For individuals who are sexually active, there are many options available to reduce the risk of pregnancy.  They all carry different risks for pregnancy, STIs and HIV, all of which are outlined in the tables below. 

Importantly, the following methods ARE NOT effective contraceptive methods:

  • Douching: Washing out the vagina either with water or other liquids does not remove or kill all sperm
  • Pulling out: Withdrawing the penis before ejaculation is not an effective method of contraception because pre-ejaculate, which is released from the penis before the male ejaculates, contains sperm and can lead to pregnancy

Finally, abstinence is the only option that is 100% effective against pregnancy, STIs and HIV!

Non-Hormonal Contraceptive Methods

When used correctly and consistently, non-hormonal contraceptives can reduce the risk of pregnancy. Some forms, specifically the male and female condom, can also act to prevent the transmission of HIV and STIs that are transmitted through bodily fluids.
MethodHow it WorksEffectivenessAdvantagesDisadvantagesHIV and STI Protection
Male Condoms• Thin rubber barrier
• Fits over erect penis and collects sperm when a man ejaculates
• They come pre-lubricated but using extra lubrication is recommended
• 85% of women will not got pregnant
• Prevents pregnancy, STIs and HIV when used correctly and consistently
• Easy to carry
• Easy to use
• Best when used as double protection with another contraception (i.e. pill, injection, implant)
• Each condom can only be used once
• Can slip off or tear
• YES! Condoms prevent pregnancy, STIs and HIV when used correctly and consistently.
Female Condoms• Thin plastic barrier goes into the vagina and prevents sperm from entering the women’s body
• They can be inserted into the vagina up to 8 hours before sex
• They come pre-lubricated but using extra lubrication is recommended
• 85% of women will not get pregnant
• Prevents pregnancy, STIs and HIV when used correctly and consistently
• Easy to carry
• Easy to use
• Best when used as double protection with another contraception (i.e. pill, injection, implant)
• Each condom can only be used once• YES! Condoms prevent pregnancy, STIs and HIV when used correctly and consistently.
The Loop• Small plastic and copper device that is put inside the uterus
• Creates an unfavourable environment in the uterus for sperm to survive
• Prevents implantation of egg
• 99% of women will not get pregnant• Can stay up to 10 years
• Doesn’t interfere with sexual intercourse
• Doesn’t interfere with menstruation
• Nobody knows you have it
• May have cause heavier periods or cramping in the first year after insertion• YES! Condoms prevent pregnancy, STIs and HIV when used correctly and consistently.

Hormonal Contraception

Hormonal contraceptives are medicines or devices that rely on hormones to reduce your risk of becoming pregnant.
MethodHow it WorksEffectivenessAdvantagesDisadvantagesHIV and STI Protection
Implant• 1 to 2 very small rods place in the upper arm
• Stops ovaries from releasing an egg each month
• 99% of women will not get pregnant• Can stay in place for 2 to 7 years
• Doesn’t interfere with sexual intercourse
• Nobody will know you have it
• Might cause irregular bleeding in the first year• NO – these do not prevent the transmission of HIV or STIs. Therefore, it is important to also use condoms!
Injection• An injection once every 1 or 3 months
stops ovaries from releasing an egg each month
• 97% of women will not get pregnant• One injection lasts 1 to 3 months
• Usually no periods
• Doesn’t interfere with sexual intercourse
• Nobody will know you are on it
• Have to return to the clinic every 1 to 3 months for the injection
• Changes in menstruation
• NO – these do not prevent the transmission of HIV or STIs. Therefore, it is important to also use condoms!
Oral Contraceptive Pill• One pill a day stops ovaries from releasing an egg each month• 92% of women will not get pregnant• Simple and easy to follow and take
• Doesn’t interfere with sexual intercourse
• Periods usually shorter, lighter and less painful
• Have to remember to take it at the same time each day
• Must remember to get a new supply from the clinic
• May have side effects, e.g. irregular bleeding, nausea
• NO – these do not prevent the transmission of HIV or STIs. Therefore, it is important to also use condoms!

Permanent Contraception

Permanent contraception is the best for men and women who have finished having children.
MethodHow it WorksEffectivenessAdvantagesDisadvantagesHIV and STI Prevention
Tubal Ligation• Involves a minor operation
• Clips are put on the Fallopian tubes to prevent the egg from reaching the uterus
• 99% of women will not get pregnant• Only one operation
• Permanent contraception
• Ideal for women who do not want any more children
• Irreversible
• Requires a minor operation
• Women may have short term side effects, including pain and bruising
NO – does NOT prevent the transmission of HIV and STIs. Use condoms!
Vasectomy• Involves a minor operation
• Male tubes are cut to stop the sperm getting to the penis
• 99% of women will not get pregnant• Permanent contraception
• Ideal for men who do not want any more children
• Irreversible
• Requires an operation
NO – does NOT prevent the transmission of HIV and STIs. Use condoms!

Emergency Contraception

Emergency contraception prevents pregnancy for a limited window of time after sexual intercourse. It is especially useful for people who think their birth control might have failed – for example, if the condom broke – or when an individual has had sex against her will.
MethodHow it worksEffectivenessAdvantagesDisadvantagesHIV and STI Protection
Emergency Contraception Pill• Involves taking a pill that prevents your ovaries from releasing an egg and changing the lining of the uterus
• It cannot end a pregnancy that has already started
• Effectiveness depends on timing. The sooner it is used, the more effective it is. When used with 24 hours, success rate is 95%. When used within 72 hours, risk of pregnancy is reduced by 75-85%• Can be used up to 120 after unprotected intercourse
• Good for emergency situations
• May cause nausea and vomiting
• Not for regular use
• NO – these do not prevent the transmission of HIV or STIs. Therefore, it is important to also use condoms!