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Safer Sex and Contraception

Women and girls with disability have the right to have safe sex and to have control over the contraception they use.

If you are sexually active, using contraception can help you to stay healthy and stop you from getting pregnant when you do not want to.

This page has information about the different types of contraception available.

Watch the Family Planning Victoria video (external website) about contraception:

Tip: Click the subtitles button in the bottom right hand corner of the video to turn closed captions on and off.

What is safer sex?

Safer sex refers to things you do to stay healthy, avoid sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and avoid pregnancy when you have sex.

Photo of contraception pills and devices

Penetrative sex (also called sexual intercourse) is when something, like a penis or a sex toy goes inside someone else's mouth, vagina or bottom (anus). Vaginal, anal and oral sex are all types of penetrative sex.

Using condoms is the best way to prevent getting STIs when you have penetrative sex. However, not everyone has penetrative sex. Some people choose to only have non-penetrative sex.

Non-penetrative sex
- is sexual activity that does not include penetration of the vagina, mouth or anus.

Before having any type of sex, you should talk to your partner about what you both want and are ready to do. Safer sex starts with consent.

What is contraception?

Contraception refers to products or methods that can help to prevent pregnancy.

When you have penetrative sex, using condoms is the best way to prevent getting STIs. However, there are also other types of contraception you can use with condoms to stay healthy and avoid getting pregnant.

Types of contraception

There are many types of contraception. We have listed the most common ones below, as well as the pros (good things) and cons (bad things) about each of them.

Condoms

Male condom – The male condom is a thin tube of rubber that is put on an erect (hard) penis before sex. When used correctly, male condoms can be 98% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs. [1]
Male condoms are sold at supermarkets, pharmacists and petrol stations and are often given out for free at family planning clinics and doctors’ surgeries.

Female condom – The female condom is a soft rubber pouch with a ring at one end that is placed inside the vagina. When used correctly, female condoms can be 95% effective in preventing pregnancy and STIs. [2]
Female condoms can be found at some chemists and health clinics.

Pros – Condoms are cheap and easy to use, can be carried around in your wallet or bag and don’t have side effects. They are also the best way to prevent STIs during penetrative sex.

Cons – Condoms can only be used once, they need to be used every time you have sex, and they can sometimes break.

Tip: You can find the Family Planning Clinic in your area on the Family Planning Alliance Australia website (external link).


Dental dams

A dental dam is a piece of square plastic that is used as a barrier between a person's mouth and another person's vulva or vagina during oral sex. They come in lots of different colours and flavours and are usually used during oral sex to prevent STIs.

Pros - Dental dams protect you against STIs during oral sex, are cheap to buy and available over the counter from most pharmacies and sexual health clinics.

Cons - Dental dams can only be used once and are not effective if they slip off during sex. They can only be used on vaginas. When performing oral sex on a man, a person should use a condom instead of a dental dam.

The Pill

The combined pill – The combined pill is usually called ‘The Pill’ and contains two hormones: oestrogen and progestogen. To be effective, it has to be taken every day.

Most packs of The Pill include 21 hormonal pills, which you take for three weeks, and then 7 sugar pills, which you take for the following seven days. A couple of days after taking the sugar pill, most women will get bleeding that is thought of as a menstrual period. However, this bleeding is usually lighter than a normal period and occurs as result of a withdrawal from the hormones in The Pill.

Tip: You can learn more about menstruation on the Your Body page.

Mini pill – The mini pill works the same way as The Pill but includes only one hormone: progestogen. Packs of the mini pill usually include 28 hormonal pills and no sugar pills.

Pros – Both types of the pill are very effective in preventing pregnancy if taken everyday.

Cons – You need to get a script from a doctor to get The Pill and some people experience side effects like mood swings, headaches, nausea and weight gain. The Pill does not protect against STIs.

Injections and implants

Depo Provera – Depo Provera is a needle injection that contains the hormone progestogen and is given to a woman every 12 weeks. It is 99.5% effective in preventing pregnancy. [3]

Pros – The Depo Provera injection can be good for women who can’t take tablets or find it hard to remember to take the pill everyday.

Cons - The Depo Provera injection needs to be given by a doctor every 12 weeks and can cause side effects like loss of periods, weight gain, mood changes and headaches. Hormone levels are also very low while using Depo Provera, so there is some concern that using it for a long period of time may lead to thinning of the bones (osteoporosis). [4]

Implanon – The Implanon is a small rod that is about 4cm long and contains the hormone progestogen. It is inserted by a trained healthcare provider into your upper arm. It lasts for 3 years and is 99.95% effective in preventing pregnancy. [5]

Pros – The Implanon only needs to be inserted once every 3 years and can be taken out by a trained healthcare provider whenever you want.

Cons – Some women experience side effects like changes to periods, mood swings, headaches, and skin problems.

Intrauterine Devices (IUDs)

Hormonal IUD (Mirena) - The Mirena is a small, T-shaped device made of material containing progesterone and is fitted inside a woman’s uterus by a doctor or nurse. It is 99.8% effective in preventing pregnancy. [6]

Copper IUD – The Copper IUD is inserted the same way as the Mirena, but is made of copper and does not contain hormones. It is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy. [7]

Pros – Both types of IUDs can last from 5 - 10 years and can be taken out at any time.
The Copper IUD is also effective as emergency contraception up to 120 hours after having unprotected sex.

