How Not To Get Pregnant

Types of Birth Control

Dual Protection

When you’re considering how you plan to protect yourself, remember that there isn’t just one thing to guard against, but two.

As a young adult, any decisions that you make about birth control also needs to include considerations about STI prevention.

There are many young adults who assume that because they are in a monogamous relationship that they are at little or no risk for STIs when in fact their STI risk is quite high.

When it comes right down to it, protection from both pregnancy and STIs should be equal priorities for sexually active heterosexual young adults. Dual protection sounds like it might be a bother, but really it’s not – just use another method in combination with condoms.


Condoms are a popular choice for birth control – and it’s easy to see why.

If condoms are used properly every time you have vaginal intercourse, they are very effective in preventing pregnancy.

If a condom slips off or tears due to improper use then its ability to protect you is greatly reduced, so be sure to use a condom that fits well and can be rolled down the penis properly. In others words, follow the instructions for putting a condom on and taking it off that come with a box of condoms. If you or your partner has a latex allergy, you can use a polyurethane or polyisoprene condom instead.

Compared to other methods of contraception, condoms are quite inexpensive. Condoms are not only among the most effective methods of birth control; the condom is the only method that provides significant protection against STI as well.

Hormonal Contraception

Unless you’re prepared to have a baby right now, you need to take serious precautions. Hormonal contraception can be a very reliable option.

The birth control pill (also known as oral contraception) is a very effective method for preventing pregnancy.

Some popular brands contain a combination of estrogen and progestin. With these pills, a woman takes the pill for 21 days and then no pills or a placebo pill for seven days, and this cycle is repeated for as long as the woman wants to avoid getting pregnant. If the pills are taken on schedule, they are nearly 100% effective in preventing pregnancy.

In addition to its effectiveness, one of the greatest advantages of the pill is that it is a birth control method that is taken and controlled by the woman herself, giving her control over her own fertility.

The pill is safe for most women to use. However, if you are thinking about going on the pill it is very important that you consult with a health professional to make sure that it is medically appropriate for you. There are some risks and side effects associated with the pill so it is important that you check it out with your doctor.

There are other forms of hormonal contraception such as the contraceptive patch or the vaginal contraceptive ring, which is a flexible plastic ring filled with hormones that is placed high in the vaginal canal. If you are interested in using these types of hormonal contraception, check it out with your doctor.

Hormonal contraception does not offer protection against STIs so if you decide to use it keep this in mind.


When trying to prevent pregnancy there area lot of options to choose from, including vaginal inserts, like diaphragms.

A diaphragm is a circular, dome-shaped piece of rubber with a rubber-covered metal rim. A contraceptive jelly or film is applied to the diaphragm and it is inserted into the vagina. It can be inserted up to six hours before intercourse and it must be left in for at least six hours, but is should be removed within 24 hours after it was inserted.

Because fit is very important for a diaphragm to be effective, it should be individually fitted by a doctor.

The diaphragm is not as effective in preventing pregnancy as the condom or the pill and offers minimal protection against STIs, but not nearly as much as a condom.1

Its failure rate is estimated to be about 20% and failure of the diaphragm to prevent pregnancy is often due to it not being left in long enough or if contraceptive jelly/foam was not used.2

1Hatcher, R, et al. (2008). “Contraceptive Technology”, 19 ed. New York: Ardent Media.
2Hatcher, R, et al. (2008). “Contraceptive Technology”, 19 ed. New York: Ardent Media.


If you’re considering an IUD you’ll need to talk to your doctor to find out if it’s right for you, and to have it put in.

An IUD, or Intrauterine Device, is a small T-shaped piece of plastic that sometimes includes a metal part or a hormone. A health professional inserts the IUD into a woman’s uterus and it remains there until a health professional removes it.

The IUD prevents pregnancy and is a very effective form of birth control, but does not protect against STIs.

The IUD may affect the flow of menstrual blood depending on the woman and the particular IUD used. A small percentage (about 10-20%) of women will experience cramps or irregular bleeding.

Hormonal Injections

Some types of birth control, such as Injections, can be administered less frequently – but come with more to consider.

With hormonal injections a woman receives an injection every three months. The injection contains progestin, which stops ovulation.

Hormonal injection is very effective in preventing pregnancy. However, in 2005 Health Canada issued a warning that using hormonal injections can result in irreversible bone loss if it is used for more than two years.

Most women who use hormonal injections will stop having menstrual periods. Once a woman stops having the injections she will usually remain infertile for 6 to 12 months. It is also important to note that hormonal injections offer no protection against STIs.


Spermicides work by killing sperm but they still have a high failure rate. Know your risks before choosing your method.

As the name implies, spermicides kill sperm on contact. A woman uses a plastic applicator to spread the spermicide into her vagina before intercourse and it must be left in for 6-8 hours afterward.

The failure rate for spermicides can be quite high compared to other methods (up to 25%). Some people may experience an allergic reaction to spermicides. Spermicides do not provide protection against STIs.1

1Raymond, E, Chen, P and Luoto, J, (2004). Contraceptive Effectiveness and Safety of Five Nonoxynol-9 Spermicides: A randomized trial. “Obstetrics and Gynecology”, 103, 430-439.


Withdrawal, or stopping at the last second, isn’t a very dependable method of birth control. Plus, it puts all the responsibility on one person.

Withdrawal — or as it is more commonly known “pulling out” — will reduce the chances of a pregnancy occurring, but as a birth control method it’s not considered to be very effective.

The estimated failure rate is about 20%.1 It’s completely reliant on the male partner’s ability and willingness to pull his penis out of the vagina before he ejaculates every time the couple has sex. And withdrawal offers zero protection against STIs.

1Hatcher, R, et al. (2008). “Contraceptive Technology”, 19 ed. New York: Ardent Media.

Rhythm Method

Relying on the rhythm method requires a lot of work and even abstinence during certain times in your cycle.

Fertility awareness, also known as the “Rhythm Method”, requires that a woman figure out exactly when in her cycle she is fertile and abstain from intercourse during that period. There are variations of the rhythm method: the calendar method, the basal body temperature method, and the cervical mucus method.

As birth control methods go, the rhythm method is not particularly effective. It will reduce your chances of getting pregnant but if you are considering it, it would be wise to study carefully exactly how it works. Even then, there will be some chance that you will get pregnant if you follow it precisely. Fertility awareness methods will not reduce your risk of STIs.


Douching is not a way to avoid getting pregnant.

There’s not much to say about douching as a birth control method; attempting to flush out the vagina with a liquid is not an effective way to prevent pregnancy.