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Pregnancy & Birth Control

Sexual activity where the penis enters the vagina can sometimes result in pregnancy. Pregnancy can be planned, or unplanned, wanted or unwanted. In this section we mainly include information about preventing pregnancy, and options for pregnancy, but choices around pregnancy are very personal.

There are other ways that people can choose to get pregnant that don’t involve sex such as through insemination or in-vitro fertilization. We do not provide information on fertility here, but here are two resources that include more information:


Contraception (also called birth control) describes the different medication and devices people can use to prevent pregnancy. It’s a good idea to explore options and start taking contraception before sexual activity if you want to prevent unintended pregnancy.

Options for contraception

Multiple different contraception choices are available in BC. The types and effectiveness of these methods can be found on the Options for Sexual Health website.

Contraceptives approved for use in BC have very few health risks.  If you are concerned about the safety of contraception, speak with your health care provider about different options.  Your health care provider can work with you to find a contraception method that works best for you and your individual circumstance.

Free contraception for BC residents

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada also have a lot of good information on hormonal contraception, non-hormonal contraception, and natural methods if you want more information. Their It’s a Plan tool can help you decide which form of contraception might be right for you.

BC residents enrolled in the BC Medical Services Plan (MSP) can get contraception for free. The BC Government website has more information at Free Contraceptives

The following types of providers can prescribe birth control to BC residents with MSP:

  • Doctors
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Midwives
  • Pharmacists

Pharmacy prescribing contraception

Pharmacists can prescribe and provide many types of contraception. You do not need to book an appointment to talk to a pharmacist about birth control options. These contraceptives are free for BC residents:

  • Most prescription contraceptive pills
  • IUDs – hormonal and copper (you will need to arrange a visit with a doctor or clinic to have it inserted)
  • Hormonal implant (you will need to arrange a visit with a doctor or clinic to have it inserted)
  • Hormonal vaginal ring
  • Contraceptive injection (Pharmacists can administer the injection)
  • Emergency contraception

To speak with a pharmacist about your birth control options, visit your local pharmacy.

Emergency Contraception

If you have had sex without a condom or the condom broke while you were having sex and you are not using another form of birth control, there are a few options for ways to prevent pregnancy.

Plan B Pill

You can take the Plan B pill up to 5 days after you have had sex to prevent pregnancy, but it works best if you take it within the first 3 days after you have sex.  You can get the Plan B pill from your local pharmacy over the counter.  This means you do not need a prescription from a doctor or a doctor’s appointment to get this medication.

Ulipristal Acetate (Ella)

You can take Ella up to 5 days after you have had sex to prevent pregnancy, but it works best if you take it as soon as possible from the time that you had sex.  You need a prescription from a health care provider to get this pill so if this is an option you would like, make an appointment with your health care provider.

Copper IUD

Having a copper IUD inserted into your cervix is very effective at preventing unintended pregnancy up to 5 days after you have had sex.  Getting a copper IUD inserted requires you to get to a health care clinic where a health care provider can insert one.  To find a clinic that does this closest to you, call the Pregnancy Options Line at 1-888-875-3163 throughout B.C. or 604-875-3163 from the lower mainland.

Unintended Pregnancy

Unintended pregnancies are common in BC where at least 1 in 3 women living in BC will experience an unintended pregnancy in their lifetime.  If you are experiencing an unintended pregnancy, there are options you can consider.  These options may include:

  • Ending the pregnancy by having an abortion;
  • Continuing the pregnancy and raise the baby; or
  • Continuing the pregnancy and place the baby for adoption.

If you are unsure which pregnancy option you would like to choose, and would like some more information and non-judgemental counselling support on these three options, these are some trusted resources you can reach out to:

  • Options for Sexual Health: 604-731-4252
  • Pregnancy Options Line: 1-888-875-3163 throughout B.C. or 604-875-3163 from the lower mainland
  • Sex Sense Line: 1-800-739-7367 throughout B.C. or 604-731-7803 from the lower mainland
  • CARE program: 604-875-2022

If you choose to continue the pregnancy, it is important you speak with your health care provider right away to ensure you get the care and nutritional supplements you need to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible.

Unwanted Pregnancy

If you choose to end a pregnancy, abortions are available in British Columbia (BC). For BC residents who have Medical Services Plan (MSP), are paid for by MSP.  Several clinics, doctors, and hospitals throughout the province offer abortion services.  The two abortion options available in BC are a medical abortion or a surgical abortion.  These options are explained in more details as follows:

  • Medical abortion: uses medication to cause the abortion and can be done up to 7 weeks after your last menstrual period.
  • Surgical abortion: uses a tube placed in the uterus.  The tube uses suction to empty the uterus.  This procedure can be done from the 5th week after your last menstrual period up to the 20th week of pregnancy.  The procedure is safest when done in the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy.

Women can self-refer to any abortion clinics in BC or can call the Pregnancy Options Line for referral a doctor in their area.  

For more information on medical or surgical abortions, and your specific circumstances, speak with a health care provider.

Pregnancy and STIs

All forms of genital, anal, and oral sex have the potential to pass STIs, although there are ways to reduce your chances.  STIs can be harmful to yourself and to your baby during pregnancy, as well as while you give birth.  If there is a chance you could have an STI, or you are experiencing any changes to your body that fit with the symptoms of an STI, it is a good idea to get an STI screen.

STIs can also be passed from you to your baby during birth.  These STIs can cause serious health complications to your newborn.  Be sure to talk with your health care provider about getting tested and/or treated for STIs throughout your pregnancy.

You can reduce your chance of getting an STI during pregnancy by practicing safer sex.

Some ways of preventing STIs, like condoms, also stop unintended pregnancy. However, not all forms of birth control will stop STIs. For example, hormonal contraceptives (like the pill) will not protect against STIs. Lambskin condoms will prevent pregnancy, but do not prevent HIV transmission.

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