Contraception (rongoā ārai hapūtanga), or birth control, is a term for the various methods used to prevent pregnancy.
On this page, you can find the following information:
- What is contraception?
- How do the different types of contraceptive methods work?
- Who can get contraception?
- What are the different methods of contraception?
- Which contraception method is the best for me?
- What support is available with contraception?
Key points about contraception
- There are a lot of different contraceptive methods that can be used to prevent pregnancy.
- Each type of contraception works differently, but generally they stop a sperm from meeting with an egg, which is how a pregnancy starts.
- Some contraception works better than others and each method has its pros and cons.
- Anyone of any age can get contraception from a nurse or doctor.
- The ideal contraception for you depends on your health, whether you smoke, whether you take any medicines, your preference, whether you want any children in the future, your sexual history or how reliable you need your contraception to be.
What is contraception?
Contraception or birth control is a way to prevent pregnancy. There are different contraceptive methods and you may need different types at different stages of life. Some may be suitable for you but some may not. Only barrier methods (such as condoms) and abstinence (not having sex) also help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
An introduction to contraception
There are a wide range of contraceptives you can choose from. This video provides an explanation of the common types so you can be more informed and choose the one that is right for you.
(Family Planning, NZ, 2015)
How do the different types of contraceptive methods work?
Each type of contraceptive method works differently. Some use hormones and some provide a barrier. Generally, they stop a sperm from meeting with an egg, which is how a pregnancy starts. Some contraception works better than others, eg, the long-acting reversible (LARC) is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.
Who can get contraception?
Anyone of any age can get contraception from a nurse or doctor. If you want to get contraception, see your GP or visit a Family Planning clinic in your area. If you are under 22 years old and are a New Zealand resident, your Family Planning clinic visit is free. Your visit will also be confidential.
Find out about fees and charges for Family Planning clinics in New Zealand.
What are the different methods of contraception?
There are a lot of contraceptive methods that can be used to prevent pregnancy. There are 2 main types of contraception – hormone methods and methods that don’t contain hormones.
Hormone-based methods include:
- the progestogen-only pill (the mini-pill)
- the combined oral contraceptive pill (the pill)
- the injection (Depo Provera)
- the implant (Jadelle), also known as the rods
- an intra-uterine devices (IUD) that contain progestogen such as Mirena® or Jaydess®.
Methods that don’t contain hormones include:
- condoms (over your penis or into your vagina)
- copper IUD
- fertility awareness
- tubal ligation
There are also 2 types of emergency contraception that can be used after sex after unprotected sex or if your usual type of contraception has failed and you don’t want to get pregnant. One method of emergency contraception uses hormones and one doesn't.
Read the table below to find out more about each type of contraception.
Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)
Read more about LARC.
Contraceptive pills and injections
These contraceptives use hormones to prevent pregnancy. They include contraceptive pills and the Depo-Provera injection.
Read more about contraceptive pills and injections.
Read more about condoms.
Emergency contraception can be used after unprotected sex or if your usual type of contraception has failed and you don’t want to get pregnant. However, it doesn’t protect you against STIs.
The 2 forms of emergency contraception are the emergency contraceptive pill and the copper IUD.
Emergency contraceptive pill
Read more about emergency contraception.
Fertility awareness or natural family planning
Read more about fertility awareness.
Read more about tubal ligation and vasectomy.
Which contraception method is the best for me?
The ideal contraception method for you depends on factors such as:
- your health
- whether you take medicines that may interact with the method
- whether you smoke
- how reliable you need your contraception to be
- how often you have sex
- how many sexual partners you have
- your preference
- whether you want to have children in the future.
Talk with your healthcare provider about the best form of contraception for you. Your nurse or doctor will ask you few questions about your health and family history. They will also ask you some personal questions, such as your sexual relationship with your partner/s and to check you aren’t being pressured into having sex when you don’t want to.
They will also talk about how to prevent STIs, eg, using condoms, and will do screening for STIs if you are sexually active. All appointments are confidential and you are welcome to ask your nurse or doctor anything you would like to know.
You can also read more about how to choose the right contraception.
What support is available with contraception?
Family Planning NZ provides useful information and resources about contraception on their website. They also have clinics you can visit to talk to someone so you can make informed choices about your sexual and reproductive health. Visit their website or make an appointment by filling out the appointment form.
The following links provide further information about contraception. Be aware that websites from other countries may have information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.
Contraception your choice Family Planning NZ
What is contraception? Family Planning NZ
Overview of contraception and sterilisation HealthInfo Canterbury, NZ
Your contraception guide NHS, UK
Contraception methods Patient Info, UK
- NZ Aotearoa’s guidance on contraception Ministry of Health, NZ, 2020
- Contraception – which option for which patient? BPAC, NZ, 2019
- Contraception – general overview Patient Info, UK
|Dr Alice Miller trained as a GP in the UK and has been working in New Zealand since 2013. She has undertaken extra study in diabetes, sexual and reproductive healthcare, and skin cancer medicine. Alice has a special interest in preventative health and self-care, which she is building on by studying for the Diploma of Public Health with the University of Otago in Wellington.|