Using Birth Control

The following table outlines different methods of birth control. Read this carefully and you’ll learn what they are, how they work and how effective they can be when used correctly.

Type of birth control What is it? How it works Effectiveness Consider this
Oral Contraceptives (The Pill) Birth control pills taken daily. Uses female hormones to prevent pregnancy. >99% effective
  • Side effects may include irregular bleeding, headaches, vaginal irritation, discomfort or discharge, nausea, and breast tenderness
  • Rare but serious health risks for women 35+ who smoke
  • The progestogen-only mini-pill is not a suitable method of contraception during Clarus treatment
Contraceptive Patch A small, square beige patch that sticks to a woman’s skin. Uses female hormones to prevent pregnancy (similar to The Pill). >99% effective
  • Side effects may include breast tenderness, headache, irregular bleeding and spotting, and skin reactions where the patch is applied
Vaginal Ring A soft, flexible, clear plastic ring inserted into the vagina. Uses female hormones to prevent pregnancy (similar to The Pill). >98% effective
  • Side effects may include irregular bleeding, headaches, vaginal irritation, discomfort or discharge, nausea, and breast tenderness
  • Breakthrough bleeding (bleeding between periods) occurs in about 5% of women
  • Women who cannot take the birth control pill for medical reasons cannot use the ring either
Intra-Uterine Device (IUD) A small, T-shaped device with a copper wire inserted into the uterus. The copper wire changes the chemistry in the uterus and destroys sperm. 98-99% effective
Provides up to 5 years of contraception
  • Side effects may include increased cramps, spotting, depression, acne, headache, breast tenderness
Diaphragm A saucer-shaped disk with a flexible spring rim that covers the cervix. Prevents sperm from entering the uterus. 80-94% effective with spermicide
Lasts for several years
  • Must be fitted by a doctor or a health worker since they come in different sizes
Cervical Cap A deep latex cap that fits inside the vagina against the cervix. Prevents sperm from entering the uterus. 80-91% effective with spermicide
  • Must be used with spermicide, and must be kept in place for six hours after sexual intercourse
Contraceptive Sponge A soft, round piece of foam, with low concentrations of spermicide. Prevents sperm from entering the uterus. Spermicides kills sperm. 75-90% effective
One sponge can be used for up to 12 hours of sexual intercourse
Most effective when used with a condom
  • Don’t use if allergic to spermicide
Condoms Male condom - thin sheath that rolls down over the penis. Female condom - thin sheath inserted into the vagina. Prevents sperm from entering the vagina. Male condom is 86-97% effective
Female condom is 79-85% effective
Male condom is most effective when used with another contraceptive
Both help prevent sexually transmitted diseases
  • Can break or slip off
  • Male condom is recommended to be used with other contraceptives
Spermicide A cream (only for use with diaphragms), gel, foam, film or suppository, inserted into the vagina and used in combination with other methods of birth control. Applied to the vagina to kill sperm. Effective only when used in combination with a condom, cervical cap, or diaphragm
  • Do not use spermicides alone

Adapted from the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist of Canada, Clinical Practice Guidelines: Canadian Contraception Consensus, 2004.

A Guide for Patients

All the information you need about your medicine in a handy booklet.
Download PDF here.

Birth Control Information

For more information about birth control or for confidential counselling call the toll-free number at 1-877-776-7711