What is contraception?
Contraception aims to prevent pregnancy.
A woman can get pregnant if a man's sperm reaches one of her eggs (ova).
Contraception tries to stop this happening by:
- keeping the egg and sperm apart
- stopping egg production
- stopping the combined sperm and egg (fertilised egg) attaching to the lining of the womb
Contraception is free for most people in the UK. Condoms can also be bought in pharmacies and supermarkets.
With 15 methods to choose from, you can find one that suits you best.
You should use condoms to protect both your sexual health and that of your partner, no matter what other contraception you're using to prevent pregnancy.
The 15 methods of contraception
Don't be put off if the first type you use isn't quite right: you can try another.
Read about the different methods of contraception:
- combined pill
- condoms (female)
- condoms (male)
- contraceptive implant
- contraceptive injection
- contraceptive patch
- intrauterine device (IUD)
- intrauterine system (IUS)
- natural family planning
- progestogen-only pill
- vaginal ring
There are 2 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 the decisions involved.
There are strict guidelines for healthcare professionals who work with people under 16.
You can get contraception for free from:
- most GP surgeries (talk to your GP or practice nurse)
- community contraception clinics
- sexual health clinics (these offer contraceptive and STI testing services)
- some young people's services
Find local sexual health services, including contraception clinics. Or call the national sexual health line on 0300 123 7123.
Many of these services also offer information, testing and treatment for STIs. If you have had unprotected sex and think there's a chance you might get pregnant, you're also at risk of catching an STI.
Before you make an appointment, try to find out as much as possible about the contraceptive options available.
Your choice of contraception may vary over time, depending on your lifestyle and circumstances.
You can find out more about each type of contraception by contacting:
Page last reviewed: 2 January 2019
Next review due: 2 January 2022