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Your contraception guide

Which method of contraception suits me?

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There are a range of different contraceptive options currently available in the UK. The type that works best for you will depend on your health and circumstances.

There are several issues to consider when deciding which method of contraception is right for you.

Once you have read this information, you can go to your GP or local contraceptive (or family planning) clinic to discuss your choices.

Remember, the only way to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom every time you have sex.

Other methods of contraception prevent pregnancy, but they do not protect against STIs.

Answer the questions on this page to help you decide which method is most suitable for you.

The Contraception choices tool can help you find out which methods of contraception:

  • may be best for you
  • are most effective at preventing pregnancy

The Contraception tool infographic shows you how many women may get pregnant in a year using each method.

The list below shows how effective each of the 15 different methods are, and how often you need to use them or think about them (frequency of use).

The effectiveness of each method is worked out by calculating how many women get pregnant if 100 women use the method for a year.

For example, if a particular contraceptive method is 99% effective, 1 woman out of every 100 who uses it will get pregnant in a year.

Some methods listed below, such as the pill, include the phrase "if used correctly".

This is because people who use these methods have to use them every time they have sex, or remember to take or apply them every day, week or month.

If the method is not used correctly, it will not be as effective.

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:

If you're a well-organised person with a reasonably regular routine, you have a wide choice of contraception.

This is because you're less likely to forget about your contraception by forgetting to take a pill or reapply a patch, for example.

You may want to use a method that you only need to use when you have sex, such as the male or female condom, or you may prefer a method that you need to take every day, such as the pill.

Or you may want to consider methods like the patch, injection or implant, which you do not need to use every day or each time you have sex.

The list below shows how often you need to use, replace or take each contraceptive method.

Once you have looked at the list, ask your GP or a doctor or nurse at your local clinic for more details.

Methods used each time you have sex:

Methods taken on a daily basis:

Methods replaced every week:

Methods replaced every month:

Methods renewed every 2 to 3 months:

Methods renewed up to every 3 years:

Methods renewed up to every 5 to 10 years:

Not all contraceptives have to be taken every day or each time you have sex.

You do not have to think about some contraceptives for months or years.

These methods need to be inserted by a health professional into your uterus (IUD or IUS) or arm (the implant):

The contraceptive injection can be given 1 of 2 ways: either by an intramuscular injection into the buttock, or as a subcutaneous injection into the thigh or abdomen.

This is given every 8 weeks or every 12 weeks, depending on the type. 

The subcutaneous injection can be given by a health professional, or you can be shown how to inject it yourself.

Other contraceptives that need to be changed or replaced every month or week are:

Other contraceptives used or inserted just before sex are:

Ask your GP or a doctor or nurse at your local contraceptive clinic for more details.

If you're a woman, are you comfortable inserting contraceptives into your own vagina?

If so, you could consider using:

If you'd like a method that's longer term and you do not mind a health professional putting a contraceptive into your uterus through your vagina, you could consider using:

Some contraceptives can affect your periods. Some may make your periods lighter or more infrequent. Others may make your periods heavier or more irregular.

Ask your GP or a doctor or nurse at your local clinic for more details.

Contraceptives that can make your periods lighter include:

Smokers can use most types of contraception. But if you're a smoker and over 35 years old, some contraceptives (such as the combined pill, patch or the vaginal ring) might not be suitable for you.

Ask your GP or a doctor or nurse at your local clinic for more details.

If you're over 35 and smoke, you can consider the following types of contraceptive:

Find out how to stop smoking

Your weight will not affect most types of contraception, and most contraception will not make you put on weight.

But the contraceptive injection has been linked to a small amount of weight gain if used for 2 years or more.

Find out how to lose weight

Some contraceptives work by using hormones that are similar to the hormones women produce naturally. These hormones are oestrogen and progestogen.

Contraceptives that contain these hormones aren't suitable for some women, such as those who have medical conditions like breast cancer.

Not all contraceptive methods use hormones. Some work in other ways, including:

Contraceptives that contain oestrogen are not suitable for women who:

  • are over 35 and who smoke
  • are very overweight
  • take certain medicines
  • have certain medical conditions, such as problems with blood circulation or migraines with aura

If you cannot use contraceptives that contain oestrogen, there are plenty of other options, including:

Some contraceptives can be affected if you're taking other medicines, but there are plenty of options.

Ask your GP, nurse or your local clinic for more details.

Contraceptives that are not affected by other medicines are:

All methods of contraception can be stopped if you want to have a baby. You can get pregnant as soon as you stop using contraception.

A woman's fertility usually returns to normal within the first month after stopping the combined pill, vaginal ring or contraceptive patch

If you want your fertility to return to normal quickly after you stop using contraception, consider these methods:

Your fertility may take longer to return to normal after stopping the contraceptive injection.

Most women's fertility will return in a few months, but it can take up to a year for fertility to return to normal. 

Find out about getting pregnant

Page last reviewed: 17/03/2021
Next review due: 17/03/2024