Women’s Health and Contraception

Woman sitting in a doctor's office speaking with a doctor
Image Credit: Student Communications Services


On this International Women’s Day, keep your sexual health in mind! Sex can be fun and positive but it is also important to be prepared and aware of the risks. Educating yourself is the best way to prepare for sexual activity and its potential consequences.  Did you know that 85% of unintended pregnancies occur when no contraception is used[1]? If you are concerned about sexual health and possible pregnancies, there are many different types of contraception available for women to consider.  

Have a discussion with your doctor or nurse to find out what option works best for you. Aside from male and female condoms, below are commonly used options with information adapted from SexualityandU:

Note that many of these options are contraceptive only. Always use a condom barrier (another form of contraception) in conjunction to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

  1. Birth control pills also known as oral contraceptives, are taken once a day during specific times. With proper use, the Pill is 99.9% effective, making it the most reliable contraception available. However, there is a 3% user failure rate. Try setting an alarm for the same time each day to help you remember to take the pill.
  2. Intra-uterine device (copper) is a T-shaped device with a copper wire around it and is inserted into the uterus. It can remain in place for up to 5 years. This and the intra-uterine system must be inserted and removed by a health-care professional; neither can be used within 3 months of a STI or pelvic infection.
  3. Intra-uterine system (hormones) is a T-shaped device inserted into the uterus that contains levonorgestrel (but not estrogen) that is released slowly over time. It can remain in place for up to 5 years and is reversible.
  4. Diaphragm and cervical caps are intravaginal barrier methods used in conjunction with spermicide. The device is positioned into the vagina and over the cervix before intercourse. A pelvic exam must be done by a health-care professional to fit.
  5. “The shot” (Injectable contraception) contains progesterone but no estrogen and is injected in the upper arm or buttock 4 times a year. For some women, the injection can be easier than remembering to take a pill each day.
  6. Birth control Patches release estrogen and progestin through the skin daily. The sticky patch can be placed on the buttocks, upper outer arms or lower abdomen. New patches are applied once a week for three weeks followed by a week without a patch.
  7. Vaginal contraceptive ring (“the ring”) is a flexible, nearly transparent ring that is about 2 inches wide and is inserted into the vagina. It releases a continuous dose of estrogen and progestin when it is inserted for three weeks and then removed for one week.
  8. Natural contraception like the sympto-thermal method can be effective for women who have learned to chart and interpret their fertility. However, this method requires commitment on the part of both partners and does not prevent STI’s. Read more about this method at SexualityandU.

Knowing your options is a great first step and you can read more at Live Well, Learn Well. You can also visit a doctor to help you decide which option fits best with your lifestyle and to get a prescription if necessary. UBC Student Health Service offers well-woman appointments which include a pap test, STI testing and contraception counselling.

For more information about contraceptives, sexual health or female health, feel free to visit the UBC Wellness Centre (SUB 56B) or speak to a physician at the UBC Student Health Service Clinic in the UBC Hospital on the main floor.

[1] The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, Contraceptive Comparative Chart. www.sogc.org