Health Relationships Sex

Contraception 101: Your options

Condoms and pills are what we get told about at school but there are more options out there than you think. Lifestyle Editor Amy Turk gives us the low down on your contraception options...

Credit: Pexels - The Growing Up Guide

Currently, in the United Kingdom, there are 15 methods of contraception available for women. Although there is a wide selection of methods to choose from, there are issues that surround contraception and things you definitely need to consider when choosing the best method for you. Your GP can go through all the contraception choices with you and help you to understand which one will suit you best.

Note: The only way to protect yourself from STD’s is by using condoms. You can get these free of charge from your GP or your local sexual health clinic.

Here are a few of the main methods of contraception.

Hormone medication

Combined Pill

Many women use the combined pill. It is more commonly known as “the pill.” When taken correctly, the pill is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. You take this pill for 21 days and then have a 7-day break. The pill contains artificial versions of female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Find out all about the combined pill here.

The progestogen-only pill

It contains the hormone progestogen but doesn’t contain oestrogen. This pill must be taken at the same time every day. This pill thickens the mucus in the cervix, which stops sperm reaching an egg. It is more than 99% effective if taken correctly. Find out about the side effects and other important information here.

Credit: Pills - Pixabay - The Growing Up Guide

Contraceptive Implant

The contraceptive implant is a small flexible tube about 40mm long that’s inserted under the skin of your upper arm by a doctor and it lasts for three years. If implanted correctly, it’s more than 99% effective. The implant stops the release of an egg from the ovary by slowly releasing progestogen into your body but you can learn everything you need to know here.

The Contraceptive Injection

There are three types of contraceptive injections in the UK and each one lasts for a different amount of time. If used correctly, the contraceptive injection is more than 99% effective. The injection contains progestogen. This thickens the mucus in the cervix, stopping sperm reaching an egg. Find out about the different injections here.

The Contraceptive Patch

The contraceptive patch is a sticky patch that goes on your arm. It delivers hormones into your body through your skin. When used correctly, the patch is more than 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and each patch lasts for one week. There is much more information about the patch on the NHS website, you can read about it here.


Removeable protection

Vaginal Ring

This is a small, soft plastic ring that you place inside your vagina. It’s about 4mm thick and 5.5cm in diameter. You leave it in your vagina for 21 days, then remove it and throw it in the bin. If used correctly, the vaginal ring is more than 99% effective. One ring will provide contraception for a month, so you don’t have to think about it every day. Find out more about this method here.


A contraceptive cap is a circular dome made of thin, soft silicone. It is inserted into the vagina before sexual intercourse. It covers the cervix so that sperm cannot get into the womb. You need to use spermicide with it, which kills the sperm. When used correctly, the cap is 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy. You can find more information about the contraceptive cap here.

The Growing Up Guide

Female Condoms

It is so important to use condoms when having sex because this is the only method of contraception that protects you from catching STD’s.  Female condoms are made from thin, soft plastic called polyurethane. They are worn inside the vagina to prevent semen getting to the womb. If used correctly and consistently, female condoms are 95% effective. It’s recommended that you use another method of contraception alongside condoms. Find out more here.

Contraceptive Diaphragm

Similar to the cap, the contraceptive diaphragm is inserted into the vagina before sex, and it covers the cervix so that sperm can’t get into the uterus. You must use spermicide with this method too. The diaphragm must be left in place for at least six hours after sex. When used correctly, a diaphragm is 92-96% effective at preventing pregnancy. Not many women have heard of this method so you can read all about it here.

Long-acting contraception


The intrauterine device is a small, T shaped copper device that’s inserted into your womb by a doctor. It is a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) method so it’s extremely important that you learn all you need to know about it. Have a read on the NHS website to discover more before enquiring.


An intrauterine system is a small, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into your uterus by a specially trained doctor or nurse. It’s more than 99% effective and it is a long-acting reversible contraceptive method. It works for five years or three years, depending on the type. There is a lot of important information that you need to know about IUS, you can find it all here.

Natural Family Planning

And finally, Natural family planning also known as fertility awareness is a method that teaches you at what time during the month you can have sex without contraception and with a reduced risk of pregnancy. If the instructions are properly followed, natural family planning methods can be up to 99% effective, depending on what methods are used. This method is often discussed with a professional to help you make a plan. To find out more, click here.

There are also permanent methods of contraception as well as these and it’s highly recommended you have a confidential meeting with your GP or a nurse before deciding which method you would like to choose. Contraception is free on the NHS.
Find out where you can get contraception near you.




    1. I didn’t know either until I did lots of research for this feature. I’ve recently been swapped onto a different pill as my previous one is too expensive to fund apparently! I would love to get the implant but I am petrified of needles so that’s never going to happen!


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