Whether you’re looking for a method you don’t have to worry about remembering every day, are not happy with your current method or are looking to start using contraception for the first time, there’s a wide range available so you can find an option that fits with your body, sex life, health and lifestyle.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure which method might suit you, as your doctor or nurse will help you select one that is best for you — see the Let’s Talk section. You might also find it helpful to complete this quick form before your appointment so you can tell them what you’d like (or wouldn’t like!)

LONG-ACTING REVERSIBLE CONTRACEPTION (LARC)

These contraceptives can offer you protection from pregnancy from 2 months to up to 10 years, depending on the type of LARC. If you don’t have any plans to have a baby in the near future, one of these might be the option for you. It is important to realise that for any of the methods that last a number of years, they are also fully reversible once stopped. So, if you wish to have a baby they can be stopped at any time if you choose to.

  • What is it?

    The contraceptive implant is a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and contains the hormone progestogen. It is a long-term method of contraception that lasts for up to 3 years. The small flexible rod which is 4 cm long is inserted just underneath the skin in the upper arm by a trained healthcare professional.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    The Implant
  • How does it work?

    The implant works by:

    • Stopping the ovaries releasing an egg
    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping a fertilised egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin

    How effective is it?

    Once in place the implant is over 99% effective.

    What are the benefits?

    • You do not have to remember to take a pill every day
    • You are protected against pregnancy for up to 3 years
    • Fertility normally returns quickly after removing the implant
    • Does not interrupt sex
    • May be suitable for breastfeeding women
    • Hormones do not have to go through the stomach so contraceptive protection is not affected by sickness or diarrhoea
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Don't want any changes to their periods
    • Don't want to have a small procedure to fit and remove the implant

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Have, or might have cancer of the breast or reproductive organs
    • Have active liver disease
    • Have had a heart attack or stroke
    • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
    • Might be pregnant
    • Are allergic to any of the ingredients in the implant
    • Have had a thrombosis (blood clot in a blood vessel)
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Changes in body weight
    • Irregular, more frequent, absent or heavier periods
    • Increased chance of getting spots
    • Headaches
    • Tender or painful breasts
  • What if...?

    I have heavy or prolonged periods?

    Like with other progestogen-only contraceptives your periods may change. If this occurs contact your healthcare professional who will be able to help.

    I forget to book my 3-year appointment for my implant to be replaced?

    It is important to have your implant changed at the right time. If it is not, you will not be protected against pregnancy.

    I want to become pregnant?

    The implant can be removed at any time by a trained healthcare professional. Your periods and normal fertility will usually return quickly. Ideally you should wait for one period before trying to get pregnant. Waiting means the pregnancy can be dated more accurately, and you can seek some pre-pregnancy advice from your healthcare professional.

  • What is it?

    The injection contains the hormone progestogen. It is a long-term method of contraception that lasts for 8 to 13 weeks depending on the type. The injection is administered in your buttocks, upper arm, abdomen or thigh, depending on the type.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    CONTRACEPTIVE INJECTION
  • How does it work?

    The contraceptive injection works by:

    • Stopping the ovaries releasing an egg
    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping a fertilised egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin

    How effective is it?

    The injection is over 99% effective when used correctly.

    What are the benefits?

    • You do not have to remember to take a pill every day
    • You are protected against pregnancy for 8 to 13 weeks (depending on type used)
    • Doesn't interrupt sex
    • May be suitable for breastfeeding women
    • Hormones do not have to go through the stomach so protection is not affected by sickness or diarrhoea
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Don't want any changes to their periods
    • May want to get pregnant in the next year
    • Are at risk of developing osteoporosis

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Are allergic to any of the ingredients of the injection
    • Might be pregnant
    • Have, or might have cancer of the breast or reproductive organs
    • Have active liver disease
    • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Stomach pain
    • Feeling sick
    • Changes in appetite
    • Weight changes
    • Headaches
    • Changes to periods – lack of periods, heavy periods, bleeding between periods
    • Breast pain
    • Acne
    • Mood changes
  • What if...?

    I miss my appointment for having my injection?

    If you don’t have your injections at the times your doctor or nurse has advised you will need them, then you may no longer be protected against pregnancy. If you miss your appointment, contact your doctor or nurse as soon as possible.

    I want to become pregnant?

    Your periods and fertility may take a while to return to normal after you stop using the injection. Ideally you should wait for one period before trying to get pregnant. Waiting means the pregnancy can be dated more accurately, and you can seek some pre-pregnancy advice from your healthcare professional.

  • What is it?

    The IUD (also known as the Coil) is a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). An IUD is a small device (about the size of a matchstick) made from plastic and copper that is inserted into the womb by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It is a long-acting method which protects against pregnancy for up to five to 10 years, depending on the type.

