What should you know on contraception

Contraception is the use of hormones, devices or surgery to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant. It allows couples to choose if and when they want to have a baby.
Most types of contraception don't protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The male condom is the only form of contraception that protects against STIs as well as preventing pregnancy. Therefore, if you're using another type of contraception, such as the contraceptive pill, you should also use a condom to protect yourself against getting a STI.

Condom

Condoms are a form of barrier contraception. They prevent pregnancy by stopping sperm from reaching and fertilising an egg. Condoms also provide protection against STIs, including HIV, and stop them being passed from one sexual partner to another. Condoms are used during penetrative sex (vaginal or anal) and oral sex to protect against STIs.

Contraceptive pills

The combined contraceptive pill, usually just referred to as the pill, contains synthetic (man-made) versions of the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone, which women produce naturally in their ovaries. The pill is usually taken to prevent pregnancy but it can also be used to treat:
• painful periods
• heavy periods
• premenstrual syndrome
• endometriosis

Note that pills do not prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs.

Emergency contraception

The emergency contraceptive pill, also known as the morning-after pill or post-coital pill, can be used by a woman to reduce the risk of pregnancy after having unprotected sex.

It can also be used if another method of contraception has failed, for example if a condom splits or you have forgotten to take one of your contraceptive pills.

The emergency contraceptive pill can be used up to five days (120 hours) after having unprotected sex.

It does not protect you against pregnancy during the rest of your menstrual cycle and is not intended to be a regular form of contraception. Using the emergency contraceptive pill repeatedly can severely disrupt your natural menstrual cycle.

The emergency contraceptive pill does not protect against HIV nor sexually transmitted infections.

Intrauterine device (IUD)

An intrauterine device (IUD) is a small, T-shaped contraceptive device made from plastic and copper that fits inside the womb (uterus). The IUD used to be called a coil or a loop. It's a long-acting and reversible method of contraception, which can stay in the womb for 5-10 years depending on the type.

Intrauterine system (IUS)

The intrauterine system (IUS) is similar to the intrauterine device (IUD), but it works in a slightly different way. Rather than releasing copper like the IUD, the IUS releases the hormone progestogen, which prevents pregnancy. It's a long-acting, reversible method of contraception that lasts for five years. It can also be used for managing heavy periods.