Lots of people have questions about contraception - and if it's suitable for them. Here we've addressed some common concerns people may have about using contraception.
This information is general only - so please speak to a qualified medical practitioner if you are considering contraception. We can help you find a contraception service - call us on 1800 696 784 (weekdays 9:00am - 5:00pm), or search online.
When a Doctor or Nurse Practitioner prescribes a contraception method, they will tell you what the possible side effects are. For a small number of people, hormonal contraception may cause some side effects, including:
However, everyone is different. The side effects for one person might not be the same as for another. When you start using a new contraception, you can have an appointment in 6-8 weeks to review any mood changes or bleeding patterns. Remember that if a method does not suit you, there are lots of options available.
Studies have shown there is no link between weight gain and using contraception.
Using contraception does not cause cancer.
If you use the combined oral contraceptive pill or vaginal ring, studies have shown that there is a slightly increased risk of breast cancer (7%). However, hormonal contraception can also protect from some cancers - there is a 30-50% risk reduction of ovarian and endometrial cancer (including for women at risk of hereditary ovarian cancer).
Cancer Council Australia stresses that "on balance, the strong evidence of reduced lifetime risk of endometrial and ovarian cancer outweighs the transient risks associated with breast and cervical cancer."
They also emphasise the importance of regular screening for breast and cervical cancer for people in the relevant age groups.
Most contraception is completely reversable and your fertility returns to normal within 4 weeks of stopping it.
The exceptions are:
The risk of IUD perforation is very low, affecting 2 in 1000 people. It usually occurs when the IUD is being inserted. If this is suspected, the Doctor or Nurse Practitioner will arrange an ultrasound to check the IUD. If the IUD is not in the uterus, you can have a day surgery procedure called a laparoscopy to have it removed.
Studies have shown that when IUD perforation does occur, it has a ‘benign course’ - meaning the perforations do not lead to serious illness or injury.
While most IUDs do not move after insertion, there is a very low risk it may become dislodged. This is called an "explusion." The doctor or nurse who inserts your IUD will explain how you can check that your IUD is in place. This can be done by sitting/squatting and putting your index or middle finger into the vagina. When you reach the cervix, you should be able to feel the strings. If you are not comfortable doing this yourself, or you can't feel the strings, see your doctor or nurse practitioner for a review.
When an Implanon is put in your arm, the Doctor or Nurse Practitioner will get you to feel where it is. It is rare for it to move out of place. If you cannot feel the Implanon under the skin, you can have an ultrasound to find its location and have it removed.
It is not dangerous to skip your periods.
The benefits of skipping your period include avoiding period symptoms such as mood swings, period pain and headaches. It can be very helpful for people who have menstrual migraines, heavy periods, anaemia and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It can also be convenient if you are travelling or don’t want your period during an event.
Contraception methods that can affect your period include:
After using these hormonal contraceptions for a long time, some people may have significantly lighter bleeding or stop bleeding altogether.
If you skip your period for more than 2-3 months, you can have irregular "breakthrough" bleeding. Talk to your Doctor or Nurse Practitioner to get advice if you are having any issues.
The Rhythm Method is when you track your menstrual cycle, vaginal mucous and temperature to predict ovulation and avoid sex during that time. It is only around 75% effective, and works best when you have a 28 day cycle. This means 1 in 4 people may experience an unplanned pregnancy while using the rhythm method. If you have a cycle that is less than 26 days or greater than 35 days, this method is not recommended.
The reason this method is not reliable is because even though a woman’s fertile window is 2-3 days, sperm can live in the uterus for 5 days. Using another method of contraception is recommended to avoid unplanned pregnancy.
While it is not dangerous to have sex when you have your period, you can still become pregnant if you don't use contraception. The reason is that sperm can live in the uterus for 5 days. Using another method of contraception is recommended to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
Apps are very useful for tracking your period. However, they are only about 20% effective in preventing unplanned pregnancy, meaning 80 out of 100 people may experience an unplanned pregnancy while using cycle-tracking apps.
Using another method of contraception is recommended to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
In Australia, there is no herbal contraception that has been approved for use.
For most people, breast or chest feeding by itself is usually not a reliable method of contraception. You can become pregnant weeks after giving birth. To avoid unplanned pregnancy, it is recommended that another form of contraception is also used.
In the first 6 months after birth, breastfeeding can be up to 98% effective for people who:
By the time your baby is 6 months old, breastfeeding is usually about 70% effective.
At 1 year, breastfeeding is only about 37% effective. This is why another form of contraception is highly recommended, even if you are breastfeeding.
Non-hormonal and progesterone contraception is safe to use when you are breastfeeding, as they do not interfere with milk production. You should also consider what contraception is most convenient for you after having a baby. Some options allow you to "set and forget," such as an Implanon or an IUD, while others like the progesterone-only mini pill require you to take a pill at the same time every day.
Contraception options safe while breastfeeding include:
The Combined Pill and Nuva Ring are not recommended while you are breastfeeding. The is because they have the hormone eostrogen in them, and this stops milk production.
Some people have health conditions where hormonal contraception can be used to manage their symptoms, such as:
These could be caused by conditions such as PCOS, Endometriosis, anemia, PMS and PMDD.
Perimenopause is the time leading up to menopause (when you no longer have your period). During perimenopause, your hormonal levels will fluctuate, you will have irregular periods, and the quality of your eggs continue to deteriorate over time.
As long as you menstruate there is a chance of pregnancy. If you are under 50 years old, you should use contraception until you haven't had a period for 2 years to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.
Hormonal contraceptives may also help alleviate some of the symptoms of perimenopause (such as hot flushes, night sweats and mood changes).
If you are trans, non-binary or gender diverse you will need contraception based on your physiology.
Studies have shown that hormonal contraceptives do not have a negative impact on gender affirming hormones.
Gender affirming hormones are not effective contraception. You can still have a pregnancy if you have a uterus, or get someone pregnant if you have a penis.
Trans, non-binary and gender diverse people with a uterus may find that hormonal contraception stops or limits their period. This can be helpful for people who suffer from gender dysphoria.
If you have been diagnosed with Breast or Gynaecological Cancer your contraception should be non–hormonal, such as Copper IUDs or Condoms.