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Advice on choosing the right type of contraception for you.

1 Overview

Contraception helps prevent pregnancy. There are lots of different methods of contraception and they are all free on the NHS.

If you are confused about which contraceptive method to choose, the Brooks contraceptive tool will help you find the most appropriate one.  

Remember, that the only contraceptive method that protects against sexually transmitted infections are condoms. Always use condoms to protect yourself and your partner. You can join the C Card Scheme to get free condoms from locations throughout West Sussex.

2 Condoms

There are many different varieties and brands of male condom, it's up to you and your partner to decide which type of condom you use. If the condom splits or comes off, you can use emergency contraception within 72 hours or up to 120 hours (five days) after unprotected sex. This is for emergencies only and shouldn't be used as a regular form of contraception. 

If you're sensitive to latex, you can use polyurethane or polyisoprene condoms instead.

If used correctly every time you have sex condoms are 98 per cent effective. Condoms can also protect against STIs if used correctly during vaginal, anal and oral sex.

You can get free condoms from contraception clinics, sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries and your local FindItOut Centre.

3 Combined pill

The pill is usually taken to prevent pregnancy but can also be used to treat painful periods, heavy periods, premenstrual syndrome and endometriosis. It does not protect you from STIs.

When taken correctly, the pill is over 99 per cent effective at preventing pregnancy.

You need to take the pill every day for 21 days, then stop for seven days, and during this week you have a period-type bleed. You start taking the pill again after seven days.

You can get contraception at most GP surgeries, community contraception clinics, some GUM clinics, sexual health clinics and some young people's services.

4 Other types of contraception

Contraceptive pills
Different types of contraception
  • Caps - This is a circular dome made of thin, soft silicone that is inserted into the vagina before sex to cover the cervix so that sperm cannot get into the womb.
  • Contraceptive implant - This is a small flexible tube about 40mm long that's inserted under the skin of your upper arm and lasts for three years.
  • Contraceptive injection - There are three types of contraceptive injections in the UK, with the most popular one being Depo-Provera that lasts for 12 weeks
  • Contraceptive patch - This is a sticky patch measuring 5x5cm. It delivers hormones into your body through your skin. It contains the same hormones as the combined pill and works in the same way.
  • Diaphragms - This is inserted into the vagina before sex, and it covers the cervix so that sperm can't get into the womb (uterus). It must be left in place for at least six hours after sex. After that time, you take out the diaphragm and wash it (they're reusable).
  • Intrauterine device (IUD) - An IUD is a small T-shaped plastic and copper device that’s inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse. Once it's in place, you don't have to think about it each day or each time you have sex.
  • Intrauterine system (IUS) - An IUS is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your womb (uterus) by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It releases a progestogen hormone into the womb. It works for five years or three years, depending on the type.
  • Natural family planning - Natural family planning is a method that teaches you at what time during the month you can have sex without contraception and with a reduced risk of pregnancy. It works by plotting the times of the month when you’re fertile and when you’re not.
  • Progestogen-only pill - It contains the hormone progestogen but doesn't contain oestrogen. You need to take the progestogen-only pill at or around the same time every day.
  • Vaginal ring - This is a small, soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It’s about 4mm thick and 5.5cm in diameter. You leave it in your vagina for 21 days, then remove it and throw it in the bin (not down the toilet) in a special disposal bag.
  • Condoms (female) - These are made from thin, soft plastic called polyurethane. Female condoms are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb. They help to protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the only contraception that protect against pregnancy and STIs.

The two permanent methods of contraception are:

  • female sterilisation
  • male sterilisation (vasectomy)

Watch the NHS video on YouTube to find out more about types of contraception.

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5 Where to get contraception

You can get contraception, condoms and advice from:

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Last updated:
13 February 2024
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