Contraception allows you to choose when and if you want to become pregnant. Using another form of contraception as well as condoms means that you won’t become pregnant if a condom breaks.

Contraception is available from our clinic, most sexual health clinics, or from your GP.  Some forms of contraception can also help you to control or stop your periods safely which may be very useful for you.

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The Contraceptive implant

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective. Less than one woman in 1000 will get pregnant over three years.

How does it work?

A small flexible rod is put under the skin of the upper arm. It releases the hormone progestogen. It stops ovulation and thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

What are the advantages?

  • Works for three years but can be taken out sooner.
  • You do not have to think about contraception for as long as the implant is in place.
  • May alter periods: make periods stop, become lighter or less frequent.
  • When the implant is removed your fertility will return to normal.

What are the disadvantages?

  • May alter periods: can become irregular or become longer than usual.
  • Acne may occur or worsen.
  • Some women report having mood changes and breast tenderness.
  • It requires a small procedure to fit and remove it.

Anything else I should know?

  • Put in using a local anaesthetic and no stitches are needed.
  • Tenderness, bruising and some swelling may occur immediately after insertion.
  • You should feel the implant with your fingers, but it cannot be seen.
  • Some medicines may stop the implant from working.

Contraceptive injection

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective.  Less than four woman in 1000 will get pregnant over two years.

How does it work?

Releases the hormone progestogen which stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

What are the advantages?

  • Depo provera lasts for 12 weeks.
  • You do not have to think about contraception for as long as the injection lasts.
  • May alter periods: make periods stop, become lighter or less frequent.

What are the disadvantages?

  • May alter periods: can become irregular or longer than usual.
  • Periods and fertility may take time to return after stopping the injection.
  • Some women gain weight.

Anything else I should know?

  • The injection cannot be removed from the body so any side-effects may continue for as long as it works and for some time afterwards.
  • Not affected by other medicines diarrhoea or vomiting.

IUD (Intrauterine device)

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective.  Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant over five years.


How does it work?

A small plastic and copper device is put into the uterus. It stops sperm reaching an egg, and may also stop a fertilised egg implanting in the uterus.

What are the advantages?

  • Works as soon as it is put in.
  • Can stay in 510 years depending on type, but can be taken out at any time.
  • You do not have to think about contraception for as long as the IUD is in place.
  • When the IUD is removed your fertility will return to normal.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Periods may be heavier or longer and more painful.
  • Very small chance of getting an infection during the first 20 days after insertion.
  • Insertion can be uncomfortable.

Anything else I should know?

  • If fitted after 40 it can stay in place until the menopause.
  • Women are taught to check the IUD is in place.
  • A check for any existing infection is usually advised before an IUD is put in.
  • Not affected by other medicines.

IUS (Intrauterine system)

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective.  Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant over five years.

How does it work?

A small T-shaped plastic device is put into the uterus.  It slowly releases the hormone progestogen.  
It thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilized egg implanting.
It also thickens the cervical mucus.  This makes it difficult for sperm to meet an egg.

What are the advantages?

  • Works for five years but can be taken out sooner.
  • Periods usually become lighter, shorter and sometimes less painful or periods may stop altogether.
  • You do not have to think about contraception for as long as the IUS is in place.
  • When the IUS is removed your fertility will return to normal.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Irregular bleeding or spotting is common in the first six months.
  • Very small chance of getting an infection during the first 20 days after insertion.
  • May get ovarian cysts.
  • Insertion can be uncomfortable.

Anything else I should know?

  • If fitted after 45 it can stay in place until the menopause.
  • Women are taught to check the IUS is in place.
  • Can be useful for women with very heavy and/or painful periods.
  • A check for any existing infection is usually advised before an IUS is put in.
  • Not affected by other medicine.

Combined pill

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective if taken according to instructions.  Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

Contains two hormones – oestrogen and progestogen. It stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

What are the advantages?

