Do I need it?

Are you having sex or thinking of having sex that could cause a pregnancy? If you want to avoid becoming pregnant, contraception is a pretty good idea!

Things to consider

There are lots of different kinds of contraception available, each with their own pros and cons. When picking a method for you, you might want to consider factors like:

  • Cost
  • Effectiveness
  • Daily effort required
  • Opportunities for sexual spontaneity
  • Whether you need STI (sexually transmitted infection) protection
  • Whether you want a hormonal or non-hormonal method
  • Whether you need to be discrete about using birth control


Condoms are cheap (in fact, they’re free in Healthy McGill kiosks all over campus), easy to access (no prescription required), and you only need to worry about using them when you’re getting it on. They’re also the only form of contraception that also protects against STIs. Some people don’t like how they feel - but the online Shag Shop offers lots of different kinds, including non-latex options, so you have a better chance of finding a condom that works and feels good for you. When used correctly, external condoms are 98% effective, and internal (sometimes called “female”) condoms are 95% effective, although when used incorrectly or inconsistently their effectiveness can drop to 85% and 79%, respectively.

Hormonal methods

The pill, patch, ring, shot, and hormonal IUD are all contraceptive methods that prevent pregnancy by altering your body’s hormone levels. Some people like these methods because they are very effective (over 99% with perfect use, 92% with typical use). Others like the way you don’t have to think about these methods in the heat of the moment and can instead make them part of your daily, weekly, monthly etc. routine. Some people like the positive side effects these methods can offer - like lighter or more regular periods, less acne, or relief from symptoms of PCOS or endometriosis - while others find hormonal methods cause negative side effects for them, such as nausea, breast tenderness, or changes in sexual desire.  Hormonal methods of contraception can be managed by trying out different types, as everyone’s body is different and may react differently. These methods all require a prescription, see here for information on how to book an appointment.

Other methods

Other contraceptive options include copper IUDs, diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, fertility awareness, and withdrawal. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Copper IUDs, like hormonal ones, are inserted into the uterus and offer discrete pregnancy prevention for up to five years with minimal effort on your part. They require a prescription, may cause discomfort when inserted and removed, and may make your periods heavier. They are over 98% effective.
  • Diaphragms and cervical caps are non-hormonal methods that need to be fitted by a doctor. Some people like them because, like condoms, they only need to be used during sexual activity, or because they are controlled by the insertive partner. They are less effective than condoms - cervical caps are 91% effective when used perfectly, and can be 84% effective when used typically. When used with a barrier gel, diaphragms are 94% effective with perfect use, and can be 84% effective with typical use. Diaphragms can be difficult to find, and are available through the online Shag Shop .
  • Sponges are spermicide-soaked sponges that are inserted before sex. They are 91% effective when used perfectly, and can be 81% when typically.
  • Fertility awareness, tracking when in your menstrual cycle you are more or less fertile and having sex at your less fertile moments, can vary in effectiveness depending on how many of your body’s changes you are tracking and how well you are able to commit to having days during which sex is off the table. Some people choose this method because it is natural, cheap, or in line with their religious beliefs.
  • Withdrawal, or the “pull-out” method, requires trust in your partner and a partner who knows their body well enough to know when to pull out, which can be especially hard for young people still getting to know their own sexual responses. It can be up to 96% effective, but with typical use it can be as low as 73% effective. The withdrawal method is free, but if that’s your only reason for practising it, remember there are free condoms available from Healthy McGill all over campus.