    The IUD can also be used as a method of emergency contraception.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    THE INTRAUTERINE DEVICE
  • How does it work?

    The IUD works by:

    • Stopping sperm from reaching a released egg
    • Making it more difficult for the egg to settle in the womb 

    How effective is it?

    There are different types of IUD. Newer IUDs contain more copper and are the most effective – more than 99%.

    What are the benefits?

    • You do not have to remember to take a pill every day
    • You are protected against pregnancy for up to 5 to 10 years
    • Does not interrupt sex
    • Can be used as emergency contraception up to 5 days after unprotected sex at any time in the menstrual cycle provided this is the only unprotected sex that has occurred since the last period or, within 5 days from the earliest estimated date of egg release (ovulation)
    • Can be used while breastfeeding
    • Can be removed at any time by a trained healthcare professional, if you decide you want to become pregnant
    • Does not contain any hormones
    • It is not affected by other medicines or by diarrhoea and vomiting
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Don't want any changes to their periods
    • Don't want to have a small procedure to fit and remove the device

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Think that they might already be pregnant
    • Are at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection, or their partner is
    • Have an untreated sexually transmitted infection or pelvic infection
    • Have problems with their uterus or cervix
    • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding (for example, between periods or after sex)
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Women may have changes in menstrual patterns
    • Risk of infection after fitting in the first 20 days
    • Risk of ectopic pregnancy (baby develops outside the womb)
    • There is a risk that the IUD might go through (perforate) your womb or cervix when it is put in, but this is rare when inserted by an experienced healthcare professional. This may cause pain, but there may be no symptoms
    • The IUD can be pushed out by your uterus (expulsion) or it can move (displacement)
  • What if...?

    I use the IUD as emergency contraception?

    The emergency IUD is highly effective. However, if it does fail resulting in pregnancy, there is a risk that the IUD can cause a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy may occur. If you know that you are pregnant or think you might be, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

    An appointment should be made with a health professional approximately 3 to 4 weeks after the IUD has been fitted. This is to:

    • Check that you are not pregnant
    • Discuss any problems experienced with the IUD
    • Remove the IUD if this is what you want (this must be done by a trained healthcare professional)

    I want to remove it?

    A trained doctor or nurse can take the IUD out at any time.

    I want to become pregnant?

    A trained doctor or nurse can remove the IUD at any time. Ideally you should wait for one period before trying to get pregnant. Waiting means the pregnancy can be dated more accurately, and you can seek some pre-pregnancy advice from your healthcare professional.

  • What is it?

    The IUS is a long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) and contains the hormone progestogen. It is a small “T” shaped device, roughly the size of a matchstick, made from plastic that is inserted into the womb. The IUS is fitted by a doctor or nurse and is effective for up to 3 or 5 years depending on the type. It has two soft threads at one end that hang through the opening at the entrance of your womb (cervix) into the top of your vagina.

    Once fitted the IUS should be checked by your doctor or nurse 6 weeks after insertion. If you have any problems you can go back any time.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    THE INTRAUTERINE SYSTEM
  • How does it work?

    The IUS works by:

    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping a fertilised egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin
    • Sometimes Stopping the ovaries releasing an egg

    How effective is it?

    The IUS is over 99% effective.

    What are the benefits?

    • No need to remember to take a pill every day
    • You are protected from pregnancy for up to 3 or 5 years depending on the type of IUS
    • Doesn't interrupt sex
    • May be suitable for breastfeeding women
    • Hormones do not have to go through the stomach so protection is not affected by sickness or diarrhoea
    • Your periods may become lighter
    • Fertility returns quickly when removed
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Don't want any changes to their periods
    • Don't want to have a small procedure to fit and remove the device

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Might be pregnant
    • Have or have had pelvic inflammatory disease
    • Have or have had any type of cancer or suspected cancer including breast cancer
    • Have had problems with their womb or cervix
    • Have active liver disease
    • Have Trophoblastic disease (a doctor will have told you if you have this)
    • Have a sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the IUS
    • Have unexplained bleeding from the vagina
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Breast tenderness, acne, headaches
    • Risk of infection after fitting in the first 20 days
    • Irregular bleeding or spotting
    • There is a risk that the IUS might go through (perforate) your womb or cervix when it is put in. This is rare when fitted by an experienced doctor or nurse. This may cause severe pain, continued bleeding or a temperature after the IUS is fitted
    • Lower abdominal pain or you may experience painful or difficult sex
    • The IUS can be pushed out of your womb (expulsion) or it can move. This is why your doctor or nurse advises you to check the threads every month
    • Increase in the risk of developing ovarian cysts 
  • What if...?

    I want to become pregnant?

