Contraception FAQs

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  • Can I use contraception if I am breastfeeding?

    The short answer is yes, though breastfeeding will determine the type of contraception that you will be able to use. The mini pill and the contraception injection can be used as they both contain progestogen only. If you are breastfeeding you will not be able to use combined hormonal contraception such as the pill, the ring or the implant, due to the risk of the oestrogen affecting the breast milk.

    There has been evidence to suggest that breastfeeding alone can act as a form of contraception, although this will depend on a number of circumstances such as how long you have been breastfeeding and if your normal monthly cycle has resumed. However, most doctors will generally recommend that you use additional contraception to ensure you are protected.

  • Do hormonal contraceptives cause side effects?

    As with all medications, there may be some side effects when taking hormonal contraceptives, though those that do occur will usually be mild and temporary. The possibility of side effects will depend on which hormonal contraceptive you are using and will differ depending on the person using them. You may need to try more than one type of hormonal contraceptive to determine which is best suited to you.

  • Do I have to be 16 to use contraception?

    No. If you are under 16 you can get confidential advice and contraception. Health workers (nurses, doctors and pharmacists) work under very specific guidance with this age group. You must be mature enough to understand the advice and any decisions made about giving you contraception.

  • Does the pill turn women off sex?

    No, many women may become rather more keen on sex because they know the pill is giving them excellent protection against unwanted pregnancy.

    A very small number of women do say that the pill reduces their libido. In such cases it may be worth talking to your doctor or sexual health advisor about changing to another brand.

  • How do hormonal contraceptives work?

    Hormonal contraceptives work in three ways to alter your monthly cycle in order to prevent pregnancy. They primarily work by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg, therefore preventing ovulation. They also thicken the mucus at the neck of the womb (the cervix). Finally, hormonal contraceptives stop the lining of the womb from growing, therefore preventing the egg and the sperm from meeting.

  • How does the emergency contraceptive pill work?

    The emergency contraceptive pill is a tablet containing a hormone called progestogen. The emergency contraceptive pill can stop an egg being released or sometimes it can stop the egg being fertilised or implanted.

    There are two types of emergency contraceptive pill:

    • Levonorgestrel, which must be taken within three days (72 hours) of unprotected sex
    • ellaOne, which must be taken within five days (120 hours) of unprotected sex

    Levonorgestrel is available for free from Umbrella clinics, with a prescription from a pharmacy, or to buy from a pharmacy.

    ellaOne is available free from Umbrella clinics or with a prescription from a pharmacy.

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  • I'm not sure which method of contraception is best for me

    You can visit one of our Umbrella contraception service providers for a consultation with a specialist who will discuss all your options with you and, where possible, provide you with your chosen method during your visit.

    This website also has lots of information about contraception and can help you find the right service.

    Find clinics and pharmacies Contraception Find the right service for you

  • Is contraception free and where can I go to get it?

    You can obtain free contraception, including emergency contraception, from:

    • your GP
    • an Umbrella clinic

    You can also get the emergency contraceptive pill (Levonelle) for free from:

    • most NHS walk-in centres (England only) and minor injuries units
    • some hospital accident and emergency departments (phone first to check)
    • some pharmacies (there may be an age limit)

    If you are 16 or over you can buy the emergency contraceptive pill from most pharmacies.

  • What are the different types of hormonal contraception?

    There are seven different types of hormonal contraception. These include:

    • the oral combined contraceptive pill (otherwise known as the pill)
    • the mini-pill (also known as the progestogen-only pill)
    • the contraceptive patch
    • the vaginal ring
    • intrauterine system (IUS) (Mirena hormone coil)
    • the contraceptive implant
    • the contraceptive injection

  • What do I do if I forget to take my pill/change my patch or ring?

    If you are taking the combined pill and miss a pill, it is recommended that you take the missed pill as soon as possible and then take the next scheduled pill at the normal time, even if this means taking two pills at the same time. It is recommended that you use a barrier method of contraceptive, such as a condom, for the next seven days as an extra precaution.

    As the mini pill contains only progestogen, the importance of taking the pill on time is much greater, as contraceptive effectiveness will be lost quicker. If you've missed a pill, you will need to use a barrier method of contraception for two days.

    With both the combined pill and the mini pill, starting a new course of pills late will greatly reduce your contraceptive protection, and you will therefore have to use barrier contraceptives. Likewise if you forget to replace your patch or ring you should apply or insert a new one immediately and use a barrier contraceptive such as a condom for seven days afterwards.

  • What is unprotected sex?

    Unprotected sex usually means sex without a condom – as condoms help to protect against pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) – but can mean sex without any form of contraception.

    Sex without using a condom can put you at greater risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection. (This could be oral or anal sex between two men, or oral, anal or vaginal sex between a man and a woman.)

    How to avoid STIs

    Sex without using any contraception can put you at risk of pregnancy at any time during the menstrual cycle. You can use emergency contraception up to five days after unprotected sex. Emergency contraception is more effective at preventing pregnancy the earlier it is used (but it does not protect against STIs).

  • Where can I get contraceptive pills?

    All our clinics can prescribe contraceptive pills to over-16s. Please make an appointment at an Umbrella clinic and one of our sexual health experts will assess you and advise which contraceptive is right for you.

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    If you're under 16 and would like to discuss contraception or any other sexual health issue, please make an appointment to speak to a member of staff.

  • Will my parents/carers be told if I am given contraception?

    Health workers have to keep anything you tell them private but they will usually encourage you to talk to your parent or carer.

    If a health worker thinks there is a risk to your health, safety or welfare they might need to share your information with someone else. The risk would need to be serious and the health worker would usually discuss this with you first.

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