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Contraception advice

"Where can I get contraception?"

"Which method of contraception suits me?"

"I'm under 16 – can I get contraception?"

Whatever questions you have about getting and using contraception, the below links can help.

They aim to give practical information to everyone who wants to know more about contraception, or who may have a question about the method they use or are thinking about using.

You can find out about the different methods available on the NHS, together with where to get them and how to decide which method might work best for you both here and at the NHS contraception guide which can be found by clicking here

Choosing the right contraception for you

There are many types of contraception available and none are perfect.
The Contraception Choices website provides honest information to help weigh up the pros and cons.

To use the contraception choices tool click here

Sexual health charities Brook and FPA also have a contraception tool:

How effective are the different methods?

Contraceptives that are more than 99% effective:

Contraceptives that are more than 99% effective if always used correctly, but generally less than 95% effective with typical use:

Contraceptives that are 99% effective if used according to teaching instructions:

Contraceptives that are 98% effective if used correctly:

Contraceptives that are 95% effective if used correctly:

Contraceptives that are 92 to 96% effective if used correctly:

Where can I get contraception from?

You can get contraception free of charge, even if you're under 16, from:

  • contraception clinics
  • sexual health or GUM (genitourinary medicine) clinics
  • some GP surgeries
  • some young people's services
  • pharmacies

Find a sexual health clinic

Where can I get emergency contraception from?

The emergency contraceptive pill 

Getting it for free 

You can get both Levonelle and ellaOne free of charge from: 

  • contraception clinics
  • Brook centres
  • some pharmacies (find a pharmacy – ask if they provide free emergency contraception)
  • most sexual health or genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics
  • most NHS walk-in centres and minor injuries units
  • most GP surgeries (find a GP)
  • some hospital accident and emergency (A&E) departments

Find a sexual health clinic

Buying it 

You can also buy Levonelle and ellaOne from most pharmacies, and from some organisations such as BPAS.

  • Levonelle can be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of having unprotected sex, but it's most effective if taken within 12 hours of having unprotected sex. Prices vary, but it's likely to cost around £25. You need to be 16 or over to buy Levonelle. If you are under 16 you will need a prescription from a doctor to get it.
  • ellaOne can be taken within 120 hours (5 days) of having unprotected sex, but it's most effective if taken as soon as possible after having unprotected sex. Prices vary, but it's likely to cost around £35. If you are under 16, you can buy ellaOne without a prescription.

Find out more about emergency contraception.

Contraception after having a baby

You can get pregnant as little as 3 weeks after the birth of a baby, even if you're breastfeeding and your periods haven't started again.

Unless you want to get pregnant again, it's important to use some kind of contraception every time you have sex after giving birth, including the first time.

You'll usually have a chance to discuss contraception before you leave hospital after your baby is born, and again at your postnatal check.

You can also talk to your GP or health visitor, or go to a family planning clinic, at any time.

Read more about contraception after having a baby.

Sexual health charities Brook and FPA have interactive tools that can help you decide which method of contraception is best for you:

You can also search for your local NHS contraception service.

Contraception and breastfeeding

You're unlikely to have any periods if you breastfeed exclusively (give your baby breast milk only) and your baby is under 6 months old.

Because of this, some women use breastfeeding as a form of natural contraception. This is known as the lactational amenorrhoea method, or LAM.

It's important to start using another form of contraception if:

  • your baby is more than 6 months old
  • you give them anything else apart from breast milk, such as a dummy, formula or solid foods
  • your periods start again (even light spotting counts)
  • you stop night feeding
  • you start to breastfeed less often
  • there are longer intervals between feeds, both during the day and at night

The effect of expressing breast milk on LAM isn't known, but it may make it less effective.

Sex after giving birth

There are no rules about when to start having sex again after you have given birth.

You'll probably feel sore as well as tired after your baby is born, so don't rush into it.

If sex hurts, it won't be pleasurable. You may want to use a personal lubricant, available from pharmacies, to begin with.

Hormonal changes after birth can make your vagina feel drier than usual.

You may be worried about changes to your body or getting pregnant again. Men may worry about hurting their partner.

It might be some time before you want to have sex. Until then, both of you can carry on being loving and close in other ways.

If you or your partner have any worries, talk about them together. You can talk with your health visitor or GP if you need some more help.

Tips for starting sex again after birth

  • If penetration hurts, say so. If you pretend that everything's all right when it isn't, you may start to see sex as a nuisance or unpleasant, rather than a pleasure. You can still give each other pleasure without penetration – for example, by mutual masturbation.
  • Take it gently. Perhaps explore with your own fingers first to reassure yourself that sex won't hurt. You may want to use some personal lubricant. Hormonal changes after childbirth may mean you aren't as lubricated as usual.
  • Make time to relax together. You're more likely to make love when your minds are on each other rather than other things.
  • Get help if you need it. If you're still experiencing pain when you have your postnatal check, talk to your GP.