    A trained doctor or nurse can remove the IUS at any time. Ideally you should wait for one period before trying to get pregnant. Waiting means the pregnancy can be dated more accurately, and you can seek some pre-pregnancy advice from your healthcare professional.

    What if I want to check if my IUS is still in place?

    After each period you can feel for the two thin threads attached to the lower end of the IUS. Do not pull these threads. If you cannot feel the threads contact your doctor or nurse.

Monthly

If you don't like the idea of taking a pill every day and don't want a long-acting method, then the contraceptive ring may be for you.

  • What is it?

    The ring is a flexible transparent plastic ring that contains oestrogen and progestogen. It sits in the vagina and is self-inserted once-monthly. The ring is inserted and left in place for 3 consecutive weeks. After a 1 week, ring-free interval, during which a withdrawal bleed occurs, a new ring is inserted. Exact positioning is not critical for it to work.

    It is important to note that although it is inserted into the vagina, the contraceptive ring is NOT a ‘barrier’ method like the female condom or diaphragm/cap. Although it may be in place, it will work only for as long as the hormones in it last and are being released into your body, usually 3 weeks.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    THE CONTRACEPTIVE RING
  • How does it work?

    The hormones in the ring are absorbed through the walls of the vagina and then enter the blood stream. The ring works by:

    • Stopping the ovaries releasing an egg
    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping the egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin

    How effective is it?

    The ring is 99% effective when used correctly, just like ‘the Pill'.

    What are the benefits?

    • You do not have to remember to take a pill every day
    • Hormones do not have to go through the stomach so protection is not affected by sickness or diarrhoea
    • Is self-administered
    • May help to make your periods more regular
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Are overweight (BMI of 30 kg/m2or over)
    • Are aged 35 years or over and are a current smoker or stopped smoking less than 1 year ago
    • Do not feel comfortable with inserting or removing the ring themselves
    • May not want to think about ordering a new prescription every 3 months

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Have had a heart attack or stroke or a condition that may be the first sign of a heart attack (angina) or stroke (transient ischaemic attack)
    • Have inflammation of the pancreas with high levels of blood fat
    • Have an allergy to any of the ingredients
    • Have or have had blood clots in a vein or artery or risk factors for developing clots
    • Suffer from migraines with aura 
    • Have diabetes complications or have had diabetes
    • Have breast cancer or have had it within the last 5 years
    • Have active liver disease
    • Have current cervical, ovarian, vaginal or uterine cancer
    • Might be pregnant
    • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Breakthrough bleeding 
    • Potential increase in the chance of breast tenderness, headaches, nausea and mood changes
    • Vaginal infection
    • A small increase in risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer or other hormone dependent tumours or cervical cancer
    • Small increased risk of blood clots
  • What if...?

    I forget to put it back in or it falls out?

    • If the ring is out for less than 3 hours it will still protect you from pregnancy. You can rinse the ring with cold to lukewarm water (do not use hot water) and put it back in
    • If the ring has been out of the vagina for more than 3 hours during the first, second or third week of your cycle you may not be protected from pregnancy. Refer to your product information leaflet or contact your healthcare professional to understand what action you need to take

Weekly

If a weekly option sounds appealing then the contraceptive patch may be an option for you.

  • What is it?

    The patch contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. Each patch lasts for 7 days. One patch is used a week, for 3 weeks, followed by a patch-free week. The thin sticky patch releases a daily dose of hormones which is absorbed through your skin and into your blood stream. The patch can be applied to clean, healthy skin on your buttocks, abdomen, upper outer arm, or upper back in a place where it will not be rubbed by tight clothing.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    THE CONTRACEPTIVE PATCH
  • How does it work?

    The hormones in the contraceptive patch work in a similar way to those in the combined contraception pill by:

    • Stopping the ovaries releasing an egg
    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping a fertilised egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin

    How effective is it?

    The patch is over 99% effective when used correctly.

    What are the benefits?

    • You do not have to remember to take a pill every day – you only need to change the patch once a week
    • Doesn't interrupt sex
    • Hormones do not have to go through the stomach so protection is not affected by sickness or diarrhoea
    • May help to make your periods more regular
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Are overweight (BMI of 30 kg/m2or over)
    • Are aged 35 years and over and are a current smoker, or stopped smoking less than a year ago
    • Don't want their contraception to be visible

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Are allergic to any ingredients of the patch
    • Have had blood clots in any vein or artery
    • Have ever had a heart attack or angina
    • Have ever had a stroke or slight temporary stroke
    • Have ever had a migraine or bad headaches with changes in vision or numbness in any part of the body (migraines with aura)
    • Have high blood pressure
    • Have diabetes with damaged blood vessels
    • Have an illness which runs in your family and affects your blood fat levels and the clotting of your blood
    • Have ever been told they might have breast cancer or cancer of any of their reproductive organs
    • Have ever had liver tumours or liver disease with abnormal liver function
    • Have unexplained vaginal bleeding
    • Are pregnant
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Headache
    • Feeling sick
    • Skin reaction or irritation
    • Breast tenderness
    • Weight increase
    • Mood changes
    • Vaginal infections
    • Increase in blood pressure
    • Abdominal pain
    • Acne
    • Small increases risk of blood clots
    • Breakthrough bleeding 
    • Small increase in the risk of breast cancer or cervical cancer
  • What if...?

