Contraception your up to date guide


By Charlotte Fantelli, with thanks to

Contraception: taking measures to avoid pregnancy and/or STIs when engaging in sexual behavior. Never before have there been so many methods to chose from, yet STIs, unplanned pregnancies and abortion continue to rise. This does not seem to make sense! Why is it that people shy away from the ‘C’ word? 

“I don’t like the feeling of condoms!” A line heard in many clinics up and down the country, in response to the question “Why didn’t you use protection?”

Granted, not many people say that they enjoy the sensation that condoms give, however, I’m pretty sure everyone would prefer the feeling of a condom on their genitals than warts, herpes, or syphilis! There are more and more condoms available, and even the female dom - not the most attractive and desirable looking thing, but again, better I am sure than the clap!

Even the Pope is coming round to the idea that safe sex is perhaps better than the alternative (failing abstinence, of course!)

In a relationship, when you are each satisfied that you no longer require protection from STDs, even more contraception options open up. See our quick guide below for further information.

Contraception guide with thanks to HealthyRespect

Male condom

98% effective if used properly. Made of very thin latex (rubber) or polyurethane (plastic). It is a barrier method, and put on an erect penis it stops sperm from entering the female's vagina. It protects against pregnancy and most STIs. 

Condoms are widely available free of charge for males and females aged 13 years upwards through c:card.


This is where the man withdraws his penis before ejaculating.

Not reliable. If a man withdraws his penis from the woman’s vagina before he comes, there is still a risk of pregnancy as some ‘pre-cum’ is released before ejaculation. 

Combined pill

Over 99% effective if taken regularly. It contains two hormones - oestrogen and progestogen – which stop ovulation, thicken cervical mucus to prevent sperm meeting an egg and thin the lining of the womb to prevent an egg implanting.

Contraceptive injection 

Over 99% effective and lasts for 12 weeks. It releases the hormone progestogen slowly into the body. This stops ovulation, thickens the mucus to prevent sperm meeting an egg and thins the lining of the womb to prevent an egg implanting.


Over 99% effective and lasts for 3 years. It is a flexible tube put under the skin of the arm and releases the hormone progestogen. A local anaesthetic is used but no stitches are needed.

Progestogen only pill

99% effective if taken properly. It contains the hormone progestogen, which thickens the cervical mucus to prevent sperm meeting an egg, and thins the lining of the womb to prevent an egg implanting. Can be used by women who cannot take the combined pill with oestrogen. Your Doctor or nurse will discuss this with you when they take a note of any personal or family illness.

Contraceptive patch

Over 99% effective. A small patch (flesh coloured) is stuck on the skin (by yourself), once a week for 3 weeks, and then you have a break for 1 week before starting again. It contains the 2 hormones oestrogen and progestogen and works like the pill (see above).

Intrauterine system (IUS)

Over 99% effective and works for 5 years. A small plastic device which releases the hormone progestogen when put into the womb.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

Around 99% effective and can work for 3 to 10 years depending on the type. A small plastic and copper device is put into the womb.

Nuvaring (contraceptive ring)

Over 99% effective. A small flexible plastic ring that is placed inside for 3 weeks then you have a break for a week before starting again. Contains two hormones, oestrogen and progestogen and works like the pill.

Female condom

95% effective if used properly. It is made of soft polyurethane and again is a barrier method that stops the sperm entering the vagina. It fits inside the female vagina.


Between 92-96% effective. A flexible latex (rubber) 'cap' is put into the vagina to cover the cervix, which acts as a barrier to stop the sperm entering the womb. The first time it is fitted for you by a nurse or doctor, as there are different sizes. 

They teach you how to use it, and then you put it in yourself each time before you have sex.

Natural Family Planning

Probably up to 98% effective if followed precisely. The fertile and infertile times (when you are most or least likely to get pregnant) of your menstrual cycle are worked out. This shows the times in your cycle when you are less likely to get pregnant if you have sex. Some faith groups strongly support this method of contraception. Most people need to be taught how to do this by keeping charts of temperature and mucus changes in their body, which can be quite difficult.

Female and male sterilisation

Both are very effective, but involve a permanent decision about not having any, or more, children. The fallopian tubes in women or the tubes carrying the sperm in men are cut or blocked to prevent sperm reaching an egg.

Healthy Respect is a great online resource for those wanting to know more about contraception and STIs. See for more.


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