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Having unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections.
Using a form of birth control reduces your chance of accidentally becoming pregnant. Different types of birth control can stop ovulation, block sperm from reaching the egg or prevent egg fertilization. Some birth control methods can protect against sexually transmitted infections. Internal and external condoms can help prevent sexual and body fluids from being exchanged during sex. They do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that are passed by skin-to-skin contact. Birth control use should be consistent to ensure the best outcome. Even when used correctly, some women will still get pregnant while on birth control.
Birth Control Methods
Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control contains progestin, or a combination of estrogen and progestin. These hormones prevent pregnancy by:
- Preventing the release of an egg from the ovaries
- Thickening cervical mucus so sperm can’t reach the egg
- Thinning the lining of the uterus so that implantation can’t occur
Some hormonal methods require you to take a daily pill. Others, like the patch, release the hormones slowly over a longer period of time. Hormonal methods do not protect you against STIs. Ensure that you and your partner are screened regularly if you are engaging in unprotected sex, and use barrier methods (such as condoms) to reduce the risk for STIs.
Learn more about types of hormonal birth control.
- Birth Control: Pros and Cons of Hormonal Methods
- Birth Control Hormones: The Pill
- Birth Control Hormones: The Mini-Pill
- Birth Control Hormones: The Patch
- Birth Control: How to Use the Patch
- Birth Control Hormones: The Ring
- Birth Control Hormones: The Shot
- How to Take Birth Control Pills
Barrier Methods of Birth Control
If you do not wish to take hormonal birth control or experience side effects, you may want to consider a barrier method. Barrier methods prevent sperm from entering the uterus and reaching the egg. They include condoms, diaphragms, contraceptives sponges and cervical caps. Diaphragms and cervical caps are not widely available in Canada. It is difficult to find the spermicidal jelly that you need to use with these methods.
- Barrier Methods for Birth Control
- Birth Control: How to Use a Diaphragm
- Birth Control: How to Use the Vaginal Ring
- Cervical Cap for Birth Control
- Contraceptive Sponge for Birth Control
- Diaphragm for Birth Control
- Female Condoms
- Intrauterine Device (IUD) for Birth Control
- Male Condoms
- Spermicide for Birth Control
- Tubal Implants for Permanent Birth Control
Natural Methods of Birth Control
While arguably less effective, there are natural methods of birth control that may prevent pregnancy. Some women use breastfeeding for this purpose. Effectiveness of this method depends on the age of your baby, your period and if you are breastfeeding consistently. After 6 months, you should use an additional form of birth control, even if you are breastfeeding exclusively. Another method is fertility awareness, which requires you to track your menstrual cycle. The rate of unplanned pregnancies is much higher with natural methods than other birth control methods.
Emergency contraception is a way to prevent pregnancy if you did not use birth control or the method used did not work.
Birth Control and Your Health
If you have questions about your birth control method, contact your health care provider.
Stopping Birth Control
Find out what happens to your fertility after you stop using birth control.
Options for Sexual Health
Options for Sexual Health offers current sexual and reproductive health care, information and education.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada provides resources for sexual and reproductive health, including unplanned pregnancies.
Last Updated: June 2021