101: Contraception

Jems is a condom and an inclusive sex ed platform built on current research, expert knowledge and, importantly, experiences.

Here—and in all our 101-style posts—we hope to answer some common questions and tap into different points of view. (We asked and you told us what you like—and don’t like!) 

Grab the factsheet that compares the different contraception types that are out there, to help make the choice that’s right for you.

What is contraception?

Contraception (or birth control) is an umbrella term for the many methods used to prevent pregnancy. While there’s lotsss of options, only condoms—internal and external—protect against both pregnancy and STIs.

Finding the best birth control method for your body and/or partner(s) is a process and Jems is here to help. 

How do people get pregnant?

If you have a uterus, your ovaries will release one or more eggs about 12 to 16 days before your period starts in a process called ovulation. If semen gets in your vagina during sex or play, sperm that’s in cum or pre-cum can swim through your cervix and uterus toward the fallopian tubes, where fertilization of the egg can happen. A fertilized egg can then implant in the lining of your uterus. (Though, up to half of all fertilized eggs pass out of your body during your period). If/once the egg implants, that’s when pregnancy starts—typically two to three weeks after sex!

“I don’t like taking a hormonal pill all the time and sometimes I get caught up in the moment and don’t want to wear a condom… in that case, I just take the morning-after pill. I definitely feel guilty about it though.” —Betsy, 26

Whose responsibility is it to bring birth control?

While the burden of birth control most often falls on the person who can get pregnant, we believe everyone having sex bears responsibility and should come informed and ready for honest communication. This communication leads to feelings of safety, less guilt and as a result maybe even better sex! 

In addition to the basic fact of protection, you may want to talk about:

  • The cost of birth control and sharing that expense
  • The frequency with which you have to take birth control (request reminders!)
  • Any side effects, and whether it’s something you’re willing to deal with
  • Using more than one method, like an IUD with condoms, which also protect against STIs

While pregnancy is only a concern with penis-in-vagina* sex, it’s still important when engaging in a sexual encounter of any kind to discuss protection with your partner(s). 

“Although I’ve tried many different methods, I definitely prefer using birth control over condoms when with a long term partner.” —Rosie, 24

What contraception method is best? 

We don’t have an answer about what form of birth control is best—it’s all about finding what works for you. Many people will try different forms of contraception until they land on a favourite, while others will use different forms at various points in their life. Some things you might consider in your own journey are:

  • Your overall health and any allergies you may have (latex, for example)
  • Side effects (some hormonal forms of birth control may effect your cycle and some people report impacts on their mental health)
  • Cost and ease and frequency of use (can you afford it, does it fit into your lifestyle or religious identity, and do you want to be on birth control when you’re not having sex?)

Talk to your doctor or someone at your local sexual health clinic to figure out what options are available to you, and consult our overview to compare/contrast different types of contraception.

“Hormonal birth control deteriorated my mental health and made me feel like a different person. I always go back to using condoms and haven’t had any problems with asking partners to use them.” —Satya, 23

What are the types of contraception?

Contraception methods typically fall into one of three categories:

1. Hormonal birth control includes synthetic hormones that mimic estrogen and/or progestin, which are naturally produced in the female body. This type of contraception—the pill, patch or injections are examples—alters your hormone levels in order to prevent ovulation or the implantation of an egg in the uterine lining.

2. Non-hormonal birth control can involve creating a barrier between sperm and egg, changing the chemistry in the reproductive tract or a combination of both methods. Condoms, diaphragms and contraceptives containing spermicides are examples.  

3. Natural methods of birth control are behavioural practices—like the pull-out method or fertility tracking—used to prevent pregnancy.

*A note on terms: We’ve used “penis-in-vagina”  to describe sex with the potential of pregnancy here, though we do recognize that not all people who have vaginas can get pregnant, and not all people with penises have testicles or produce semen/sperm. But communication and conversations around protection are always recommended!

For more information visit:
Teen Health Source
Planned Parenthood Toronto