Contraception allows women and their partners to plan if and when they get pregnant.

Here you can find more information on some of the most common forms, how they work and their suitability.


Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if another form of contraception has failed.

It typically takes the form of the emergency contraceptive pill (the ‘morning after pill’) or an intrauterine device (an IUD or coil)

Things to know:

– The contraceptive pill is effective within 3-5 days of unprotected sex but the earlier the better
– It typically affects progesterone levels to delay release of the egg
– An IUD or coil releases copper which stops the egg from fertilising


Condoms are the only form of contraception which can prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pregnancy.

They work by capturing sperm and avoiding direct contact between genitals.

Things to know:

– Male condoms cover the penis and are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy
– Female condoms fit within the vagina and are 95% effective
– Condoms are easy to use and require little forward planning

Oral Contraception

The combined contraceptive pill – the ‘pill’ – is one of the most effective and widely used forms of birth control.

It uses artificial hormones to either stop a woman producing an egg or stop the sperm from reaching it in the womb.

Things to know:

– When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective
– Unlike condoms, the pill offers no protection against STIs
– For smokers and women over 35, the progesterone only pill may be more suitable

Long-acting Reversible Contraceptives

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception – LARC – is the term used for birth control that helps prevent pregnancy after just one treatment.

The most common forms are the contraceptive injection, contraceptive implant, IUS (coil with hormones) and IUD (coil without hormones).

Things to know:

– The contraceptive injection is typically effective for around 13 weeks
– The contraceptive implant is placed under the skin and slowly releases progesterone to stop pregnancy
– An intrauterine device (IUD or coil) provides a physical barrier in the uterus and can also slow release hormones

Other Contraceptives

There are a number of alternative methods of contraception including:

– Natural family planning (or ‘fertility awareness’) is where a woman monitors her menstrual cycle and avoids sex when fertile
– Diaphragm or cap covers a woman’s cervix so that sperm cannot enter the womb
– Vaginal ring is a small plastic ring placed within the vagina which releases hormones


A vasectomy – or male sterilisation – is a surgical procedure which cuts the tubes in a man’s scrotum which carry sperm.

Things to know:

– A vasectomy is over 99% effective
– It is a quick procedure usually done under local anaesthetic (whilst awake)
– It is very hard to successfully reverse


Clear answers to common questions

Contacting a sexual health service for the first time can be a little daunting, so here are some easy answers to many of the questions you may have.

Our colleague will ask a few simple questions to understand your circumstances and the support you need – so relax and take your time.

Everything is completely confidential. Nothing will be sent to your home address.

We’ll help you access whatever you need.

This may include talking through your situation, giving you advice, helping you access protection or contraception or organising a STI test.

We offer discreet and easy STI self test kits for many of the most common infections.

If an alternative test or examination is needed, we’ll help you book in a confidential appointment at a local clinic.

We will never ask you to expose any part of your body during a video consultation.

If an examination is required, we’ll book an appointment at a clinic where a doctor will make any examination as quick and unobtrusive as possible.

No one. Your appointment and test results are confidential.

Sexual health services keep separate medical records and will only share information with your GP or other professionals if you agree to it.

If a test is required, many can be conducted by yourself at home. Other infections may need a visit to a clinic.

Most require a sample or urine or swab of the infected area. Others may require a blood test. This will all be explained to you before the test is arranged.

Firstly, please don’t worry, almost all STIs are now treatable.

You’ll be contacted so you can discuss the result and any suggested treatment with a doctor or nurse. In addition to any appropriate medication, you may be offered counselling and other forms of support to help you cope.

Call our helpline on 0300 303 9982