    The patch falls off or partly detaches?

    The action you should take depends on how long the patch has been out of contact with your skin for, and where in your cycle you are, as you may no longer be protected from pregnancy. The information leaflet in the packaging for your patches contains advice, but if you are unsure or have concerns, always contact your doctor or nurse.

    I forget to take the patch off at the end of the third week?

    • Take the patch off as soon as you remember and put a new one on your usual start day
    • No additional contraception needs to be used as you should be protected from pregnancy

Daily

The pill has been around for more than 50 years and there are two main types — the combined pill and the progestogen-only pill. The clue about the difference between the two is all in the name — the combined pill contains both progestogen and oestrogen whilst the progestogen-only pill contains only progestogen.

  • What is it?

    The combined pill, sometimes also called ‘the Pill’, contains the hormones oestrogen and progestogen. Different types of ‘the Pill’ contain differing types and amounts of hormones. Most packs contain 21 pills. With the 21-pill pack, a pill is taken daily for 21 days followed by a 7 day break, during which you’re likely to have a bleed similar to a natural period. After the 7 day break in pill-taking a new pack is started.

    Some pills come in packs of 28 pills, which contain different combinations of tablets which contain hormones, and tablets that contain no hormones (also called placebo tablets). The placebo pills may help you to remember to take your pill every day and when to start a new pack.

    The Pill needs to be taken at a regular time each day for it to be effective.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    THE COMBINED PILL
  • How does it work?

    The two hormones in the combined pill, oestrogen and progestogen, work by:

    • Stopping the ovaries releasing an egg
    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping a fertilised egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin

    How effective is it?

    The pill is more than 99% effective when used correctly and this depends on women taking their pills exactly as instructed by their doctor or nurse.

    What are the benefits?

    • Does not interrupt sex
    • May help to make your 'periods' more regular
    • Easily reversible if you want to get pregnant
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Are overweight (BMI of 30 kg/m2or over)
    • Are aged 35 years or over and are a current smoker or stopped smoking less than 1 year ago
    • May not remember to take a pill every day

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Are allergic to any ingredients within the Pill
    • Have had blood clots in any vein or artery
    • Have ever had a heart attack or angina
    • Have ever had a stroke or slight temporary stroke
    • Have ever had a migraine or bad headache with changes in vision or numbness in any part of the body (migraines with aura)
    • Have high blood pressure
    • Have diabetes with damaged blood vessels
    • Have an illness which runs in your family and affects your blood fat levels or the clotting of your blood
    • Have ever been told they have or might have breast cancer or cancer of any of their reproductive organs
    • Have ever had liver tumours or liver disease (with abnormal liver function)
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Breast tenderness, headaches, feeling sick and mood changes
    • Breakthrough bleeding and changes to periods
    • Acne
    • Weight increase
    • May increase blood pressure
    • Small increased risk of blood clots
    • Small increased risk of breast cancer or cervical cancer
  • What if...?

    I miss a pill?

    Missing pills or starting a packet late can make ‘the Pill' less effective. The chance of getting pregnant after missing a pill depends on how many you missed and when you missed them. Missing more than one hormone containing pill, and missing hormone containing pills at the beginning or end of your packet increase the risk that contraceptive effectiveness will be reduced. This is because during the break from taking the hormone-containing pills, your ovaries are not getting the effect from ‘the Pill', so your ovaries might release an egg.

    If you miss a pill or pills, the information leaflet inside your pill packet will contain advice on what to do if you miss a pill – but if you are uncertain or have concerns – see your doctor or nurse.

  • What is it?

    The progestogen-only pill (POP) contains the hormone progestogen. It is taken every day without a break, which means that pills are also taken during your period. The POP does not contain oestrogen, so may be a good option for women who cannot, or do not want to take oestrogen (e.g. breastfeeding mothers, women aged 35 years or older and who smoke).

    There are two main types, one has a 3-hour 'missed-pill window', and the other has a 12-hour 'missed pill window'.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

     THE PROGESTOGEN-ONLY PILL
  • How does it work?

