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Young People

Contraception and Condoms

There are lots of ways to prevent pregnancy.

Only condoms can protect against sexually transmitted infections AND pregnancy at the same time.

Find out about different kinds of contraception and how to get them here.

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Emergency contraception

Emergency contraception is only for emergencies, for example:
  • if you've had a condom break
  • forgotten to take a contraceptive pill
  • had sex without a condom and regretted it.
There are three types.
Emergency contraception pills are mistakenly known as “the morning after pill”.
Levonelle is effective up to 72 hours after having sexual intercourse and is available from all the places listed below and from pharmacies.
A pill called EllaOne can be used up to 5 days after having sex. It is available from Sexual Health and Family Planning Clinics, GPs, A&E Departments and from some School Nurses and Youth Health Drop Ins.
An Intrauterine Device can also be used up to five days after having sexual intercourse. You need to see a doctor or specialist nurse to have one fitted. See your doctor of nearest sexual health clinic.
If you want to use emergency contraception do not delay. All forms of emergency contraception should be used as soon as possible after having unprotected sexual intercourse.
Taking emergency contraception will not protect you against sexually transmitted infections.


Condoms come in two basic types - male and female.
Condoms come in different sizes (e.g. trim, regular and large). It's important to get the right size for you because if the condom is too small it might split and if it's too big it might slip off. If you are not sure of the size it's best to try some before having sex.

Condoms also come in different types too. for example: flavoured, which can be used for oral sex, ribbed condoms and non-latex ones which can be used if you have an allergy towards latex.

Used properly, both types can offer good protection against pregnancy and most sexually transmitted infections.
Male and female condoms should not be used together as this may cause one or both to break. Either one is enough to protect against most infections and pregnancy.
If you've never put one on, it's a good idea to practice before you get into a situation where you need to use one (girls can practice putting male condoms on a banana). 
Alternatively, your school nurse will have a condom demonstrator. They will be happy to show you how to put a condom on correctly.
You can buy condoms at supermarkets, pharmacies, small shops and from vending machines in toilets in places like bars, restaurants and shopping centres.
Find out how to get free condoms and lube.

The 'pill'

Also known as 'oral contraceptives', the 'minipill' or 'combined pill'.
They prevent pregnancy by changing the balance of hormones in a woman's body that control her periods. 
You have to keep taking them for them to work. Even missing just one pill can mean a woman can get pregnant.
Some medicines stop the pill working properly, so always tell your doctor you're taking the pill if they are prescribing other medicines to you.
The pill offers no protection at all against sexually transmitted infections
If you want to start taking the pill, see your doctor or go along to your nearest Youth Health Drop-in.

Implants, injections and patches

These work in the same way as contraceptive pills but are easier to use because they are longer lasting and you don't have to remember to take them all the time.
However, you do have to remember to put on a fresh contraceptive patch at the right time.
As with contraceptive pills, some medicines stop them working properly. Always tell your doctor you're using contraceptive implants, injections or patches if they are prescribing other medicines to you.
Implants, injections and patches give no protection at all against sexually transmitted infections. 
If you want to start using implants, injections or patches, see your GP doctor or go along to your nearest Youth Health Drop-In.

Intrauterine Devices (IUD) and Intrauterine Systems (IUS)

Sometimes called 'the coil', these devices work inside the womb to stop a fertilised egg implanting in the soft lining of the womb so that it can grow into a baby.
IUDs work by releasing copper while IUSs work by releasing a hormone.
They are easy to use because you don't need to remember to use them and last a long time but give no protection at all against sexually transmitted infections. 
They must be fitted by a specially trained doctor or nurse.
If you want to start using an IUD or IUS, see your GP doctor or go along to your nearest Youth Health Drop-Ins.

Do I need permission to get contraception?

So long as the doctors or nurses you see think you understand what's involved and are able to make decisions for yourself, you won't need to get permission from anyone - even if you’re under 16.
If they think you don't understand or can't make decisions for yourself, they will talk to you about this and discuss what you should do next.