Contraception

If you are in a sexual relationship it is essential that you use contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and to protect you from sexually transmitted diseases. Having an baby in your teenage years can damage your physical and mental health and limit your options and your prospects. And the alternatives – ending a pregnancy or giving a baby up for adoption – are both very, very hard.

Be responsible, look after yourself, and sort out contraception – it isn’t difficult. You can find out where to get free contraception here.

See bottom of page for information about emergency contraception.

As long as you fully understand the advice you are given, the nature and consequences of the treatment, you are legally entitled to contraception at any age. You do not need your parent’s or carer’s consent. While we would always advise you to be open with your parent or carer, sometimes this is not possible or appropriate. Healthcare professionals will always treat you with the same degree of confidentiality and duty of care as adults, so do not worry about this. Confidentiality will only be broken if your health, welfare and safety are at grave risk.

The discussion between you and your GP is entirely confidential but you may worry about going to the GP (you may not want to be recognised in the waiting room or the GP may be a friend of your parents). Most towns have sexual health clinics which offer routine and emergency appointments and drop-in clinics. They can give you advice and information about contraception and advice on preventing STIs. Sexual health clinics are often open early in the mornings and in the evenings, so you could go before or after school. Find your nearest clinic here.

There are around 15 different methods of contraception, so do your research and discuss with your nurse or doctor before you decide which type is be best for you. The most commonly used are:

Condoms – if used correctly, these will protect you from sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) and stop you getting pregnant. They are made from very thin rubber (latex) and are designed to stop bodily fluids (such as semen) passing from one person to the other. Male condoms fit over the penis and female condoms fit inside the vagina. Only one of you needs to wear one.

The pill (the combined pill) – is 99% effective at protecting from pregnancy but must be taken regularly and strictly according to instructions to be effective and there can be minor side-effects. It will not protect you from catching STIs.

Long-acting reversible contraception (LARCS) – do not rely on you taking a pill regularly. An implant (a small, flexible rod implanted under the skin of your upper arm) lasts for three years; an injection lasts for 8–13 weeks depending on which type you have; an IUD (intra-uterine device) or IUS (intra-uterine system) can be placed into your uterus and last for 3–10 years depending on the type and how long you want it in there for.

You will find a complete guide to the different contraceptive methods available on the NHS and how to use them here.

EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION (morning-after pill)
If you have unprotected sex or your contraception fails (if a condom splits, for example), you must get emergency contraception as soon as possible to prevent pregnancy.

There are two types of pill – one works for up to 72 hours (3 days) after unprotected sex, the other up to 120 hours (5 days) – or you can have an emergency coil fitted (which can be left in to provide ongoing contraception or removed after the next period). Find out where to get emergency contraception here.

Even if it is more than 120 hours after you had unprotected sex, your local clinic, your GP or your local pharmacy will be able to advise you.