Birth Control Options

Please note: the rates of effectiveness used here explain how effective a birth control method is in actual use. Most methods can be higher than this if used consistently and correctly. However, the numbers here take into account imperfect circumstances and human error, and so are more accurate indications of how effective each method is. These numbers are based on the clinical practice guidelines of  The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC).

Hormonal IUD (Mirena / Jaydess / Kyleena)
How effective is it? 
99.8 percent
What is it?
Plastic device containing progestin
How do you use it?
A doctor inserts the IUD into your uterus. Can be left in place for up to 3 years for the Jaydess, and up to 5 years for the Mirena and Kyleena)
Other information:
Makes periods much lighter with less cramps (especially Mirena). May cause spotting for the first few months.
Cost:
$300 -$400 (covered under some health plans and with the Safe Methods Program)
Please note: the Jaydess has been discontinued and will only be available as long as stock is available.

Copper IUD
How effective is it?
99.2 percent
What is it?
copper “T” shaped device
How do you use it?
A doctor inserts the IUD into your uterus. Can be left in place for up to 5 or up to 10 years, depending which one you get.
Other information:
Often makes period bleeding heavier and may cause more cramps. This can sometimes get better after the first 3-4 months. Is the most effective emergency birth control if inserted within seven days of unprotected sex.
Cost:
$75-$90 (covered under some health plans and with the Safe Methods Program)

Depo Provera Shot
How effective is it?
94 percent
What is it?
Progestin injection
How do you use it?
A doctor or nurse gives you an injection every 3 months.
Other information:
Often makes periods much lighter with less cramps. Can cause irregular bleeding, especially at first. May take 6-8 months or longer for effects to fade and/or for fertility to return after you stop using it.
Cost:
$25-$45 every three months (covered under some health plans)

Combined Hormonal Birth Control Pills
How effective is it?
91 percent
What is it?
Progestin and estrogen tablets
How do you use it?
You take one pill every day at around the same time each day.
Other information:
Most people do not have side effects. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months or are lessened by going on a different brand of pills.
Cost: $15-$30 per month (covered under some health plans)

Evra Patch
How effective is it?
91 percent
What is it?
Plastic sticker with progestin and estrogen
How do you use it?
You wear a sticker on your skin and change it every seven days.
Other information:
Most people do not have side effects. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months.
Cost:
$15-$30 per month (covered under some health plans)

NuvaRing
How effective is it?
91 percent
What is it?
Plastic ring containing progestin and estrogen
How do you use it?
You insert a plastic ring inside your vagina and change it every month.
Other information:
Often has less side effects than pills or patches. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months.
Cost:
$15-$30 per month (covered under some health plans)

Progestin-Only Birth Control Pills
How effective is it?
91 percent
What is it?
Progestin tablets
How do you use it? You take one pill every day at the same time every day.
Other information:
Most people do not have side effects. When there are side effects, they usually go away within three months or are lessened by going on a different brand of pills. These pills have to be taken closer to on time each day than combined hormonal pills. If it is more than 3 hours late, then it is a missed pill.
Cost: $15-$30 per month (covered under some health plans)

External/Male Condoms
How effective is it?
82 percent
What is it?
Usually latex with alternatives available like polyurethane and polyisoprene
How do you use it?
You cover the penis with a condom before having sex.
Other information:
Use non-latex condoms for latex allergy or sensitivity. Use with water-based lubricant every time and right from the beginning of intercourse to be most effective. Must be used every time you have sex as it is difficult to know when you are ovulating. Has a high failure rate on its own, but great to combine with another method.Protects against sexually transmitted infections.
Cost:
$0.50-$2 per condom (often available free)

Internal/Female Condoms
How effective is it?
79 percent
What is it?
Nitrile
How do you use it?
You insert it inside the vagina before having sex.
Other information:
Use with lots of lubricant. Open end stays outside the vagina. Insert right before or up to 6 hours before intercourse. Has a high failure rate on its own, but great to combine with another method. Protects against sexually transmitted infections even better than external condoms.
Cost:
$1.50-$2 per condom

Spermicides
How effective is it?
72 percent on their own, much higher when used with condoms
What is it?
Film, foam, gel, cream, suppository or sponge
How do you use it?
You insert it inside the vagina before having sex.
Other information: More effective if used with a barrier method like condoms.  Condoms that come with spermicide on them are less effective than a separate spermicide used with a condom. Please note: there are currently no spermicides approved by Health Canada.
Cost:
$15-20 for several uses

