant while using most types of birth control. However, many types of birth control, when used correctly, are highly effective in preventing pregnancy. For example, the contraceptive pill is over 99% effective in preventing pregnancy when taken correctly. For all forms of contraception, it is important to have a basic understanding of how they work and how to use them correctly.

The condom is the only form of contraception that protects against most STIs as well as preventing pregnancy. This method of contraception can be used on demand, is hormone free and can easily be carried with you. And it comes in male and female varieties.

Male condoms are rolled onto an erect penis and act as a physical barrier, preventing sexual fluids from passing between people during sex. The female condom is placed into the vagina right before sex. Based on typical use, the female condom is not quite as effective as the male latex condom and it may take a little practice to get used to. Condoms are the only form of contraception that also protect against STIs.

Pros: It’s the best protection against STIs; can be used on demand; hormone free.

Cons: It can tear or come off during sex if not used properly; some people are allergic to latex condoms.

It’s the little tablet taken once a day. There are a few different types of pill to choose from, so it’s about finding the one that’s right for you. The combined pill contains estrogen and progestin and mini pill contains only one hormone, a progestin. The pill can have many benefits, however remembering to take it on time is a must.

The pill is only available by getting a prescription from a medical professional so visit your local doctor or sexual health clinic. The oral contraceptive pill is taken once a day and is currently the most common contraception used besides the condom.

Pros: Highly effective when used correctly; permits sexual spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex; some pills may even reduce heavy and painful periods and/or may have a positive effect on acne.

Cons: Forgetting to take your pill means it won’t be as effective; it can only be used by women; is not suitable for women who can’t take oestrogen-containing contraception; it does not protect against STIs.

This small, T-shaped device is made from made of material containing progesterone hormone or plastic and copper and is fitted inside a woman’s uterus by a trained healthcare provider. It’s a long-acting and reversible method of contraception, which can stay in place for three to 10 years, depending on the type.

Some IUDs contain hormones that are gradually released to prevent pregnancy. The IUD can also be effective emergency contraception if fitted by a healthcare professional within five days (120 hours) of having unprotected sex. IUDs containing coppers are 99% effective and the ones containing hormones are 99.8% effective, so you’re about as protected as you possibly can be by a contraceptive method.

Pros: IUDs offer the most effective reversible protection against pregnancy.

Cons: Irregular bleeding and spotting occur in the first six months of use; requires a trained healthcare provider for insertion and removal; does not protect against STIs.

In this method, a small, flexible rod is placed under the skin in a woman’s upper arm, releasing a form of the hormone progesterone. The hormone stops the ovary releasing the egg and thickens the cervical mucus making it difficult for sperm to enter the womb. The implant requires a small procedure using a local anaesthetic to fit and remove the rod and needs to be replaced after three years. Women can choose to use the implant as a long-term contraceptive method.

Pros: Highly effective; doesn’t interrupt sex; is a long-lasting, reversible contraceptive option.

Cons: Requires a trained healthcare provider for insertion and removal; sometimes there can be irregular bleeding initially; does not protect against STIs.

The injection contains a synthetic version of the hormone progestogen. It is given into a woman’s buttock or the upper arm, and over the next 12 weeks, the hormone is slowly released into your bloodstream.

Pros: The injection lasts for up to three months; is very effective; permits sexual spontaneity and doesn’t interrupt sex.

Cons: The injection may cause disrupted periods or irregular bleeding; it requires keeping track of the number of months used; it does not protect against STIs.

This method consists of a flexible plastic ring which constantly releases hormones and is placed in the vagina by the woman. It stays in place for three weeks, and then you remove it, take a week off then pop another one in. The ring releases the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. These are the same hormones used in the combined oral contraceptive pill but at a lower dose.

Pros: You can insert and remove a vaginal ring yourself; this contraceptive method has few side effects, allows control of your periods and allows your fertility to return quickly when the ring is removed.

Cons: It is not suitable for women who can’t take oestrogen-containing contraception; you need to remember to replace it at the right time; does not protect against STIs.

A diaphragm is a small, soft silicone dome is placed inside the vagina to stop sperm from entering the uterus. It forms a physical barrier between the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg, like a condom. The diaphragm needs to stay in place for at least six hours after sex. After six – but no longer than 24 hours after sex – it needs to be taken out and cleaned.

Pros: You can use the same diaphragm more than once, and it can last up to two years if you look after it.

Cons: Using a diaphragm can take practice and requires keeping track of the hours inserted. The diaphragm works fairly well if used correctly, but not as well as the pill, a contraceptive implant or an IUD.

Sterilisation is the process of completely taking away the body’s ability to reproduce through open or minimal invasion surgery. It is a permanent method of contraception, suitable for people who are sure they never want children or do not want any more children. Sterilisation is available for both women (tubal occlusion) and men (vasectomy) and is performed in a hospital with general anaesthesia.

Female sterilisation can be reversed, but it is a very difficult process that involves removing the blocked part of the fallopian tube and rejoining the ends. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be fertile again (able to get pregnant) after a sterilisation reversal. The success rates of female sterilisation reversal vary widely and depend on factors like age and the method that was used in the original operation. For example, if your tubes were clipped rather than tied, a successful reversal is more likely.

If you’ve had a change of heart and want to start a family or add to yours, you might consider having your vasectomy reversed. Some men who have lost a child may consider this an option as well. During a vasectomy, your doctor cuts or blocks the tubes called the vas deferens, which carry sperm from your testes to your penis. In a vasectomy reversal, your doctor has to rejoin these tubes back together so that sperm can reach the semen you ejaculate during orgasm

Nonetheless, if you are thinking about sterilisation, issues to talk with your doctor about include your reasons for wanting to be sterilised, whether other methods of contraception might be more suitable and any side effects, risks and complications of the procedure.

The Emergency Contraception Pill can be used to prevent pregnancy after sex if contraception wasn’t used, a condom has broken during sex, or a woman has been sexually assaulted.

While it is sometimes called the ‘Morning After’ pill, it can actually be effective for up to five days after having unprotected sex. The sooner it is taken, the more effective it is; when taken in the first three days after sex, it prevents about 85% of expected pregnancies.

This pill contains special doses of female hormones. Any woman can take the emergency contraception pill, even those who cannot take other oral contraceptive pills. It can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy or chemist without a prescription.

The common side effects of the emergency contraceptive include nausea, vomiting and the next period may be early or delayed. Emergency contraception does not protect against STIs.

A note on gender

Not everyone with a male body is a man and not everyone with a female body is a woman. This information is for people of all genders including trans and non-binary people.