    The POP works by:

    • Thickening the mucus of the cervix to act as a barrier to sperm
    • Stopping a fertilised egg settling by keeping the lining of the womb thin
    • POPs sometimes stop the ovaries releasing an egg

    How effective is it?

    The POP is up to 99% effective when used correctly.

    What are the benefits?

    • Does not interrupt sex
    • May be suitable for breastfeeding women
    • May be suitable for those who smoke and who are aged over 35
    • May be useful for those who can't or do not want to take oestrogen
    • Easily reversible for women who decide they want to try to become pregnant
  • Will it be right for me?

    Women may not be able to or may not want to use it if they:

    • Do not want changes to their periods
    • May not remember to take a pill every day, and do not want to have to remember to do this every day

    Women should not use it if they:

    • Have had clots in a vein
    • Have active liver disease
    • Have or are suspected to have hormone-dependent cancer, e.g. breast cancer
    • Have undiagnosed vaginal bleeding
    • Are allergic to any of the ingredients of the pill
    • Are pregnant
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Changes to periods (can be irregular or lighter, more frequent or stop altogether)
    • Increased chance of an ectopic pregnancy but this is still less common than if no contraception is used
    • Acne, decreased libido, headache, breast pain and weight increase
    • Feeling sick
  • What if...?

    I miss a POP?

    You should try to take your POP at the same time every day. If you take your POP within the specified window (either 3 hours or 12 hours depending on the type of pill) you will still be protected against pregnancy. If you exceed any of these missed pill windows you will not be protected against pregnancy and you will need to use additional contraceptive precautions such as condoms for up to 7 days. The information leaflet inside your pill packet contains advice, but if you miss a pill or pills and are concerned about what to do, always consult your doctor or a nurse.

Other

If none of the above seem right for you, don’t worry, there are more options for you to choose from – barrier methods like the condom or the cap, as well as natural contraceptive methods and also sterilisation. You can also find out about emergency contraception in this section – but do remember that it is only for an emergency and not intended to replace the use of a regular contraceptive choice.

  • What is it?

    Condoms are a hormone-free method of contraception, so you don’t have to worry about any hormone-related side effects, and when used correctly they help to protect against both pregnancy and many sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

    The male condom is a latex (rubber or polyurethrene) sheath placed over the male's erect penis before sex. You may be able to pick up free condoms from your local family planning clinic or you can buy them at pharmacies and other places such as supermarkets, garages, bars and clubs. Condoms are available in a wide variety of colours, flavours, shapes, textures and sizes.

    When used correctly, the MALE CONDOM is around 98% EFFECTIVE.

    MALE CONDOM
  • How does it work?

    The condom is designed to be used only once and prevents sperm from entering the vagina when the male partner ejaculates by providing a barrier. Never try to use more than one condom at a time, as it increases the chances of them ripping.

    How effective is it?

    Condoms can slip off or split during sex, so be careful and make sure you follow the instructions correctly. Used properly, the latex condom is up to 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, however, application problems and breakages can occur.

    Never use condoms with oil based products such as Vaseline, body oil or suntan oil, as these will damage the rubber.

    What are the benefits?

    • Only need to be used when you have sex
    • Help protect against many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV
    • You don't need a prescription
  • Will it be right for me?

    Who may not be able to or may not want to use it?

    Women or men who:

    • Have developed allergies to latex condoms or to the lubricants which may be used on some types of condom. Non-latex polyurethane condoms are available
    • Don't want to interrupt sex (the condom has to be placed on the penis after erection but before penetration)
  • Are there any side effects?

    Not all women or men will experience side-effects.

    Some people may be allergic to latex condoms. However, non-latex polyurethane condoms are available.

  • What if...?

    The condom splits or tears or slips off?

    The chance of getting pregnant can increase if the condom splits, tears or slips off during sex and you should seek advice immediately from your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about using emergency contraception.

  • What is it?

    The female condom is made of a lubricated polyurethane or latex sheath that lines the vagina. The closed end has a flexible ring that you insert into the vagina with the open-end left on the outside. They may be available free from family planning clinics or you can buy them at pharmacies or online. They are not as widely available as male condoms, but you should be able to search for suppliers online.

    FEMALE CONDOM
  • How does it work?

    The female condom works by preventing semen from getting into the vagina.

    How effective is it?

    Like the male condom, every female condom should only be used once. If you use it correctly it is 95% effective. Some women may find it difficult to insert, so it is always worth practicing this before having sex.

    Female condoms can split, so take care when you are inserting it.

    What are the benefits?

    • Condoms only need to be used when you have sex
    • Help protect against many sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV
    • You don't need a prescription
    • They can be put in at any time before sex
  • Will it be right for me?

    Who may not be able to or may not want to use it?

