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When it comes to contraception, there are many more options available than just the condom and the pill.

We’ve spoken a bit about safer sex here before, and discussed why you should have safer sex and what it can prevent (unintended pregnancy, and STIs!). So today, we’re going to investigate all of the contraception options that are out there: we’ll find out how effective the most popular ones really are, we’ll explore some lesser-known options, and we’ll answer the popular question of, ‘Why is there no male contraceptive pill yet?’.

There are a few main types of contraceptive that you can use. All of them are effective, but some are more effective than others—and not all of them protect you against STIs.

Barrier methods

‘Barrier methods’ refer to anything that places a barrier between you and your partner. Condoms, diaphragms, and dental dams all fit in this category: they create a barrier between your genitals and your partner’s. Here are some common (and some not-so-common) barrier methods available:

Daily contraceptives

Some contraceptives come in the form of medication that needs to be taken daily. There are only two of them, but they’re some of the more popular forms of contraception out there.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARC)

Set and forget! For someone who doesn’t want to think about contraception every day or every time they have sex, long-acting reversible contraception may be a good option. These contraception methods can work for up to a few years at a time.

Emergency contraception

If you’ve had sex without protection or made a mistake with your regular contraception, like forgetting a pill or having a condom break, you may need to take emergency contraception. The emergency contraception pill, or ‘plan B’, can be bought from a pharmacy and should be taken within 72 hours of having sex—keeping in mind that the later you take it, the less effective it may be. The emergency contraception pill can be up to 85% effective at preventing pregnancy, but it doesn’t protect against STIs. The emergency contraception pill is not an abortion: it simply prevents the ovaries from releasing an egg that can be fertilised. 

What about male contraception?

You might be wondering why there are so many contraception methods available for women and people with uteruses, but so few for men and people with penises. The theory that men wouldn’t take a contraceptive, or that they wouldn’t put up with the side effects, may hold some truth with some men—but we reckon there’d be just as many men who’d be eager to try it. We’re also aware that in the past, and today, there’s a lot of social pressure on women to take responsibility for sex in a way that men don’t have to. The way women dress, behave, and speak is often interpreted as courting sexual attention, but men rarely experience this kind of judgement. So maybe women are expected to be the responsible, aware party when it comes to contraception too, and men are permitted to be a bit more free-wheeling.

All of this may be true to a degree, but there’s also a far simpler, scientific explanation: it’s easier to make contraception for women. As The Cut puts it, “Women usually release one egg per month, but men can produce 1000 sperm per second. The target is a lot bigger”. Contraception in women only needs to prevent that one egg from being released, but contraception for men would need to stop all that sperm from being released—or neutralise it when it is. 
There are some contraceptive methods for men that are being trialled, but none have been released in Australia just yet. So in the meantime, if you realise that it’s your partner doing the hard work in obtaining contraception while you relax and enjoy its benefits, we reckon you should thank them for their effort—or at the very least, offer to shout them the next round of their contraceptive of choice.

To learn more about the foundations of great sex with acclaimed sex coach Georgia Grace, check out NORMAL's video masterclass, The Modern Guide To Sex.