Contraception guide

What is contraception?

Contraceptive methods allow you to choose when and whether you want to have a baby. However, they don't protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Contraception is free for most people in the UK. With 15 methods to choose from, you'll be able to find one that suits you best.

Barrier methods such as condoms are a form of contraception that help protect against both STIs and pregnancy. You should use condoms to protect your and your partner's sexual health, whatever other type of contraception you're using to prevent pregnancy.

Find out more about:

The methods of contraception

There are lots of contraceptive methods to choose from. Don't be put off if the first type you use isn't quite right – you can try another. Find out more about the different methods of contraception:

There are two permanent methods of contraception:

Where to get contraception

Contraceptive services are free and confidential. This includes services for people under 16, as long as they're mature enough to understand the information and decisions involved – there are strict guidelines for healthcare professionals who work with people under 16.

You can get contraception free from:

  • most GP surgeries (talk to your GP or practice nurse) 
  • community contraception clinics
  • some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • sexual health clinics (these offer contraceptive and STI testing services) 
  • some young people's services (call the Department of Health Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123 for more information)

Find local sexual health services, including contraception clinics.

Many of these services also offer information, testing and treatment for STIs. If you think there's a chance you might get pregnant, you're also at risk of catching an STI.

Before you make an appointment, make sure you know as much as possible about the contraceptive options available. Your choice of contraception may vary over time, depending on your lifestyle and circumstances.

Contraception and menopause

Women who have sex with men and don't want to get pregnant need to keep using contraception until they haven't had a period for more than 12 months (menopause).

This is because periods can become irregular before they stop entirely, and pregnancy can still occur during this time. Find out more about menopause.

You can find out more about each type of contraception by contacting: 

  • Brook: the young people's sexual health charity for under-25s
  • FPA: a provider of information on individual methods of contraception, common STIs, pregnancy choices, abortion, and planning a pregnancy 

Page last reviewed: 31/01/2014

Next review due: 31/01/2016

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