We’re in an age that toys with the potentials of driverless cars and space tourism – your options for birth control are no less advanced. If you’re planning on having sex but want to avoid pregnancy, you’ve come to the right place. Find out your options for protection against a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or unwanted pregnancy. You’ll be ready to go faster than you can say, “Get your freak on.”

Low maintenance contraception

Intra Uterine Device (IUD)

  • For females.
  • 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs as there is no physical barrier.
  • Lasts 5–10 years.
  • There are two types of IUDs in Australia: the copper IUD and hormonal IUD (Mirena).
  • An intrauterine device (IUD) is a T-shaped device that is placed in the uterus by a specially trained doctor or nurse. The copper IUD prevents pregnancy by chemically stopping the sperm and egg from meeting. It also changes the lining of the uterus/womb to make it unable to support a fertilized egg. A hormonal IUD contains and releases the hormone progestogen into the uterus.

Contraceptive implant (commonly known as “the rod” or Mirena™)

  • For females.
  • 99.95% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Lasts 3 years.
  • The contraceptive implant is a tiny rod about the size of a matchstick that’s inserted under the skin of your arm by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It releases hormones to prevent pregnancy.

Used on a schedule

Contraceptive injection

  • For females only (for now). It is not reversible once injected. Injections for males are currently being trialled in Australia.
  • 96%–99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Lasts 12–14 weeks.
  • The birth control shot contains progestogen, a hormone that’s naturally produced by ovaries. In Australia, it’s sold as Depo-Provera® or Depo-Ralovera® – A specially trained doctor or nurse makes the injection in your arm or derrière (cough, behind). Once it has been injected, it can’t be reversed for 12 weeks, and sometimes longer. There may also be a delay in a menstrual cycle returning to normal.

Vaginal ring

  • For females.
  • 93%–99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Lasts 3–4 weeks.
  • The vaginal ring is a soft plastic ring that contains the same hormones as the birth control pills – estrogen and progestogen – which prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg. The ring is inserted into the vagina in the same way as a tampon. It will stay in for three weeks before you take it out. You then wait one week before inserting a new ring in.

Birth control pill

  • For females.
  • 93%–99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Taken daily, at the same time every day. One pack lasts for a menstrual cycle.
  • There are two types of birth control pills: the combination pill and the mini pill. The combination pill contains the hormones estrogen and progestogen. The mini pill only contains progestogen. They’re both effective, and a chat with your doctor or nurse will help you find out which type works best for your body.

Used every time you have sex

Condom (male)

  • For males.
  • 88%–98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Protects against STIs.
  • Single use.
  • The male condom is a thin, stretchy pouch made of latex or plastic, which creates a physical barrier between the penis and vagina. It stretches over and covers the erect penis, thereby collecting semen and limiting any skin-to-skin contact.

Internal condom

  • For females and males.
  • 79%-95% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Protects against STIs.
  • Single use.
  • An internal condom is a thin pouch with two flexible rings at each end. It’s placed inside the vagina or anus before penetrative sex. Similar to the male condom, it creates a physical barrier and limits the exchange of bodily fluids.

Diaphragm, used together with spermicide gel

  • For females.
  • 82%–86% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Lasts 24 hours.
  • A diaphragm is a shallow silicone cup that’s placed inside the vagina, tucked near the cervix. It effectively creates a physical barrier that sperm can’t go through, but it doesn’t protect against STIs because semen will still be in contact with the vagina.

Lifestyle-based birth control

Fertility awareness method (FAM)

  • For females and males.
  • 76%–88% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Daily checks. Monthly tracking.
  • The FAM means keeping track of a woman’s menstrual calendar and performing daily body temperature and cervical mucus checks. This allows you to be aware of when ovulation happens so you can avoid penetrative sex on “unsafe”, fertile days. With the growing list of period tracking apps out there, this method is becoming easier.

Withdrawal (pull-out method)

  • For males.
  • 78% effective at preventing pregnancy when done correctly.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Pulling out is exactly that: pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation. It can take some practice and needs to be done perfectly every time for it to be effective. Emphasis on the word ‘perfectly’: as in, ‘the pull-out needs to be done precisely on time, otherwise this method has zero value’. Withdrawal should be used with another contraceptive method (i.e. the vaginal ring or condoms) to make it safer.

Breastfeeding as birth control

  • For females.
  • 98% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Does not protect against STIs.
  • Lasts as long as there is no period until 6 months post-partum, if you’re breastfeeding every 3–4 hours.
  • If you exclusively breastfeed your baby – meaning you:
    a. don’t use a breast pump,
    b. nurse every 3–4 hours in the day and at least every 6 hours at night and
    c. your baby isn’t eating any other foods or formula– your body naturally stops ovulating. This contraceptive method is usually effective as long as there’s no period for six months after a baby’s birth.

Outercourse and abstinence

  • For males and females.
  • 100% effective at preventing pregnancy.
  • Protects against STIs.
  • Lasts as long as you want.
  • Abstinence means having no sex. And outercourse means other sexual activities besides penetrative sex. Precise definitions of abstinence and outercourse are different for everyone. Read up on communicating consent to get an idea of how to talk about it.

Permanent contraception

Sterilisation and a vasectomy are permanent methods of birth control. They require surgery and are more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you have more questions about using this method.

Emergency contraception

If you’ve had unprotected sex and want to avoid pregnancy, you can take an emergency contraceptive pill (also known as the morning after pill) or insert a copper intrauterine device. Learn more about this pill here and talk to your GP or nurse to find out more.

Did you know?

Swinburne offers on-site health services and fully confidential counselling. To book a free counseling session, simply call 9214 8483, register and make an appointment or come up to Level 4, GS building and we can help you from there. You'll need your student ID, Medicare card or OSHC health insurance details and your Centrelink Health Care Card if you have one.

Some more helpful links

  • Happy family of four

    Family Planning Victoria

    Find out more about your reproductive and sexual health and which method of contraception is right for you.

  • Adult woman having a visit at female doctor's office.

    Melbourne Sexual Health Centre

    Stay informed about sexual health and talk to medical experts about the treament and prevention of sexually transmitted infections. 

  • Shot of an affectionate young couple sharing a romantic moment in the bedroom at home

    Play Safe

    Discover everything you need to know about playing it safe when engaging in sexual activity. Read up on sexual health or ask a question via the online forum.