Contraception (rongoā ārai hapūtanga), or birth control, is a term for the various methods used to prevent pregnancy.
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).
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 visit is free. Your visit will also be confidential.
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)
There are 2 types of LARC in New Zealand:
the implant – currently the Jadelle which can last for 5 years
intra-uterine methods (some wtih hormones and some without – these can last for 5–10 years.
LARCs are called ‘fit and forget’ contraception because you don’t need to remember them every day or every month.
They are immediately reversible on removal.
LARCs are the most reliable form of contraception available.
Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception.
In women, it is an operation called tubal ligation or sterilisation. Clips are put on the (fallopian) tubes to stop the egg getting to the womb.
In men, it is an operation called a vasectomy. Under local anaesthetic the tubes (vas deferens) that carry sperm to the penis are cut so there is no sperm in the fluid they are in (the ejaculate). Although it can sometimes be reversed it should be considered permanent.
Abstinence (not having sex) is the only 100% 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.
Abstinence is an option for people who don’t want to have sex because they don't feel ready, don't want to use other forms of contraception or for religious or any other personal reasons.
Chance of getting pregnant: 0%
The withdrawal method is sometimes called ‘coitus interruptus’.
It means pulling the penis out of the vagina before ejaculation.
It takes a lot of self-control and can fail if the penis is not withdraw fast enough or some sperm leak out before ejaculation.
This is not a very reliable contraceptive method.
Chance of getting pregnant: 25%
Which contraception method is the best for me?
The ideal contraception method for you depends on factors such as:
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
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.
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.