Contraception (also called birth control or family planning) stops sperm from meeting an egg during sex, thereby preventing pregnancy. Some methods, such as condoms, create a barrier between the sperm and the egg (sometimes called ‘barrier contraception’). Others release something (normally hormones) that interrupts a woman’s fertility cycle (sometimes called ‘hormonal contraception’).
What’s the best contraception method for me?
Using contraception (also called birth control or family planning) allows you to prevent pregnancy or plan when you want to get pregnant.
If you do not want to have a baby or are not ready to have one, it is your right to use contraception. There are different types of contraception methods and some might suit you more than others.
When deciding, it’s worth remembering that condoms are the only type of contraception that protect you from HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy. It can be a good idea to keep using them, even if you use another type of contraception as well.
- The basics
- In detail
What is contraception?
Is contraception safe?
Yes. Understanding what each birth control method is and how it works will help you work out what type is best for you. And remember, just because it is women who get pregnant, it does not mean that it is only women’s responsibility to think about contraception. It is important for men to take responsibility as well.
How do I choose the best type of contraception for you?
When deciding about birth control, think about:
how long you want your contraception to last
whether you’ll remember to take a pill every day or have the privacy to take it if you think others might disapprove
if you want something you use only when having sex and whether you’ll remember it every time
how you will prevent STIs as well as pregnancy
if you plan to get pregnant in the near future
any health conditions you have and medication you are taking
what options are available where you are.
What are the different types of contraception?
Condoms are good because they’re the only contraception that prevents HIV and STIs as well as pregnancy. But for them to work, you have to use them correctly every time you have sex.
This is very effective at preventing pregnancy, but it has to be taken every day or it stops working.
This prevents pregnancy for 8-13 weeks, so there is no need to remember to take anything. But you do need to remember when your next injection is due.
This is a small plastic rod that is fitted in a female’s arm. It will prevent pregnancy for three years, so there is no need to remember to take anything. But it must be removed or replaced when the three years is up.
An intra-uterine device (IUD) – also known as the ‘copper coil’, ‘the coil’ or the ‘coil IUD’– is a small, T-shaped device that goes in the womb to prevent pregnancy for five to ten years.
Also known as the ‘withdrawal method’. This is when the penis is taken out of the vagina before ejaculation (or cumming). This is unreliable because the man has to make sure they pull out before any semen comes out and this is difficult to do.
If you have unprotected sex, the condom brakes or you forget to take your pill, emergency contraception (also called the ‘morning after pill’) can prevent pregnancy.
This is a surgical procedure which blocks the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis. So, when a man ejaculates, the fluid from his penis (semen) will not have any sperm in it so it cannot cause pregnancy. This is a permanent type of contraception, so it should only be done if a man is sure they do not want any more, or any, children.
So now you know your options. The next step is to talk to your doctor. It might be worth talking to your partner too.
Read more about sharing responsibility for contraception in the ‘in detail’ tab.
Do I still need to use condoms if I use other contraception?
Condoms are the only type of birth control that protect against HIV and STIs so it’s a good idea to still use condoms.
What if I’m pregnant but don’t want to be?
You might consider an abortion, which ends a pregnancy after it has started.
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Will using contraception affect my chance of having a baby later on?
No. Unless you’ve chosen a permanent method of birth control, like a vasectomy, it will only work for a certain period of time. Your doctor will explain how long your contraception will last for.
In a relationship, who is responsible for preventing STIs and pregnancy?
You both are. It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship you are in – whether it’s casual, short-term, long-term or you’re married – preventing pregnancy and STIs is a shared responsibility. It might feel difficult, but the best way to share this responsibility with your partner is to talk to them about contraception. And remember, you have the right to protect yourself from STIs and pregnancy, no matter what anyone else says.
How can I talk to my partner about contraception?
Have a think about when would be best and what you would like to say. It’s good to understand your options and what you think will work for you before you talk things through. You could also ask your partner to go to the doctor with you if you like.
Find out more about talking to your doctor about contraception.
Tips on talking to your partner about condoms.
Will I have to pay for contraception?
Many health facilities provide contraceptives for free. If you want to use birth control but are worried about money, speak to your healthcare professional who can advise you.
What advice can I give to someone who wants to use contraception?
Some people may feel pressured into having children. It is important to let them know that only they have the right to decide whether to do this. If they don’t want to have a baby or are not ready yet, they have the right to choose the contraception method that will work best for them. It could be helpful to talk through the points in the how to choose the best type of contraception for you. This will help them to clarify their needs and feel more confident about the different options.
Clear and accurate information at is important and you could start by looking at the information in this section.
Though you might have your own views it’s important to respect their decisions, be open and do not judge.
Remember, they might feel embarrassed about discussing birth control with you. If they are, connect them with a friendly healthcare professional, a helpline or factual online resources, like this site.