  • Often makes periods regular, lighter and less painful.
  • Reduces risks of cancer of the ovary, uterus and colon.
  • Suitable for healthy non-smokers up to the age 50.
  • When you stop using the combined pill your fertility will return to normal.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Not suitable for very overweight women or smokers over 35 years.
  • Low risk of serious side-effects such as blood clots, breast and cervical cancer.
  • Can be temporary side-effects such as headaches, nausea, mood changes and breast tenderness.

Anything else I should know?

  • Missing pills, vomiting or severe, long-lasting diarrhoea can make it less effective.
  • Some medicines can make it less effective.
  • Breakthrough bleeding and spotting is common in the first few months.

Progestogen-only pill (POP)

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective if taken according to instructions. Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

Contains the hormone progestogen, which thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg. In some cycles it stops ovulation.

What are the advantages?

  • Can be used by women who cannot use oestrogen.
  • Can be used by women who smoke and are over 35.
  • May make periods stop, become lighter or less frequent.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Periods can become irregular and sometimes more frequent.
  • May be temporary side-effects such as acne, weight change and headaches.
  • May get ovarian cysts.

Anything else I should know?

  • It needs to be taken at the same time each day.
  • Not effective if taken over three hours late (12 hours for Cerazette) or after vomiting or severe, long-lasting diarrhoea.
  • Some medicines may make it less effective.

Contraceptive patch

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective if used according to instructions.  Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

A small patch is stuck on the skin and releases two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen. It stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

What are the advantages?

  • You do not have to think about it every day.
  • It is not affected if you vomit or have diarrhoea.
  • Can make periods regular, lighter and less painful.
  • It improves acne for some women.
  • When you stop using the patch your fertility will return to normal.

What are the disadvantages?

Not suitable for very overweight women or smokers over 35 years.

  • Low risk of serious side-effects such as blood clots, breast and cervical cancer.
  • Can be temporary side-effects such as headaches, nausea, mood changes and breast tenderness.
  • Possible skin irritation at site of patch.

Anything else I should know?

  • May be seen.
  • A new patch is used each week for three weeks out of four.
  • Some medicines can make it less effective.
  • Breakthrough bleeding and spotting is common in the first few months.

Contraceptive vaginal ring

How effective is it?

Over 99 per cent effective if used according to instructions.  Less than one woman in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

A small, flexible, plastic ring put into the vagina and releases oestrogen and progestogen. It stops ovulation, thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm reaching an egg, and thins the lining of the uterus to prevent a fertilised egg implanting.

What are the advantages?

  • You do not have to think about it every day.
  • It is not affected if you vomit or have diarrhoea.
  • It can make periods regular, lighter and less painful.
  • It is easy to insert and remove.
  • When you stop using it your fertility will return to normal.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Not suitable for very overweight women or smokers over 35 years.
  • Low risk of serious side-effects such as blood clots, breast and cervical cancer.
  • Can be temporary side effects including increased vaginal discharge, headaches, nausea, breast tenderness and mood changes.

Anything else I should know?

  • Women must be comfortable with inserting and removing it.
  • Ring is used for three weeks out of four.
  • Some medicines can make it less effective.
  • Breakthrough bleeding and spotting may occur in the first few months.

Male Condom

Use your own condom rather than one someone else brings, as this may have been damaged. When using male condoms we advise you to always use lubricant with a customers to reduce dryness and friction during vaginal and anal sex.

How effective is it?

98 per cent effective if used according to instructions. Two women in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

Made of very thin latex (rubber) or polyurethane (plastic) it is put over the erect penis and stops sperm from entering the vagina.

What are the advantages?

  • Easily available - We give out free condoms if we see you in our clinic, when see see you for appointments elsewhere or on our mobile outreach vehicle. You can also get them free from other sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries or buy them at supermarkets, pharmacies, or order from Pasante.
  • Can help protect both partners from some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
  • Condoms are available in different sizes and flavours for oral sex.
  • No serious side-effects.

What are the disadvantages?

