Which Contraception is right for you?

Put simply, contraception is a way of preventing pregnancy. You might hear contraception called birth control, but it’s the same thing. Currently, there are 15 different contraceptive methods available in the UK. Most of these involve hormones and are available only on prescription.

Barrier methods of contraception, as the name suggests, put a physical barrier between sperm and the egg to prevent pregnancy.

There are different options available such as condoms and caps/diaphragms.

One important thing to note about barrier methods of contraception is that condoms are the only contraceptive that can protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. So using these, as well as a hormonal contraceptive, helps you look after your sexual health.

Type of contraception What is it? How does it work? How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
Male condom
A thin latex or polyurethane sheath Placed over the man’s erect penis before sex, it forms a physical barrier to stop sperm meeting an egg When used correctly it is 98% effective, but the way it is typically used it is 82% effective
Female condom
Soft, polyurethane sheath Inserted into the vagina before sex, it forms a physical barrier to stop sperm meeting an egg When used correctly it is 95% effective, but is typically 79% effective
Diaphragm/cap
Flexible latex or silicone dome, used with spermicide Inserted into the vagina before sex to stop sperm reaching the egg When used correctly with spermicide they are 92-96% effective but typically around 71-88% effective

The first contraceptive Pill was launched in the UK in 1961 and caused a revolution in female sexual health.

Although it is often just called the Pill, there are in fact two types, both of which contain female sex hormones:

Type of contraception What is it? How does it work?  
Combined contraceptive pill
Hormone tablet taken once a day for 21 days with a 7 day break, to allow a ‘period’ Contains oestrogen and progestogen to prevent ovulation and stops sperm meeting an egg  
Progestogen-only contraceptive pill
Hormone tablet taken every day for 28 days, without a break Thickens cervical mucus to stop sperm reaching an egg. Desogestrel prevents ovulation  

Topical hormonal contraceptive prevent pregnancy by releasing sex hormones slowly into the skin or through the vagina.

There are two types available:

  • The contraceptive patch which is applied to the skin
  • The vaginal ring (also known as the contraceptive ring) which is inserted into the vagina.
Type of contraception What is it? How do they work? How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
Contraceptive patch
A transdermal patch that is applied to the skin once a week for three weeks, followed by a week’s break, to allow a ‘period’ Oestrogen and progestogen are released slowly into the skin to prevent ovulation. There is also thickening of the cervical mucus to stop sperm reaching an egg and thinning of the womb lining to make it hard for a fertilised egg to implant When used correctly they are 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, but with typical use it is 91% effective
Vaginal ring
Soft plastic ring inserted into the vagina for 3 weeks and then removed for a further week, to allow a ‘period’

Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) provide long-term contraception, that can prevent pregnancy for months or even years. As they also avoid the risks of forgetting to use or take correctly, they are considered the most effective contraceptives available.

There are several different types available:

  • Contraceptive injection containing the female sex hormones oestrogen and progestogen
  • Contraceptive implant containing the female sex hormone progestogen
  • Intra-uterine device (IUD) that is a non-hormonal contraceptive inserted into the womb
  • Intra-uterine system (IUS) is a hormone-containing contraceptive inserted into the womb
Type of contraception What is it? How does it work?  
Contraceptive injection
Hormone injection that lasts for 8-13 weeks, depending on the type of injection Progestogen is released to prevent ovulation. There is also thickening of the cervical mucus to stop sperm reaching an egg and thinning of the womb lining to make it hard for a fertilised egg to implant  
Contraceptive implant A small flexible rod that is inserted under the skin and releases hormones over 3 years Progestogen is released slowly to prevent ovulation. There is also thickening of the cervical mucus to stop sperm reaching an egg and thinning of the womb lining to make it hard for a fertilised egg to implant  
Intra-uterine device (also known as the coil)
A T-shaped plastic or copper device inserted into the womb that lasts for 5 to 10 years, depending on the type Releases copper slowly to change cervical mucus, and prevents a fertilised egg being able to implant into the lining of the womb  
Intra-uterine system
A T-shaped plastic device inserted into the womb that releases a progestogen. Lasts for 3-5 years. Progestogen is released slowly to thicken cervical mucus to stop sperm reaching an egg and thin the womb lining to make it hard for a fertilised egg to implant. In some women it may also prevent ovulation  

Natural family planning is a natural contraception that relies upon monitoring changes in your menstrual cycle that alert you to when you are most fertile. Many women use this approach to help them fall pregnant, rather than to prevent pregnancy.

Type of contraception What is it? How does it work? How effective is it in preventing pregnancy?
Natural family planning A natural contraception where changes in a woman’s fertile time are monitored Signs of fertility, such as body temperature, cervical secretions and the length of the menstrual cycle are monitored. This fertile period usually lasts between 8-9 days so during this time sex can be avoided or barrier methods of contraception can be used When used correctly it can be up to 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, but if not used according to instructions, more women can fall pregnant. Using more than one fertility indicator can increase efficacy.

Permanent contraception, or sterilisation requires an operation to permanently prevent pregnancy.

This is available for both men and women and is highly effective but can be hard to reverse, so changing your mind once it is done is difficult.

Type of contraception What is it? How does it work?  
Female sterilisation An operation that permanently prevents pregnancy, but hormones will still be released, so periods will continue The fallopian tubes are blocked by either applying clips or rings or removing a small piece of the tube  
Male sterilisation (vasectomy) A surgical procedure that permanently stops sperm getting into a man’s semen The tubes that carry sperm to the penis from the testicles is cut, blocked or heat sealed  

There may be times when you have had unprotected sex, or your usual contraception has failed – and that’s when you might want emergency contraception.

This is different to other types of contraception which are used before intercourse to prevent pregnancy, in this case it is used after unprotected sex and there are two types available:

Emergency hormonal contraception, also known as the ‘morning after pill’. This is available to buy from your pharmacy

The intrauterine device (IUD) or coil. This is only available from your doctor or family planning clinic.

Type of emergency
contraception
What is it? How does it work?  
Emergency hormonal contraception A pill that can be taken between 3-5 days after unprotected sex, depending on the pill Delays ovulation to prevent pregnancy  
IUD A T-shaped plastic or copper device inserted into the womb up to 5 days after unprotected sex or up to 5 days after the earliest ovulation time. This can then be left in place to act as a long-acting reversible contraception Releases copper to change cervical mucus, and reduce the chances of a fertilised egg being able to implant into the lining of the womb  

Where can you purchase Lovima?

Now available to purchase here online. Also available to buy in pharmacy at Boots, Well & Lloyds Pharmacies. Online purchase will include a pharmacist consultation.

Buy Lovima