Although the most commonly used methods of contraception in Australia are condoms and the pill, there are many other options now available. The two methods that are male controlled are condoms and vasectomy (permanent sterilisation).
For a full list of contraceptive options including long acting reversible contraception, click here.
The method you choose might be influenced by a variety of things, including your general health, your lifestyle, yours or your partner's childbearing intentions, your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, any intolerances or allergies you might have, and others.
If you're in a committed relationship it's important to talk about contraception with your partner. If she is taking sole responsibility for contraception (for example, using an IUD or taking the pill), you might like to talk about how you can help share the financial burden.
Sometimes you might need to try different methods before you find one that works well for you and your partner, or you may find that different methods are more suitable at different stages of your life. It can help to talk to your GP or a specialist sexual health doctor or nurse about your contraceptive options.
If you've had unprotected sex, or your condom broke, your sexual partner should access emergency contraception as soon as possible if she hasn't already.
The most common form of emergency contraception in Australia is a single pill available over the counter without a prescription. It's sometimes referred to as the 'morning after pill', although it can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex. There's a detailed explanation of how it works over on the Family Planning NSW website.
Although she doesn't need a doctor's prescription, the pharmacist may ask her a series of questions or give her a form to fill out to ascertain if she should or can take the emergency contraceptive pill. If she is uncomfortable with discussing this in the pharmacy, you might want accompany her for support. You can also ask if there is a more private space available to talk with the pharmacist.
Some pharmacists refuse to provide emergency contraception because it goes against their religious beliefs. This does not give them the right to lecture your partner or you about your sexual health or your relationships, or to make you feel like a bad person for trying to prevent a pregnancy. If you've had an experience like this, feel free to give us a call if you'd like to talk about it. It's important to persevere in these cases and try another pharmacy - don't let a poor attitude from one pharmacist put you off seeking help elsewhere.
Female and male condoms are available in Australia. Male condoms are one of the most commonly used forms of contraception by Australians.
Male condoms are most commonly made of latex (although polyurethane condoms are also available if you or your partner have allergies to latex, so don't let that stop you using them), and are a thin sheath which fits over the penis during sex to contain any ejaculate and thereby prevent pregnancy. Female condoms are also thin sheaths of polyurethane that act as a barrier between the penis and vagina during sex, but they are inserted into the vagina instead of over the penis. Female condoms have a soft flexible ring at each end, with one closed end and one open. The closed end is inserted into the vagina and contains any ejaculate.
Male and female condoms are also barrier methods, so they help prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy. They are only able to be used once, so they are thrown away after use. They have failure rates of 2%-20% depending on how they are used, so some couples may want to consider backing them up with a hormonal contraceptive to decrease their risk of pregnancy.
If you're embarrassed to buy condoms from a pharmacy, you don't need to be. Sex and contraception are an everyday part of life - but if you are still having doubts, think about ordering them online, or using the self-service checkout at the supermarket.
Both men and women can undergo sterilisation procedures. These procedures are permanent so if you are considering sterilisation you need to be sure of your decision. If you think there is any chance you may want to have a child (or another child) in the future - for example, if your relationship status changes - then sterilisation is not for you. Although reversals can be attempted in some cases, their success rate is low and even then there is no guarantee that pregnancy will result.
Both male and female sterilisation is more than 99.5% effective.
Male sterilisation is known as vasectomy. It is a simple and straightforward procedure which involves the cutting and tying of the vas deferens, the tubes which carry sperm, to prevent sperm being carried from the testes into the semen. The procedure does not affect the production of semen or impact on sexual function; men who have had a vasectomy should still experience sex and ejaculation in the way they did before the procedure. Vasectomies are usually performed under a local anaesthetic but can be carried out under sedation or general anaesthetic. It can be performed by a specialist or through the public health system; some GPs and private health clinics may also provide vasectomies. Ask your GP or a sexual health clinic for more info.
Natural family planning methods involve tracking the menstrual cycle and avoiding sex on the days when pregnancy could result. There are different methods that are used to do this which are all classified as natural family planning methods. They require women to calculate 'fertile days' by counting the length of their cycle over time or by following signs that indicate ovulation (for example, temperature or mucous changes). As no barrier or hormones are used and individual cycles differ, sex may need to be avoided for 7 to 14 days each cycle. Effectiveness of family planning methods differs according to the method and how long a woman has been using it, but is generally between 75% and 99% effective. Natural family planning methods require commitment and consistency of use, and it can be difficult to predict ovulation even if you are confident with the method. It does not offer any protection against sexually transmitted infections.