Contraception helps to protect against pregnancy. In the UK there are 15 methods of contraception available, which are all free to access on the NHS. You can access contraception from your GP or sexual health clinic.
Which method of contraception you choose is entirely personal, it’s worth taking time to find out more about each method to decide which suits you best.
Some contraceptives are long-term methods meaning you don’t need to remember to take or use them, these are called Long-acting Reversible Contraception (LARC), others are short-term meaning you must remember to take them daily or use them every time you have sex, these are called Short-acting Contraception (SAC).
For protection against STIs, it's best to use barrier contraceptives such as latex or polyurethane internal/external condoms and dental dams.
The contraceptive implant is a small, flexible rod that’s placed just under your skin in your upper arm. Once the implant is in place, you don't have to think about it again for 3 years.
Effective: Over 99% when inserted correctly
STI Protection: No
Peroids: Can cause periods to be irregular, stop or last longer. It may help with heavy, painful periods.
Advantages: The implant can be useful for people who can't use contraception that contains oestrogen. It's very useful for people who find it difficult to remember to take a pill at the same time every day.
Disadvantages: It requires a small procedure to fit and remove it. It may cause you to get acne or your acne may get worse. It also may cause some short-term symptoms such as: headaches, breast tenderness and mood changes.
The Contraceptive injections can last for 8 or 13 weeks (depending on which injection you have) you don't have to think about contraception every day or every time you have sex during this period.
Effective: 99% with perfect use
Peroids: Can cause periods to be irregular, stop or last longer. There can be a delay of up to one year before the return of your periods and fertility after stopping the injection.
Advantages: Very useful for people who find it difficult to remember to take a pill daily. It can be useful for people who cannot use contraception that contains oestrogen. It may reduce heavy and painful periods for some people.
Disadvantages: Once administered it can’t be removed from your body, so if you have any side effects, they could last for (8-13weeks). Some people experience side effects such as acne, hair loss, decreased libido, weight gain, mood swings and headaches. Irregular bleeding may continue for some months after you stop the injections.
Sometimes known as the Copper Coil. An IUD is a small plastic and copper device that’s put into your uterus. It has one or two thin threads on the end that hang through your cervix (the entrance to the uterus) into the top of your vagina.
Effective: 99% when inserted correctly
Peroids: May be heavier, longer or more painful. This may improve after a few months.
Advantages: It works as soon as it's put in and lasts for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type. Your fertility returns to normal as soon as the IUD is taken out.
Disadvantages: You’ll need an internal examination when the IUD is fitted, which can be uncomfortable and potentially painful. You may experience stomach cramps and spotting after the procedure. The IUD doesn’t increase your risk of infection, but if you get an infection when an IUD is in place this could lead to a pelvic infection if it isn’t treated.
Sometimes known as the Hormone Coil. An IUSD is a small plastic that’s put into your uterus and releases a progestogen hormone. It works as contraception for three, four or five years depending on what type.
Peroids: May be lighter, shorter, or less painful. May stop or become irregular.
Advantages: It is long-lasting and you don’t have to remember to use it. Periods usually become much lighter and shorter and sometimes less painful. They may stop completely after the first year of use. It’s useful for people who can’t use oestrogen. Fertility returns to normal as soon as the IUS is taken out.
Disadvantages: You’ll need an internal examination when the IUS is fitted, which can be uncomfortable and potentially painful. You may experience stomach cramps and spotting after the procedure. Some people may get side effects like acne, headaches, or breast tenderness. Some people develop small fluid-filled cysts on their ovaries that may cause pain.
An external condom fits over an erect penis, or sex toy. It is made of very thin latex (rubber), polyurethane (plastic) or polyisoprene.
Effective: 98% with perfect use
STI Protection: Yes
Advantages: Protects both partners from most STIs. Condoms are easily available, and free from Sexual Health clinics & SU Advice Centre.
Disadvantages: External condoms can slip off or split. For perfect use, make sure to pull out after ejaculation, before loosing an erection holding the condom firmly in place at the base of the penis.
An internal condom is made of polyurethane (soft plastic) or nitrile polymer (synthetic rubber). It's put in the vagina and loosely lines it.
Effective: 95% with perfect use
Advantages: Protects both partners from most STIs. You only need to use them when you have sex and there are no serious side effects.
Disadvantages: Internal condoms are very strong, but they may split or tear if not used properly. They're not as widely available as external condoms and can be more expensive.
The contraceptive patch is a small, beige coloured, sticky patch that releases oestrogen and progesterone into your body through your skin. It is around 5cm x 5cm in size.
Advantages: Very easy to use and doesn't interrupt sex. The hormones from the patch aren't absorbed by the stomach, so it still works if you vomit or have diarrhoea.
Disadvantages: The patch may be visible and cause skin irritation. You may get temporary side effects at first, including headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes.
The vaginal ring is a flexible, transparent plastic ring that releases oestrogen and progestogen. You insert it and leave it in for 21 days, then remove it for 7days, then repeat. It protects against pregnancy during the break.
Advantages: Easy to insert. The hormones aren't absorbed by the stomach, so it still works if you vomit or have diarrhoea.
Disadvantages: Some experience unexpected bleeding or spotting, in the first few months of use. Temporary side effects also include: increased vaginal discharge, headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes.
Vaginal diaphragms are circular domes made of silicone with a flexible rim. It works by covering the cervix so sperm cannot get into the uterus. The diaphragm needs to be left in place for at least 6 hours after sex.
Effective: 92-96% with spermicide
Advantages: No serious health risks. You only have to use it when you have sex and it allows you to be in control of your contraception.
Disadvantages: Difficult to get the hang off. Cystitis (bladder infection) can be a problem for some people who use a diaphragm or cap.
Fertility awareness involves identifying the signs and symptoms of fertility during the menstrual cycle so you can plan or avoid pregnancy. You have to keep a daily record of your fertility signals, such as your temperature and the fluids coming from your cervix and avoid sex or use another method of contraception on fertile days.
Advantages: It is acceptable to all faiths and cultures. It can make you to feel more in tune with your body and can help you to communicate about your fertility and sexuality.
Disadvantages: It’s not suitable for everyone. Learning the methods can take time and some events, such as illness, lifestyle, stress or travel, may make fertility indicators harder to interpret.
The combined pill contains oestrogen and progestogen. Standard way to take the pill is 1 every day (at the same time) for 21 days. Then have a break for 7 days, during this week you have a bleed like a period. You start taking the pill again after 7 days
Advantages: In some people it improves acne. It may reduce the risk of recurrent endometriosis after surgery. It helps with problems associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Disadvantages: May cause temporary side effects at first including spotting, headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes. Links to increased risk to blood clots.
The "traditional" progestogen-only pill (POP) prevents pregnancy by thickening the mucus in the cervix to stop sperm reaching an egg. The desogestrel progestogen-only pill can also stop ovulation. POPs need to be taken reliably every day
STI Protection: No with perfect use
Advantages: Useful if you can't take oestrogen. The POP may help with heavy, painful periods and premenstrual symptoms
Disadvantages: You must remember to take the pill at the same time every day. You may get some side effects when you first start taking the POP, such as spotty skin, breast tenderness and headaches. These may stop within a few months
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