    Women or men who:

    • Have developed allergies to latex condoms or to the lubricants which may be used on some types of condom. Non-latex polyurethane condoms are available
    • Are sensitive to the chemicals in latex condoms
  • Are there any side effects?

    Not all women or men will experience side-effects.

    • There are no physical side-effects, but some people may find it difficult to place the female condom, and it can be pushed aside during sex.
    • Some people may be allergic to latex condoms. However, non-latex polyurethane condoms are available.
  • What if...?

    The condom splits or tears or slips off?

    The chance of getting pregnant can increase if the condom splits, tears or slips off during sex and you should use emergency contraception immediately. If you’re not sure which method is most suitable, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

  • What is it?

    The diaphragm or cap is a barrier method of contraception that you place in to the vagina to cover the entrance to the womb before having sex. The diaphragm and cap will need to be fitted by a doctor or nurse initially to show you how to use it correctly and make sure you have the right size, giving you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. It must be left in place for at least 6 hours after the last time you had sex, but no more than 30 to 48 hours depending on the type of diaphragm/cap (including the minimum 6 hours).

    Diaphragms and caps must be used with a spermicide.

    DIAPHRAGM/CAP
  • How do they work?

    Diaphragms and caps must be used with a spermicide. The diaphragm or cap works by preventing sperm from reaching the womb, while the spermicide kills sperm. Spermicides come in two varieties, cream or pessary – if you aren’t sure which is best for you – speak to your doctor or nurse.

    If you have sex more than 3 hours after putting your diaphragm or cap in, you will have to add extra spermicide.

  • How effective is it?

    If you fit the cap correctly, diaphragms and caps are 92 to 96% effective when used with spermicide.

    What are the benefits?

    • Only needs to be used when you have sex
  • Will it be right for me?

    Who may not be able to or may not want to use it?

    As with any method of contraception, there are some things to consider before deciding on a diaphragm or cap:

    • You may have vaginal muscles that can't hold a diaphragm/cap
    • Do you have a cervix of an unusual shape or in an awkward position that can't be reached?
    • Could you be sensitive to the chemicals in latex or spermicide?
    • Do you suffer from repeated urinary infections?
    • Do you have a vaginal infection? Always wait until after the infection has cleared before using the diaphragm/cap as contraception
    • Have you ever had toxic shock syndrome?
    • Do you feel comfortable touching your vagina? If not, you may want to think about other options 
    • Do you have a high risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects. Side effects may include:

    • Sensitivity to the spermicides or allergies to the latex in the diaphragm/cap
    • Increased risk of cystitis
  • What if...?

    I don't know what type of spermicide to use?

    If you are unsure which is the best for you, speak to your doctor or nurse.

    I want to become pregnant?

    If you want to start trying for a baby, you can stop using the diaphragm/cap at any time. Ideally you should wait for one period before trying to get pregnant. Waiting means the pregnancy can be dated more accurately, and you can seek some pre-pregnancy advice from your healthcare professional.

You are not alone

Accidents happen – condoms break, contraceptive pills can be missed and diaphragms slip.

If you think your contraception has failed, or if you have had sex without using contraception, don't panic. There are two main types of emergency contraception available: the emergency contraceptive pill (detailed below) and the intrauterine device (IUD).

  • What is it?

    There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes also referred to as the ‘morning after pill’). One is an oral tablet containing progestogen, a hormone that is similar to the natural progesterone women produce in their ovaries. It should be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of having unprotected sex and works by delaying or stopping an egg being released (ovulation). It may also stop a fertilised egg settling in the womb (implanting).

    The other is a pill containing the active ingredient ulipristal acetate and can be taken up to 5 days (120 hours) after unprotected sex. It is thought to work by preventing ovulation and fertilisation and also by altering the lining of the womb, depending on which stage of the menstrual cycle the woman is at.

    How effective is it?

    Emergency contraceptive pills are effective when taken properly and as advised by your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

    EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVE PILL
  • Where do I get it?

    The emergency contraceptive pill is generally available from pharmacies if a woman meets all the criteria for having the medication.

    It is not possible to obtain the emergency contraceptive pill on behalf of someone else. The pharmacist will need to ask specific questions to ensure that it is appropriate for a woman to take and is also obliged to provide advice on long-acting reversible contraception options when dispensing it.

  • Will it be right for me?

    Is the emergency contraceptive pill suitable for all women?

    Most women are able to take the emergency contraception pill. It should not be taken if the woman is allergic to any of the ingredients of the emergency contraception pill, or if the woman is pregnant. As always, it is important to tell your healthcare professional if you are taking any prescribed medicines at the same time or if you have any specific illnesses.

  • Are there any side effects?

    As with all medicines side effects can occur but not all women will experience side-effects.

