Contraception is a method or device that prevents pregnancy. There are different types of contraception, including hormonal methods and non-hormonal methods.

Some methods of contraception can also be used to provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STIs)

Hormonal methods of contraception

Hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, play an important role in fertilisation. Some methods of contraception use hormones to prevent the release of the egg during the menstrual cycle.

Oestrogen inhibits the production of FSH. preventing the eggs from maturing and being released from the ovaries.

Progesterone inhibits ovulation and produces a thick mucus, which stops any sperm from reaching the egg.

Some examples of hormonal methods of contraception include:

  • Combined pill – An oral contraception that contains both oestrogen and progesterone
  • Progesterone-only pill – An oral contraception that only contains progesterone

A person taking oral contraceptives must remember to take them on a daily basis, or the effectiveness will decrease.

  • Skin patch, implant or injection – Release progesterone slowly, which inhibits the maturation and release of eggs. The skin patch sticks to the skin and the implant goes under the skin on the upper arm. A benefit of these methods is that the user does not need to remember to take the contraception on a daily basis
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) – A T-shaped device that goes into the uterus and stops an egg from implanting. There are plastic IUDs that release progesterone and copper IUDs that kill sperm.

Hormonal methods of contraception can be very effective, but there are side effects associated with them. For example, mood swings, weight gain, changes in blood pressure and irregular periods.

Some hormones can also be used to increase the chance of pregnancy.

Non–hormonal methods of contraception

These methods do not contain hormones and they stop the sperm from reaching the egg.

  • Condom (barrier method) – Goes over the penis and is worn during sexual intercourse to stop sperm from entering the vagina. There are also female versions. Condoms are the only contraceptive that stops both pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Diaphragm (barrier method) – A plastic cup that sits over the cervix and traps the sperm. Adding spermicide to the diaphragm makes it more effective at preventing pregnancy
  • Spermicidal agents – Kill or disable sperm
  • Surgical methods (sterilisation) – In males, cutting and tying the sperm ducts to prevent sperm from leaving the penis, is called a vasectomy. In females, the fallopian tubes (oviducts) can be cut or tied to prevent eggs from travelling from the ovaries to the uterus
  • Natural method – Avoiding sexual intercourse during the most fertile stages of the menstrual cycle can reduce the likelihood of pregnancy
  • Abstinence – Completely avoiding sexual intercourse. This is the only contraceptive method that is 100% effective at preventing pregnancy