Birth Control in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Birth Control in Canada

Birth control means the deliberate prevention of conception and pregnancy. The birth control methods used in Canada range from the simplest (like abstinence) to the most complex (like male or female surgical sterilization). (See also History of Birth Control in Canada.)

Photo of a pack of birth control pills
Flickr CC/Sarah C


The so-called natural methods used by women include the temperature method and the rhythm method. Women using the temperature method take their temperature to determine the days during their menstrual cycle on which they are fertile. Using the rhythm method means timing sexual intercourse with the least fertile days of the woman’s menstrual cycle. Some women rely on prolonged breastfeeding to avoid becoming pregnant. This method is based on the fact that lactation delays the return of the menstrual cycle.

The mechanical methods involve using a device that prevents the fertilization of an egg cell by a sperm cell. They include barrier methods such as the use of a pessary, condom or intrauterine device.

The chemical methods prevent fertilization through the use of such substances as spermicidal foams and hormones (pills, injections, patches or implants).

Certain surgical procedures prevent unwanted fertilization. For men, vasectomy involves cutting and blocking the vas deferens tubes to prevent the passage of sperm. For women, tubal ligation involves blocking the Fallopian tubes through which the eggs pass into the uterus. Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) is another procedure used for female sterilization.

An emergency contraceptive pill taken immediately after unprotected sexual intercourse may prevent fertilization.

Once fertilization has occurred, someone carrying an embryo or fœtus may wish to have an abortion to prevent an unwanted birth. Abortion, which involves terminating the pregnancy, may be performed in several ways. Medications can cause miscarriage. A surgical abortion is a procedure in which aspiration is used to remove the fœtus.

Effectiveness and Rate of Use

According to the studies, the so-called natural methods are 73 to 96 per cent effective, while the hormonal methods have an effectiveness ranging from 92 to 99.8 per cent, depending on whether or not they are used consistently. The non-hormonal methods are 76 to 99.8 per cent effective. Aside from abstinence, no method is 100 per cent effective.

According to a survey conducted in 2011, 56 per cent of those in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex used birth control, while 38 per cent stated that they did not. The methods most commonly used in Canada are condoms (34 per cent of birth control users) and birth control pills (33 per cent). Previous studies, which included individuals who were not part of a couple, demonstrated a higher rate of use.

In 2018, 85,195 abortions were performed in Canada. The majority of these procedures were performed in Ontario (29,513) and Quebec (22,093). Most of the abortions performed in hospitals (84.6 per cent) were performed prior to the 12th week of pregnancy.

The accessibility of abortion services varies from province to province. British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have many facilities that specialize in abortion. However, abortion services are much less accessible in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, where there are only a small number of facilities specializing in abortion.

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