Cons – Both forms of IUD can cause random bleeding and spotting in the first six months of use and need to be inserted and removed by a trained healthcare provider.

The Hormonal IUD can also cause other side effects like headaches and mood swings, but is much cheaper than the Copper IUD.

Note!
There are many different types of contraception. It was not possible to list all of the different types on this page, but you can read about other types of contraception like the Ring, the Diaphragm and the 'pull out method' on the Contraception Australia website (external link).

Sterilisation

Sterilisation is the process of taking someone’s ability to have children away through surgery. The most common procedure is known as Tubal Ligation, which involves blocking the reproductive tubes to stop the ova (eggs) and sperm coming together.

Pros – Sterilisation lasts forever and means you don’t have to worry about contraception. Sterilisation can be good for people who are sure they never want to give birth to children. Many people who were assigned female at birth, but are non-binary or transgender also find it can help.

Cons – Sterilisation cannot be reversed. Once you have the procedure, you can never give birth to children.

Note: If a woman is not able to consent to sterilisation, the decision can only be made under the direction of an appropriate state authority.

Forced sterilisation

Sterilisation can sometimes be forced upon women with disability without their consent or knowledge. Forced contraception and sterilisation is a form of sexual health violence and is never OK.

Forced contraception and sterilisation is internationally recognised as a form of violence against women and girls with disability.

Tip: You can learn more by downloading and reading WWDA Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights.

Emergency contraception

In Australia, there are 2 types of emergency contraception available:

  1. The copper IUD (mentioned above) is the most effective form of emergency contraceptive. It can be inserted up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex and provides long lasting and effective long-term protection against pregnancy.
  2. Emergency contraceptive pills (also known as the morning after pill or ECP) may stop you from becoming pregnant by stopping or delaying your ovaries from releasing an egg.

Emergency contraceptive pills

There are 2 types of pills which can be used as emergency contraception. One of them can be used up to 3 days or 72 hours after unprotected sex. The other one can be used up to 5 days or 120 hours after unprotected sex.

Both types of emergency contraceptive or 'morning after' pills are available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy without a prescription.

Pros – The morning after pill is 85% effective in preventing pregnancy and can be useful in cases when condoms break or are forgotten. [8]
The morning after pill can be useful if you forget to use your normal contraception, or have a condom break during sex.

Cons – Emergency contraceptive pills don't always work and can be expensive if you use them often. For many people, they also cause side effects like headaches and nausea.

Tip: You can take a quiz on the Planned Parenthood website (external link) to find out if you can use the morning after pill.

Footnotes

[1] Marie Stopes Australia (2018) Contraception Australia: Male condoms (external link).
[2] Marie Stopes Australia (2018) Contraception Australia: Female condoms (external link).
[3] Family Planning Victoria (2019) Contraceptive injection (Depo) (external link).
[4] The Royal Women's Hospital (2019) Depo Provera (external link)
[5] Family Planning Victoria (2019) Contraceptive implants (Implanon) (external link).
[6] Marie Stopes Australia (2018) Contraception Australia: Hormonal IUD (external link).
[7] Family Planning Victoria (2019) Intrauterine device (IUD) contraception (external link).
[8] Marie Stopes Australia (2018) Contraception Australia: Emergency contraception pills (external link).

Important Resources

Publications
WWDA Position Statement 4: Sexual and Reproductive Rights
Information from WWDA about the rights of women and girls with disability to make decisions about their bodies, sexual health and relationships.
Apple App Store
Google Play
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Listen Now
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Guides
WWDA Easy English Book: Safer Sex and Contraception
Easy English book about safer sex and contraception options.
Apple App Store
Google Play
Visit Website
Download Word (accessible)
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Guides
WWDA Easy English Book: Sexually Transmitted Infections - STIs
Easy English book about Sexually Transmitted Infections and how to avoid them.
Apple App Store
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External website
Family Planning NSW: All About Sex
A series of easy read fact sheets for people with intellectual disability to learn about sexuality and relationships.
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External website
Sexuality and Disability
A website that answers questions a woman with a disability might have about her body, sex, relationships, children and more.
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External website
Family Planning Alliance Australia: services
A website where you can find your local family planning service.
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Where to next:

External website
Contraception Australia
A website with all the information you need to know about the contraception options in Australia.
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External website
All Good
A website with information on sexual health in lots of different languages.
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External website
Amaze
A website with a series of fun, animated videos that give you all the answers you want to know about sex, your body and relationships.
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Videos
Family Planning Victoria YouTube Channel
A series of videos about sexual health from Victoria.
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External website
Choice Support: Supported Loving Toolkit
The Supported Loving toolkit is a series of guides to help support people with learning disabilities with issues around sex and relationships.
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External website
Marie Stopes
Marie Stopes Australia is a national provider of safe abortions and contraception.
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External website
Organisation for Autism Research: Sex Ed for Self-Advocates
An educational guide about sexuality and sex written specifically for people on the autism spectrum aged 15 and up.
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External website
SECCA: Disability, Relationships, Sexuality
A non-profit organisation designed to support people with disabilities in their efforts to learn about human relationships, sexuality and sexual health.
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External website
Consent is Everything
A British website with information and resources about sexual consent, sexual violence and rape.
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