  • May slip off or split.
  • Man has to pull out after he has ejaculated and before his penis goes soft, holding the condom firmly in place.
  • Oil based products such as massage oils or body lotions can damage latex condoms.

How do I use a male condom?

  • Check the condom 'use by' date on the packet and that it has a British Standard Institution (BSI) kitemark or the European CE symbol on it.  This shows that the condom has been properly tested and is safe to use.
  • Check that the condom foil is intact.
  • Be careful when opening the condom not to damage it with sharp fingernails or jewellery.
  • Find the teat or closed end and squeeze it between your thumb and finger to get rid of the air, this will help you roll the condom on the right way round.  Expelling the air from the teat reduces the chance of it bursting.
  • Put the condom on when the man’s penis is erect before his penis touches your vagina or genital area.  (Fluid is often released when the man becomes aroused in the early stages of an erection. This fluid may pass on an infection or cause pregnancy).
  • Still holding the end, roll the condom all the way down his penis.
  • If the condom will not unroll it is probably on inside out - start again with a new condom as sperm could now be on the first one.
  • We suggest you put the condom on for customers as this way you can check that it is not tampered with and that it is put on properly.
  • Make sure that the condom stays in place during sex. This can be harder if you are in certain positions, e.g. doggy style (vaginal sex from behind).
  • As soon as the man has ejaculated and before his penis goes soft, hold the condom firmly in place while he pulls out.
  • Take off the condom and throw it in a bin, do not flush down the toilet.

Female Condom

How effective is it?

95 per cent effective if used according to instructions.  Five women in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

Made of a soft thin polyurethane that loosely lines the vagina, covering the area just outside, and stops sperm from entering the vagina.

What are the advantages?

  • We give out free condoms if we see you in our clinics or at your place of work. You can also get them free from other sexual health clinics, some GP surgeries or buy them at supermarkets, pharmacies, or order from Pasante
  • Can be put in up to eight hours before sex.
  • Can help protect both partners from some sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
  • Unlike the male condom erection is not necessary to keep the condom in place.
  • Oil based products such as massage oils and body lotion can be used with female condoms.
  • There are no serious side-effects.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Need to make sure that the man’s penis enters the condom and does not go between the vagina and the condom.
  • May get pushed into the vagina.
  • Not as widely available as male condoms.

How do I use a female condom?

  • Use a new female condom every time you have sex.
  • Check the condom 'use by' date on the packet or box and that it has a European CE symbol on it.  This shows that the condom has been properly tested and is safe to use.
  • Check that the condom packaging is intact.
  • Be careful when opening the condom not to damage it with sharp fingernails or jewellery.
  • To insert the condom squeeze the inner ring at the closed end of the condom into your vagina as far as it will go.
  • The outer ring stays outside of your vaginal opening. The condom will loosely line the inside of your vagina.
  • It is important that you guide the man’s penis into that condom. You must make sure that his penis goes inside the condom. Hold the outer ring while you are guiding the man’s penis into the condom to stop the whole condom being accidentally pushed inside your vagina.
  • To remove the condom twist the outer ring to prevent the man’s sperm from leaking out.
  • Gently pull the condom out of your vagina and throw away in a bin, do not flush down the toilet.

Diaphragm/cap with spermicide

How effective is it?

Diaphragms and caps are 92-96 per cent effective when used with spermicide. Between four and eight women in 100 will get pregnant in a year.

How does it work?

A flexible latex or silicone device, used with spermicide. It is put into the vagina to cover the cervix. This stops sperm from entering the uterus and meeting an egg.

What are the advantages?   

  • Can be put in any time before sex.
  • You only have to use it when you have sex.
  • No serious health risks.

What are the disadvantages?

  • Extra spermicide is needed if you have sex again.
  • Some people can be sensitive to spermicide.
  • It can take time to learn how to use correctly.

Anything else I should know?

  • You need to use the correct size.
  • You may need a different size if you gain or lose more than 3kg (7lbs), have a baby, miscarriage or abortion.
  • Needs to be left in for 6 hours after sex.