    Some women may feel sick, dizzy or tired, or get headaches, breast tenderness or abdominal pain. The emergency contraceptive pill may also disrupt your next period. If your period is delayed by more than 5 days or if abnormal bleeding occurs at the expected date of the next period after taking the emergency contraception pill, you should see your doctor or nurse to exclude pregnancy as a cause.

    If you are sick within 3 hours of taking the emergency contraception pill it may not have had time to be absorbed into your body and might not work. If this is the case you may need to take another pill – you should seek medical advice from a healthcare professional immediately.

  • What if...?

    How will the emergency contraceptive pill affect my next period?

    Your next period may come a few days early or late. Some women also experience irregular bleeding between taking the emergency pill and their next period. If your next 'period' is delayed by more than 5 days, you should contact your doctor or nurse to exclude pregnancy as a reason for this.

    How many times can I use the emergency contraceptive pill?

    Emergency contraception should be reserved for emergencies only and not replace your usual method of contraception. This is because emergency contraception is not as effective as many other contraceptive methods.

    Can the emergency contraceptive pill fail?

    In some women it fails even though the pill was taken properly, resulting in pregnancy. There is a greater risk of falling pregnant if you:

    • Delay taking the emergency pill
    • Vomit within 3 hours of taking the pill
    • Have had unprotected sex at another time, either since your last period or since taking the emergency pill (the emergency contraceptive pill will not protect you from pregnancy if you have further unprotected sex)

    An alternative type of emergency contraception to the emergency contraceptive pill is the Intrauterine Device (IUD).

  • What is it?

    Natural family planning or ‘fertility awareness’ involves being able to identify your body’s different natural signs or ‘fertility indicators’ on each day of your menstrual cycle. The main fertility indicators include, body temperature, cervical mucous and menstrual cycle length to predict your most fertile time of the month which is when you are most likely to become pregnant. Once you have identified your most fertile time, you then avoid sex or use a barrier method of contraception (condoms) during that time to prevent pregnancy.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    NATURAL METHODS
  • How does it work?

    For natural family planning to work for you, you will need to be organised and willing to spend some time planning ahead with your diary, monitoring and writing down your body's different natural signs on each day of your cycle, plotting the times of the month (menstrual cycle) when you’re fertile and when you’re not.

    The main indicators you will need to keep track of are:

    • Body temperature
    • Cervical mucus (discharge)
    • Calculating how long your period lasts

    This method is more effective when more than one fertility signal (as above) is monitored. The fertile time lasts for around 8 to 9 days of each menstrual cycle. This is because the egg lives for up to 24 hours. Occasionally, more than one egg is released at ovulation (within 24 hours of the first egg being released) and sperm can live inside a woman's body for up to 7 days. This means that if you have sex as much as 7 days before ovulation you may still get pregnant.

    It’s important to note that you can’t learn natural family planning from a book. You will need to speak to your GP or nurse, or pop down to your local Family Planning Clinic to seek advice from a specialist.

    For more information you can head over to www.IFPA.ie.

  • How effective is it?

    Effectiveness depends on:

    • Your age
    • How often you have sex
    • Whether you follow the instructions exactly

    If used correctly, the natural family planning method is up to 99% effective,so make sure you are happy with how this method works before your start using it. Remember, you can pop down to your local GP, nurse or family planning clinic to make sure you are clear on how to plan.

    What are the benefits?

    • There aren't any known side-effects
    • It is completely natural and does not involve taking synthetic hormones

    Some people choose to combine their fertility planning with condoms to increase the effectiveness. However, the 'fertility awareness' method is not usually recommended as most women will occasionally have irregular cycles and it can be difficult to predict when the egg will be released (ovulation).

    If you have irregular periods or no periods at all, then it is difficult to predict when ovulation is likely, making the natural method less effective.

  • Will it be right for me?

    Who may not be able to or may not want to use it?

    When deciding on whether the natural method could work for you, you might want to think about whether you:

    • Don't want to wait three to six cycles (periods) to learn the process effectively
    • Don't want to keep daily records
    • Don't constantly want to be monitoring factors that impact on fertility such as illness, lifestyle, stress, or travel
    • Don't want to avoid sex or use male or female condoms during fertile time
  • Are there any side effects?

    There aren't any known side-effects.

  • What if...?

    Can anyone use the natural family planning method?

    Most women can use fertility awareness as long as you have a good teacher to learn how to log all the information correctly. Remember, if you don’t have periods or have very irregular periods, the natural method may not be suitable, as you won’t be sure when you are at your most or least fertile.

  • What is it?

    Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception suitable for people who do not wish to have children.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    MALE STERILISATION (VASECTOMY)
  • How does it work?

    In male sterilisation (vasectomy), the tube that carries sperm from the testicles to the penis is cut and sealed or tied, thereby stopping the egg and the sperm meeting. The operation takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

    How effective is it?

