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Understanding contraception and finding the best contraceptive method for you is an important way to look after your sexual and reproductive health.

We asked Family Planning Australia to share their expertise on contraception and preventing unplanned pregnancy. Family Planning Australia is a trusted not-for-profit organisation providing reproductive and sexual health information and clinical services in New South Wales.


What is contraception?

If you have recently moved to Australia from overseas, you likely have a lot of things to think about. Something that you might not have thought about yet is contraception. It’s important to know about contraception if you are thinking about having sex or are already having sex. Not everyone will need to think about contraception though, as not all types of sex can result in pregnancy. 

If you haven’t heard of it before, contraception is something people can use when they want to have sex with a partner, but do not want to become pregnant or have a baby. Some types of contraception also prevent sexually transmissible infections (STIs), but not all types of contraception prevent STIs.


What contraception options are available to me?

There are many methods of contraception that work in different ways. It’s important to find the one that suits you best.

The contraception options available in Australia might be different to other countries. Here are some options that you can get in New South Wales.


Contraceptive Pills

  • Contraceptive pills are small tablets that are taken by mouth at the same time every day
  • Different types of contraceptive pills will have different types of hormones in them
  • These hormones will make different changes to the body to prevent pregnancy

The Hormonal Intrauterine Device (IUD)

  • The hormonal IUD is a small, T-shaped plastic device
  • It is inserted by a doctor or nurse through the cervix and sits in the uterus
  • The hormonal IUD provides a steady release of hormones to prevent pregnancy
  • It lasts up to 5-7 years depending on the type of hormonal IUD

The Copper Intrauterine Device (IUD)

  • The copper IUD is a small, plastic device wrapped in copper wire
  • It is inserted by a doctor or nurse through the cervix and sits in the uterus
  • It changes the environment of the uterus so sperm cannot survive
  • It can be used as emergency contraception if it is inserted up to 5 days after unprotected sex
  • It lasts up to 10 years

The Contraceptive Implant

  • The contraceptive implant is a small, plastic rod, about the size of a matchstick
  • It is inserted under the skin of the upper arm by a doctor or nurse
  • Once inserted, the contraceptive implant provides a steady release of hormones to prevent pregnancy
  • It lasts up to 3 years

The Contraceptive Injection

  •  Also called the “Depo”, short for Depo Provera
  • A doctor or nurse injects the Depo into your arm or buttocks
  • Getting the injection every 12 weeks provides a steady release of hormones to prevent pregnancy

Fertility Awareness Methods

The fertility awareness method is when a person monitors their period cycle every day to see when they are most fertile. This can also include monitoring and recording changes to the cervix, cervical mucus and basal body temperature.

A person would need to avoid having sex during the fertile time to reduce their chances of becoming pregnant.

Barrier Methods

Barrier methods when used consistently and correctly stop body fluids from being passed from one person to another during sex. Condoms are a barrier method that offers protection from both unplanned pregnancy and STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Condoms come in different shapes, sizes, textures, and flavours. A new condom is needed every time you have sex.

Some places give out condoms free to anyone aged under 30 years old in NSW. Check out to find where you can get condoms for free!

You can find out more about safe sex and condoms on the Hub.


What else do I need to know before I make my choice?

There are lots of other things to think about when you choose contraception. Not all contraceptive methods work the same way, and most have benefits and some downsides. That’s why it’s important to consider all the types available and pick one that best suits you and your partner’s health and lifestyle needs. Some things to think about are:

1. Effectiveness:

There are lots of different types of contraception, but no method is ever 100% effective. Methods which don’t mean you have to remember to do something on a regular basis, such as an implant or IUD, are more effective than pills or condoms which can easily be forgotten or not used properly.

With some contraception like the contraceptive implant or IUD, you need a procedure to put these in your body. If you’re not comfortable having the procedure, these methods might not be the right ones for you. With other contraception like the contraceptive pill, you need to remember to take it every day at the same time. This might easier or more difficult for some people.

2. Side effects:

Some people get side effects when using contraception and some people do not. Talk to your doctor about possible side effects and to find the best option for you. You should also talk to your doctor if you are concerned about side effects that you are currently experiencing.

3. Cost:

In Australia, contraception comes with different costs. Some have a higher cost at first, like the IUD or contraceptive implant but are cost effective in the long term because they last a long time. Others, like the contraceptive pill, are cheaper in the beginning but mean you have to purchase a new pack every 2-4 months. Australian citizens and permanent residents with a Medicare card or healthcare insurance, might have some or all the costs covered. International students with Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) will need to check their member guide or ask their health fund about the cost of contraception methods. Find out more here.

4. Your health:

You will need to tell your doctor about any medication that you take or if you have any health issues. This may affect your choice of contraception.


Will contraception protect against STIs?

Barrier methods such as condoms used on their own or with another type of contraception is the best way to stop the spread of STIs and prevent unplanned pregnancy. You can visit the Hub if you want to know more about STIs.


What about if contraception wasn’t used?

Unprotected sex is when contraception isn’t used, the condom breaks, or you forget to take your contraceptive pill. If this happens, you can take the emergency contraceptive pill (ECP) to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.

The ECP, also called the “morning after pill” or “plan B” is a single pill taken after unprotected sex to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. You can get the ECP at the chemist without a prescription. Read all about the ECP on the Family Planning Australia website.


Who can I talk to about my contraceptive options?

You can:

  1. Talk to your doctor about your contraceptive options to find out what suits you best. Anyone can talk to their doctor about contraception. You can talk to the doctor if you are single, in a relationship, are married, or have a casual partner.
  2. Talk to a nurse about your contraception options. You can call Family Planning Australia’s Talkline on 1300 658 886 between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday. To talk to someone in your language call the Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) on 131 450 and ask them to connect you to Family Planning Australia Talkline.
  3. Talk to your sexual partner about sex and contraception. Sex may seem difficult to discuss at times, but being able to talk openly and honestly about it with your sexual partner is a positive step towards a healthy relationship. Depending on your situation, your choice of contraception may be something you decide on your own or together with your partner. In any case, it’s important that all people take responsibility for contraception each time they have sex.
  4. Talk to friends or to someone you trust can help you to make a good decision that is right for you.

Find out more information about safe sex and contraception on the International Student Health Hub Online Learning Modules.

If you want to know more about contraception and how it works, you can read the Family Planning Australia factsheet on contraception.