Finding the right contraception for you
Finding the right method for you should be based on your needs. For example, some methods may affect menstrual cycles more than others, they may have unwanted side effects or only protect against pregnancies and not STI’s.
It can feel overwhelming at first as there is a lot of methods out there but the best thing to do is to set aside some time, think about what you want and find the one that meets your needs!
Types of contraception can be categorised as hormonal, non-hormonal and as barrier methods. We've put together some more information below.
Barrier methods mean that there is a physical barrier in place that prevents transmission of STI’s. The following methods are non-hormonal.
Male condom and female condom
Male condoms and female condoms protect against unplanned pregnancy and STI’s very effectively when used correctly. They are made from very thin latex, polyisoprene or polyurethane. If you are allergic to latex you can source latex-free ones. You can purchase condoms from most shops like pharmacies and supermarkets.
With the materials condoms are made of it is very important you do not use any oil-based lubricant. When condoms are used with oil-based lubricant they burst and then become ineffective at protecting against STI transmission and unplanned pregnancies.
A dam or dental dam protects against STI transmission as it works as a thin protective sheet to be used during oral sex. They tend to be about 15cm by 15cm.
When someone goes on the pill they often taken one pill a day for 21 days and then have a 7-day break where they’ll most likely have a period or they take a pill every day. This pill is a hormonal method of contraception which only prevents unplanned pregnancies and does not protect against STI’s.
It’s important to research the pill you plan to take beforehand as some pills are more strict than others and only work when taking at the exact same time every day.
If you experience vomiting or diarrhoea within 3 hours of taking a pill, it may not have fully absorbed into your bloodstream which can make it ineffective at preventing pregnancy. If this happens, make sure you follow the instructions included when you got the prescription to ensure you're still protected.
This method can be stopped whenever you want, all you have to do is stop taking the pill. If you do that and continue having sexual activities, make sure you are using another protective method against STI’s and unplanned pregnancy.
The implant is a small flexible plastic rod that is placed under the skin in your upper arm by a doctor or a nurse.
It releases the hormone progestogen into your bloodstream and lasts for 3 years. This is a good method of contraception if you don’t want to remember to take a pill every day, however, it does not protect against STI’s.
You can have it taken our earlier than 3 years if you wish.
The injection is a type of contraception that can last either 8 or 13 weeks depending on the type you receive. It is administered by a nurse or doctor and is not affected by other medicines such as antibiotics.
This method will require a repeat injection before it expires and does not protect against STI’s.
The patch is a small sticky patch that releases hormones into your body through your skin to prevent pregnancy.
Each patch lasts one week and you have to change the patch every week for three weeks before taking a break for one week with no patch.
You can still wear this patch when swimming, in the bath or shower and whilst playing sports.
Hormonal coil (IUS)
The IUS is a small T-shaped plastic device that is put into your uterus by a trained doctor or nurse. When having the coil fitted you can request local anaesthetic that prevents the procedure from being painful or uncomfortable.
It released a hormone locally and lasts for 3 to 5 years.
This method does not protect against STI’s.
This is a small soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It releases a continuous dose of hormones into the bloodstream to prevent pregnancy.
You leave the ring in for 21 days and then remove it for 7 days. During the 7 day break, you are still protected against pregnancy.
When being prescribed antibiotics for any sort of infection, be sure to ask your doctor if this interferes with the pill as it can make it ineffective at preventing pregnancy.
IUD / Copper coil
The IUD is a small t-shaped plastic device that is put into your uterus by a trained doctor or nurse. When having the coil fitted you can request local anaesthetic that can help.
This method does not contain any hormones but the copper part of it alters the environment of the uterus which prevents pregnancy.
This method can last between 5 and 10 years.
This method does not protect against STI’s.
Diaphragm or cap
A cap or diaphragm is made of thin soft silicone that is inserted into the vagina before having sex. It covers the cervix so the sperm cannot reach the uterus and fertilise the egg.
When used correctly with spermicide, a diaphragm or cap is 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy – this means that between 4 and 8 women out of every 100 who use a diaphragm or cap as contraception will become pregnant within a year.
Spermicide is the gel that is used with this product that kills sperm. You can use the cap anytime before having sex but should add more spermicide after 3 hours and it should be left in for at least 6 hours after sex but no longer than 30 hours in total.
This method does not use hormones and does not protect against STI’s.
How effective is each method?
Most methods are over 95% effective when used correctly. To see how each method is represented per 100 people, visit the Contraception Choices website.
What about side effects?
Each method that may have side effects will be different per person. For example, if you and your friend went on the same method of contraception, you would both experience different side effects.
It's important to consider how much you'll mind the side effects. For example, if you already have a rubbish time around your period, you may want to avoid any contraception that could make it worse. On the other hand, you may find a method of contraception that gives you a lighter or shorter period.
My Contraception Tool
The Brook website has an interactive tool that can help you figure out which contraception would be best for you.
This link may not work if you are using this on a device that uses Google Chrome as a browser.
Visit our page to find out more about how you can get emergency contraception.