Withdrawal/Pull Out Method
How effective is it?
78 percent
How do you use it?
The penis is taken out of the vagina before ejaculation.
Other information:
Sometimes sperm can come out before ejaculation or withdrawal doesn’t happen soon enough. Has a high failure rate on its own, but great to combine with another method.
Cost:
Not applicable

Rhythm/Calendar Method/Counting Days/Fertility Awareness Method
How effective is it? 76 percent
How do you use it?
You avoid intercourse on the days of the cycle when a pregnancy is most likely to occur.
Other information:
It is difficult to tell for sure when the “safe” times are, especially if you have irregular periods. Things like stress, illness, travel, and aging can cause your cycle to change. It is most effective to use condoms during the safer times and have no sex during the times you think you might be fertile. A good resource on the symptothermal method, which is the most effective of these methods when used correctly and consistently, (although still 76% in actual use) is https://www.tcoyf.com/
Cost:
Not applicable

Vasectomy
How effective is it?
99.8 percent
What is it?
A doctor performs a minor procedure that takes less than 10 minutes to prevent sperm from being ejaculated. This is a permanent method.
Other information:
Has no effect on the mechanics of sex (semen will still be present) or hormones. Can only sometimes be reversed and this can be expensive. Is safer, more effective and easier to access than tubal sterilization. You can get a family doctor or a walk-in clinic to provide a referral to a specialist (a urologist). In the Lower Mainland, MetroVan Urology Group is a good place to go: 604-273-4320 www.metrovanurology.com
Cost:
Covered by MSP (although watch out for clinics that charge)

Tubal Sterilization
How effective is it?
99.5 percent
What is it?
Surgery to close or remove the fallopian tubes to prevent sperm from reaching the eggs. This is a permanent method.
Other information:
Sometimes it takes a long time to get an appointment for this surgery. Is less effective and carries higher risks than a vasectomy.
Cost:
Covered by MSP

No Method
How effective is it? 15 percent (or in other words, without using a method, 85 out of 100 women will get pregnant in a year)
Cost:
Not applicable

Combining methods
How do you use it? Some people like to use more than one method together to increase their effectiveness.
How effective is it? To see an estimate of how effective methods are in combination, please take a look here.

EMERGENCY BIRTH CONTROL

Progestin Emergency Pills
(Plan B Contingency One, Next Choice, Option 2, NorLevo)
How effective is it? 50 percent
What is it?
Levonorgestrel (progestin) tablets
How do you use it?
Take within 5 days after sex. The sooner you take it after sex the more effective it is.
Other information:
You do not need a prescription to buy this medication. Can be purchased by anyone and ahead of time to have at home. May be less effective for those who weigh 165-176lbs (75-80kg) and not effective for those who weigh more than 176lbs (80kg) but still good to take it if you cannot get Ella or a Copper IUD (see below). Only protects against one act of sex. You can be more likely to get pregnant in the days after you take it.
Cost:
$20-$40 per use (sometimes free at youth clinics)

Ella Emergency Pill
How effective is it?
60 percent
What is it?
Ulipristal (a non-hormonal drug that blocks the effects of  hormones needed for conception) tablet
How do you use it?
Take within 5 days after sex. The sooner you take it after sex the more effective it is.  Doesn’t lose effectiveness as quickly as Plan B.
Other information:
By prescription and not all pharmacies carry it. May also be less effective for those who weigh over 165 lbs, but probably less so than Plan B.
Cost:
$30-$40 per use

Copper IUD
How effective is it?
99.2 percent
What is it?
copper “T” shaped device
How do you use it? If inserted by a doctor within 7 days after unprotected sex, more than 99% chance you won’t get pregnant. It can then be left in to provide ongoing protection, or can be removed after your first period.

Other information:
Often makes period bleeding heavier and may cause more cramps if left in for ongoing birth control. This can sometimes get better after the first 3-4 months.
Cost:
$75-$90

Questions? For more information about birth control you can make an appointment by calling us at 604-322-6692, you can email us or you contact Sex Sense through email or at 1-800-739-7367.

Updated April 2019