Contraception overview

Also known as birth control

Contraception, or birth control, is a term for the various methods used to prevent women from becoming pregnant.

The ideal birth control method for you will depend on factors such as:

  • your health
  • how reliable you need your contraception to be
  • how often you have sex
  • how many sexual partners you have
  • whether you want to have children in the future.

Talk with your healthcare provider about the best form of birth control for you. 

Methods of contraception

Method Description
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
  • LARC is contraception that lasts for a long time.
  • There are two types of LARC in New Zealand
    • The implant – currently the Jadelle which lasts for 5 years
    • The intra-uterine device (IUD) that lasts for 5-10 years 
  • They are called fit and forget contraception because you don’t need to remember it every day or every month.
  • They are immediately reversible on removal.
  • LARCs are the most reliable form of contraception that is available.
  • Chance of getting pregnant is 1% or less.
Read more about LARC.
Hormonal contraception These contraceptives use hormones to prevent pregnancy. They include contraceptive pills and the Depo-Provera injection.

Contraceptive pills

  • There are 2 types of oral contraceptive pills
    • the combined pill ('the pill')
    • the progestogen-only pill ('the mini-pill')
  • You must remember to take it every day.
  • Chance of getting pregnant: typically 8% but less than 1% if used perfectly.
Depo-Provera injection
  • The injection is given every 3 months.
  • Chance of getting pregnant: 1–3% 
Read more about hormonal contraception.
Barrier methods
  • Barrier methods of contraception stop the sperm from reaching the woman's tubes.
  • They also give some protection against STIs.
  • However, they can interrupt sex and be fiddly to put on until you get used to them.
  • You must remember to have them with you and to use them every time.
  • They include condoms or sheaths, and diaphragms or caps.
  • Chance of getting pregnant: 2–21% depending on correct use.
Read more about barrier methods
Emergency contraception
  • Emergency contraception either delays the release of an egg or makes it less likely that it buries itself in the lining of the womb and can be used after you have had unprotected sex or your usual type of contraception has failed (burst condom, missed pill). 
  • The 2 forms of emergency contraception are the emergency contraceptive pill and the copper IUD.
Emergency contraceptive pill
  • Should be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex
  • Chance of getting pregnant: 2% for women of average weight and 6% if overweight
Copper IUD
  • Can be inserted within 5 days of ovulation (day 19 of a 28-day cycle) and are recommended for women over 70kg 
  • Chance of getting pregnant: less than 1%
Read more about emergency contraception.
Fertility awareness 
  • This is also called natural contraception.
  • It means working out 'safer' times to have sex.
  • You need detailed advice on this method: it takes commitment and great care. 
  • Chance of getting pregnant: 2–24%.
Read more about fertility awareness.
  • Withdrawal is sometimes called 'coitus interruptus' and means the man pulls his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates.
  • It takes a lot of self-control and can fail if the man does not withdraw fast enough or some sperm leak out before he ejaculates.
  • This is not a very reliable contraceptive method. 
  • Chance of getting pregnant: 25%.
  • Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception which stops a sperm and egg from coming together.
  • In women, it is called tubal ligation or sterilisation. In an operation, clips are put on the (fallopian) tubes to stop the egg getting to the womb.
  • In men, it is called vasectomy. Under local anaesthetic the tubes (vas deferens) which carry sperm to the penis are cut so there is no sperm in the man's ejaculatory fluid (ejaculate). Although it can sometimes be reversed it should be considered permanent.
  • Chance of getting pregnant: less than 1%. 
Read more about tubal ligation and vasectomy.
  • Abstinence (not having sex) is the only 100% sure way of preventing pregnancy and STIs. Vaginal sex is the only way you can get pregnant, but STIs can be transmitted through vaginal, oral and anal sex.
  • It is an option for couples who do not want to have sex because they don't feel ready or they don't want to use other forms of contraception, or for religious or any other personal reason.
  • Chance of getting pregnant: 0%

Learn more

Contraception your choice Family Planning New Zealand

Credits: Health Navigator Editorial Team. Reviewed By: Sue Tutty: GP Liaison for Women’s Health, CMH Last reviewed: 04 Apr 2018