Types of contraception

Sex. It’s fun, yet so complex. With all the different types of contraception available, how are you supposed to choose what’s best for you? Well, that’s why we’re here. To protect yourself against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) read our guide to contraception methods.

A young couple is discussing types of contraception.

Types of contraception in a nutshell

Whatever the state of your love life right now, even if it’s non-existent, you should get clued up about different types of contraception. 

There’s a wide range of methods on offer to prevent unplanned pregnancy. But always remember that condoms are the only ones that also guard against sexually transmitted infections. So you’re probably gonna need those.

Condoms, diaphragms and caps

The safest of safe sex contraception methods is the male condom. This life-changing device is made from thin latex (or polyurethane), and fits over the erect penis. Legend.

Companies make the female condom, on the other hand, from polyurethane and you can insert it inside the vagina before sex. This one’s definitely less common and slightly younger than its counterpart. Believe it or not – it was invented more than 100 years after the male condom. 

Diaphragms and cervical caps are each designed to fit over the female cervix and act as a barrier. All of these methods are most effective when used along with a spermicidal. 

In contraception terms, a barrier is a block that stops sperm from entering the womb. This means that diaphragms and caps are an effective barrier when it comes to sperm. But they’re not much use when it comes to preventing STIs. 

As mentioned earlier, male condoms DO prevent most STIs. For this reason they’re commonly used in oral and anal sex. 

The pill

In case you’ve forgotten GCSE biology (we don’t blame you), hormones are basically chemicals that occur naturally in the body. They’re used to control certain functions. Because of science being pretty freaking cool nowadays, some hormones can be even created artificially and used to encourage the body to behave in a certain way. Enter the pill.

The pill is a hormonal contraceptive. It’s a method of contraception that’s safe and one of the most effective birth control methods for women. Just keep in mind that none of them protect against STIs.

There are actually two different types of contraceptive pill: the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill.

The morning after pill (sometimes called the emergency contraceptive pill) shouldn’t really be regarded as a contraceptive choice, but rather an emergency contraceptive. This is because it can only be used occasionally to be 100% effective. Instead, you should always consider it as a fail-safe should something go wrong with your chosen form of contraception. 

Find out more about the morning after pill, including side effects. 

The coil

These are tiny devices (about the size of a matchstick) that a doctor inserts into the womb through the vagina and cervix. There are several different types, including the IUS which contains slow release hormones. Both methods prevent sperm meeting an egg, and may even stop a fertilised egg from settling in the womb. Of all the types of contraception out there, this is the most long-term method. You have to change it every 5-10 years, with the help of your doctor. 

The rhythm method

Technically speaking, by using natural indicators, such as changes in body temperature and/or cervical mucus, you can calculate what days you’re fertile each month. Then, when you know you’re fertile, you can avoid sex or use a barrier method such as condoms. 

It’s important to note, however, that these techniques can be complicated, and take a great deal of commitment. Plus, there’s a large margin for error. So it wouldn’t be our personal top pick.

Sterilisation

A more permanent method of preventing pregnancy is to undergo surgery. People usually do this when they decide they don’t want any (or anymore) children. 

For people with uteruses, it involves an operation to cut or seal the fallopian tubes. And for people with penises, it means a procedure (called a vasectomy) to cut or block the tubes carrying sperm from the testes to the penis. 

You should know that it’s unlikely that a healthcare professional would recommend or perform a sterilisation operation on a young person who hasn’t had any children. Unless it was entirely medically necessary. Although, if you’re absolutely certain about your decision, it might be worth having a chat with your doctor to see what’s possible. 

Types of contraception for safe oral sex

Contraception isn’t just about preventing pregnancy. It’s also about protecting your sexual health as. Remember, penetrative sex isn’t the only thing that transfers STIs. You can catch chlamydia, herpes, syphilis, and gonorrhoea just as easily from having unprotected oral sex. The HPV virus is another one that’s transmittable through oral. All that to say, make sure you’re protected and practice safe oral sex by using a condom or dental dam. Never heard of a dental dam? Find out more about this safe sex contraception method here.

Are you Getting Some? Get Tested! Search for a sexual health clinic near you.

If you’re still struggling to decide what contraception to use, Brook’s Contraception Tool helps you work out the best method for you.

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By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 28-Jun-2022