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Are you new to NSW and wanting to play safe to avoid an unplanned pregnancy? Are you wondering what contraceptive methods are available in Australia but too shy to ask? Struggling to find useful information about what is the best contraception for you?

 You’re not alone!

 We asked an international student to share their experience in navigating contraceptive options in Australia. Read on about their thoughts on contraception, safe sex and sexual health.

Contraception. What is it?

Contraception is an important part of sexual and reproductive health. Using contraception allows people to have sex while preventing an unplanned pregnancy. Many different methods of contraception are available. ​

It’s important to discuss contraception with a new partner before you decide to have sex. Contraception affects both you and your partner, so you are both responsible for it.

The type of contraception you use is your choice. Your doctor can help you understand the benefits and side-effects of each option. There are three main ‘types’ of contraception:​

  • Hormonal methods (the Pill, the hormonal IUD, the Implanon and the contraceptive injection): Hormonal contraception uses hormones such as oestrogen and progestogen to make changes to the body to prevent pregnancy​.
  • Barrier methods (the male and female condom): Barrier methods stop the transfer of bodily fluids.​ These types of contraception also work to prevent STIs as well as pregnancy.
  • Other methods (fertility awareness method, withdrawal method): Do not involve hormones or barriers to stop the transfer of bodily fluids and are usually much less effective.

An international student experience…

Having gone through the challenges of finding the contraceptive method working best for me, I have written this blog post to cover some of the different types of contraception that are available to you and the possible links and resources on contraception you can access in NSW.

Accessing contraceptive methods in Australia as an international student

As an international student, it can be challenging to gain a good knowledge of contraception in a new country, especially if you come from a culture where sex remains a taboo. For me personally, spending my teenage years around early 2000s in China, the only sex education I have ever received was in biology class. Till this day, sex largely remains a social taboo and only those who are deemed progressive openly talk about it.

Where I first got sexual health information

When I first arrived in Sydney, I only knew condoms as an easily accessed contraceptive method because they could be easily found in supermarkets or pharmacies. Having missed O-week also made it hard for me to get any other useful information.

It wasn’t until the Lord Mayor’s ‘Welcome for International Students’ in April 2019 that I came across the Play Safe stall. A bit shy to bring up the “sex” topics in public, our first reaction was to bypass it. But the super friendly stall volunteers started talking to us. They asked us to participate in some fun activities including ‘guess how many condoms are in this container’, then gave us some condoms, information cards and introduced us to the importance of safe sex. Their openness to this topic and naturalness when talking about it helped us understand that there is nothing shameful about talking about sex and sexual health.

Exploring information on safe sex and contraception options online

Inspired by this experience, I started exploring more about safe sex and contraception. As a newcomer, I still found it a bit weird to just ask other students, so I chose to search online. Before that, my knowledge of contraception was limited to condoms, the Pill and intrauterine devices (IUDs).

After reading, I discovered there were lots of other choices for contraception like the vaginal ring, the injection, the diaphragm, the progestogen-only pill, copper or hormonal IUDs. Both the male (external) and female (internal) condoms provide the best sexually transmissible infection (STI) protection, but I learned that it’s good to use condoms with another method of contraception like the Pill or an IUD to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

Where I went to seek advice

Eventually, I decided to see a GP (a doctor) at the university health service center to get some professional advice. The GP provided a summary of the available contraceptive methods that I could use and explained the benefits of each one. The GP then asked me about my current contraceptive method and made sure I understood the possible side effects of the implant, which was the method I was most curious about.

The entire conversation was conducted in a very professional, respectful, and friendly manner, which made me feel comfortable asking questions. I walked out of the consultation back with more than enough information needed to make my own decision. It’s important to note that all conversations with GPs and doctors are strictly confidential and won’t affect your visa status.

 Further support and information

If you’re someone like me who wants to stay informed, there are resources available online that can help you.

  • Family Planning NSW provides the contraceptive choices that are available in Australia, including IUDs, implant, pills, condoms, and many other options. You can also call their Talkline on 1300 658 886 (free call) to speak to a nurse if you have any questions.
  • MSI Australia provides a self-directed quiz for you to take to see the types of contraception that might be available to you.
  • Sexual Health Infolink (free call) provides information and advice on sexual health, including condom use, STI testing and can help you find your closest sexual health service.

You can also visit a local doctor or a university health clinic to talk about contraception. If your doctor bulk bills, then your OSHC will usually cover the cost of your consultation. Talk to the clinic and OSHC about costs to find out more information.

Final thoughts

Remember, it’s never too late to start a conversation about contraception. If you have questions, check out our Contraception & Pregnancy page on the International Student Health Hub. Knowing the importance and practice of contraception is important for everyone. From what I have learned in my experience, there is nothing shameful in talking about sex and contraception. Let’s be responsible and start having the conversation!

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