    About one in 2,000 male sterilisations fail. The tubes that carry the sperm in men can re-join after sterilisation. This can happen immediately or some years after the operation has been carried out.

    What are the benefits?

    • After sterilisation has worked you do not have to use contraception ever again
    • Failure rate is only one in 2,000 (out of 2,000 men who have a vasectomy, only one will get a woman pregnant in the rest of his lifetime)
    • Long-term effects on health are rare
    • It will not affect the spontaneity of sex or interfere with sex
  • Will it be right for me?

    Who may not be able to or may not want to use it?

    Men who:

    • Are not completely sure or if you are under any stress or family or relationship crisis
    • Are under 30, have no children or are not in a relationship
  • Are there any side effects?
    • No known serious long-term health risks
    • Occasionally, some men have bleeding, a large swelling or an infection
    • Sometimes sperm may leak out of the tube and collect in the surrounding tissue, causing inflammation and pain immediately, or a few weeks or months later
    • A small number of men experience ongoing pain in the testicles
    • Uncommonly, the tubes may re-join and you will be fertile again
    • Cannot be easily reversed
    • Takes between 4 weeks to 3 months to be effective
  • What if...?

    I want to become pregnant?

    Sterilisation is meant to be permanent. There are reversal operations but they are not always successful. The success will depend upon how and when you were sterilised.

    Does sterilisation affect my sex drive?

    Sterilisation does not affect your hormones. Therefore, your sex drive and enjoyment of sex should not be affected. For many men and women it is improved as they no longer fear an unplanned pregnancy.

  • What is it?

    Sterilisation is a permanent method of contraception suitable for people who do not wish to have children.

    This method does not protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), so you may need to use a condom as well to help protect you against most STIs.

    FEMALE STERILISATION (TUBAL OCCLUSION)
  • How does it work?

    In female sterilisation (tubal occlusion), the fallopian tubes which carry an egg from the ovary to the uterus are blocked, sealed or cut, thereby stopping the egg and the sperm meeting.

    A doctor will make two tiny cuts, one just below your navel and the other just above the bikini line. The doctor will seal or block your fallopian tubes, usually with clips or occasionally with rings. There is also a method of sterilisation which doesn’t involve any cuts and is known as hysteroscopic sterilisation. A tiny metal coil is inserted into the fallopian tubes through the vagina and cervix. Body tissue grows around the coil and blocks the fallopian tube. This can be done under local anaesthetic and takes about 10 minutes.

    How effective is it?

    The overall failure rate is about one in 200.

    What are the benefits?

    • After sterilisation has worked you do not have to use contraception ever again
    • Long-term effects on your sexual health are rare
    • Will not affect your sex drive
    • Will not affect the spontaneity of sexual intercourse or interfere with sex
    • Will not affect hormone levels
  • Will it be right for me?

    Who may not be able to or may not want to use it?

    Women who:

    • Are not completely sure or if you are under any stress, for example after a birth, miscarriage, abortion or family or relationship crisis.
    • Are under 30, have no children or are not in a relationship
  • Are there any side effects?
    • It is very difficult to reverse a tubal occlusion – this involves removing the blocked part of the fallopian tube and re-joining the ends
    • There is a very small risk of complications, including internal bleeding and infection or damage to other organs
    • Occasionally, some women find that their periods become heavier. This is usually because they have stopped using hormonal contraception, which may have lightened their periods previously
    • The fallopian tubes can re-join and make you fertile again, although this is rare (about 1 in 200 women become pregnant in their lifetime after being sterilised)
    • If female sterilisation fails, and you do become pregnant, there is a small increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilised egg grows outside the womb, usually in the fallopian tubes)
  • What if...?

    I want to become pregnant?

    Sterilisation is meant to be permanent. There are reversal operations but they are not always successful. The success will depend upon how and when you were sterilised.

    Does sterilisation affect my sex drive?

    Sterilisation does not affect your hormones. Therefore, your sex drive and enjoyment of sex should not be affected. For many men and women it is improved as they no longer fear an unplanned pregnancy.

Remember: Contact your doctor or nurse if you have any concerns or are worried or unsure about anything to do with your contraception.

Have you decided which might be the right contraception for you? If not check out the other options. If you have, jump to Step 3: Have a consultation with a healthcare professional.

The information on this website is educational only and is not intended to be used for any self-diagnosis purposes nor to replace the advice of your doctor or healthcare professional. Please consult your doctor or healthcare professional for further information on your contraceptive options. This website is intended for use by residents of the Republic of Ireland only. This website is developed and maintained by MSD Ireland (Human Health). See www.msd.ie for more information.

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Job code WOMN-1178118-0000 Date of preparation: July 2016